This post has been updated to include five additional signatures on the letter.
A group of 45 Democratic senators on Tuesday demanded President Trump rescind his controversial recent executive orders that seek to make it easier to fire federal workers and severely curb the influence of federal employee unions.
In a letter to Trump, the senators, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., blasted the orders, arguing they “undermine the foundations of our civil service system.”
“The recent executive orders undermine the decades-old rights of federal employees to fair representation in the workplace,” they wrote. “These orders significantly reduce the extent to which federal agencies will negotiate collective bargaining agreements with their workforce. Instead, federal agencies or outside panels will impose workplace policies without good faith negotiation.”
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Last month Trump signed three executive orders targeting the federal workforce. The first instructs agencies to streamline the firing process by standardizing performance improvement plans at 30 days in most cases, and to exempt firings and other adverse personnel actions from grievance procedures. Another order seeks to set time limits on collective bargaining agreement negotiations with federal employee unions and restrict topics for bargaining. And the third order aims to cap employees’ use of official time at 25 percent of their work hours and restrict the activities allowed under the practice.
Senate Democrats said the provisions targeting official time will cost, rather than save, agencies money by making it harder for labor and management to solve problems before they reach litigation.
“Imposing arbitrary limits on the time that federal employees can carry out statutory duties to represent fellow employees—known as official time—makes it harder to resolve workplace disputes and root out waste, fraud and abuse,” the senators wrote. “[We] support improving the performance of the federal workforce, but these executive orders will do the opposite.”
Last week, both Republicans and Democrats in the House wrote similar letters urging the White House to reconsider the workforce executive orders. Federal employee unions have filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the orders, and a judge set a hearing for July 25.
Meanwhile, some agencies have forged ahead with implementation of the executive orders, despite a lack of guidance from the Office of Personnel Management on how to proceed. The Housing and Urban Development Department informed the American Federation of Government Employees last week that it intends to evict union representatives from agency-provided office space next month, attempting to separate the matter from collective bargaining agreement negotiations that were slated to begin Tuesday.
The senators said that barring complete rescission of the executive orders, the administration should act to ensure agencies implement their provisions properly, rather than to use them “inappropriately to circumvent existing collective bargaining agreements.”
“Some federal agencies already appear to be abrogating existing collective bargaining agreements by citing these executive orders,” the Democrats wrote. “We ask that you direct agency and department heads to cease and desist from doing so. It is time to stop the attacks on our federal workers.”