Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said the unions are going to win their fight against workforce executive orders and the OPM-GSA merger.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said the unions are going to win their fight against workforce executive orders and the OPM-GSA merger. AFGE via Twitter

Labor Groups and Lawmakers Vow to Fight 'All-out Assault' on Unions and Federal Employee Rights

Hundreds of federal workers rallied on Capitol Hill to protest the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back employee benefits and protections.

Democratic lawmakers and hundreds of federal workers rallied just steps from the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to protest what they see as an “all-out assault” on unions and employee rights.

“We’re in the fight of our lives,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “Day in and day out, the Trump administration is undermining the merit system in the U.S. government, one of the most important resources in the entire country.”

The Fed Up Rise Up rally was organized by unions representing employees across the federal government, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the administration’s recent practice of taking union contract negotiations before the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which has handed down mostly pro-management decisions.

“The administration has been imposing collective bargaining agreements that are not collective, were not bargained, and they sure as hell haven’t been agreed to,” Trumka said. “But we will fight back in the courts. We will fight back in Congress, and we will fight back in the streets every day, for as long as it takes.”

Lawmakers and union officials vowed to roll back three controversial workforce orders, which still have cases against them pending in appellate court. They also promised to fight efforts to relocate agencies outside of D.C.and to merge the Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration. 

Erin Kidwell, a member of NFFE Local 1968, which represents Forest Service employees, said she has seen firsthand how the White House’s approach to labor-management relations has hurt her agency’s mission.

“For decades we had agreements and a commitment to collaborate with management,” she said. “But the executive orders directed leadership to cease all such partnerships, and now morale is plummeting. People are exhausted, they’re filled with anxiety, and they’re dealing with increased workloads because of vacancies.”

Dannine Johnson, chief steward of NTEU Chapter 229, which represents employees at the Health and Human Services Department, said the atmosphere at the department is bleak.

“HHS has made a mockery out of collective bargaining, and the men and women here are fed up,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen employees targeted and harassed like they are right now. People are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., suggested he is confident that the House’s appropriations bill provisions blocking the OPM-GSA merger and preventing agencies from implementing Federal Service Impasses Panel-mandated union contracts will become law.

“This has been an unrelenting assault by the Trump administration against your rights, but we’re pushing back, and we are winning,” Connolly said. “The executive orders? Kiss them good-bye. The OPM merger? Throw it out the window, we’re not going to do it. And the man behind all this, we’re going to throw him out the window too.”