Fedweek

A letter from Sen. Gary Peters, D-MI, with 43 co-signers, asked Senate leadership to include collective bargaining protections in any spending bills. It claims agencies are essentially bypassing the bargaining process in order to wind up before the Trump-appointed Federal Service Impasses Panel where they expect decisions favoring management.

Senate Democrats are urging the Senate to accept House language aimed at restricting agencies from carrying out union-related policies of Trump administration executive orders, unless a previous contract has expired and a new one either has been negotiated or imposed after binding arbitration.

A letter to top leadership of the chamber and leaders of key committees acknowledged that a federal appeals court recently lifted an injunction against implementing parts of the orders: provisions to limit the scope of negotiations, restrict “official time” for union representatives, stop providing free space and equipment for union offices in federal buildings, and more.

But it said that even before that development, “OPM guidance encouraged agencies to bargain for proposals similar to the enjoined provisions. In order to do so, many agencies have resorted to circumventing the collective bargaining process altogether by engaging in ‘surface’ bargaining – going through the bargaining process without meaningfully participating in negotiations – to reach the Federal Service Impasses Panel where the Trump-appointed panel has disproportionately ruled in favor of management.”

“Other agencies have refused to negotiate outright. While unions challenged these and other bad-faith bargaining techniques, the Trump administration has curtailed many of their remedies,” it said, noting that the FLRA lacks a general counsel, the position that prosecutes unfair labor practice charges before the FLRA board.

The House-passed language would retroactively block agencies from implementing any collective bargaining agreement that has not been agreed to or imposed through arbitration. “This will restore the collective bargaining process and require agencies to return to the bargaining table to engage in good-faith negotiations. Without this protection, unions will be locked into unreasonable and unfair contracts for the foreseeable future,” the letter said.

House Democrats earlier sent a similar letter. The government appropriations bill (S-2524, HR-3351) is one of the regular spending bills for the current fiscal year hung up in Congress. The House passed its version in the summer while the Senate version, which does not contain similar language, has not reached a floor vote there.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have written to the EPA urging it to return to the bargaining table following a decision by an FLRA investigator favorable to the AFGE union. The investigator found that the union’s unfair labor practice charge against provisions the agency imposed after declaring talks at an impasse had merit, although without a sitting general counsel at the FLRA the case can go no farther. Congressional Democrats previously sent letters to several other agencies objecting to their bargaining practices.