Fedweek

Another legal challenge has been filed against President Trump’s recent executive orders on bargaining and disciplinary practices for federal employees, while groups of House members of both parties have asked him to withdraw the orders and a group of Senate Democrats announced opposition to his benefit-cutting proposals.

A letter from 26 Senate Democrats responded to OPM’s recent formal proposal to Capitol Hill of changes in law that would be needed to carry out the administration’s budgetary proposals including increasing required contributions toward retirement for FERS employees, basing annuities of all future retirees on a high-five salary figure, reducing retiree COLA payouts, and more.

They cited OPM’s estimate of the impact on employees and retirees of above $143 billion over 10 years—the CBO has estimated $167 billion—saying that those proposals offer “nothing to employees in their place . . . Modernizing the federal workforce and the package of benefits offered to our federal employees is a worthy goal; however, if enacted, these proposals would not be a modernization, but would instead reverse course by making the federal government a less attractive place to work”

Legislation of the sort that would be needed to enact those changes would need 60 votes in the Senate, meaning that the signatories to the letter alone would provide more than half of the votes opponents would need.

Also, a group of 21 House Republicans—many of them representing districts with large federal employee populations—expressed concern that the executive orders “embark upon a path that will undo many of the longstanding principles protected by law, which establish checks and balances not only in the federal workplace, but for the American public.”

Separately, a group of 23 House Democrats—many of them in senior leadership positions and others from employee-heavy districts—also called on the White House to rescind the orders, saying their approach “contradicts decades of federal law based on hard lessons learned after a history of abuses” and would degrade protections against politically-based personnel decisions and against retaliation for whistleblowing.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 13 unions representing federal employees has filed suit against the orders, in particular objecting to provisions limiting the scope of bargaining and the use of “official time” for employees with union roles to perform certain union-related work. Two other union-sponsored lawsuits making essentially the same allegations previously were filed, including requests to block the orders while the suits are pending.