‘A Travesty and a Disgrace’: Trump Quietly Issues Memo That Could Abolish Union Rights for 750,000 Federal Workers

2294
PBS NewsHour / YouTube WATCH LIVE Trump holds campaign rally 1580473440.jpg...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

President Donald Trump on Thursday quietly issued a memo granting Defense Secretary Mark Esper the power to abolish collective bargaining rights for the Defense Department’s 750,000 civilian workers, a move unions decried as part of the administration’s far-reaching assault on organized labor.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) condemned the memo, which was published in the Federal Register (pdf) Thursday, as “a travesty and a disgrace.”

The memo argues that a unionized Defense Department workforce could pose a threat to “national security” and that, if necessary, collective bargaining rights at the department should be scrapped in the interest of “protecting the American people.”

“When new missions emerge or existing ones evolve, the Department of Defense requires maximum flexibility to respond to threats,” the memo states. “This flexibility requires that military and civilian leadership manage their organizations to cultivate a lethal, agile force adaptive to new technologies and posture changes.”

“Where collective bargaining is incompatible with these organizations’ missions,” the memo continues, “the Department of Defense should not be forced to sacrifice its national security mission and, instead, seek relief through third parties and administrative fora.”

It is unclear whether or how Esper intends to act on his legal authority.

Larry Mishel, distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, called the White House’s justification for ending collective bargaining rights at the Defense Department “atrocious.”

The existence of the memo, which Trump signed on Jan. 29, was first reported by Government Executive earlier this month.

The outlet noted that “the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 includes a provision allowing the president to issue an order excluding agencies and agency subcomponents from collective bargaining rules if the rules ‘cannot be applied to that agency or subdivision in a manner consistent with national security requirements.'”

Everett Kelley, AFGE’s national secretary-treasurer, said in a statement that denying Defense Department employees “the collective bargaining rights guaranteed to them by law since 1962 would be a travesty—and doing it under the guise of ‘national security’ would be a disgrace to the sacred oath and obligation that all federal workers make to their country.”

“This administration will not stop until it takes away all workers’ rights to form and join a union,” said Kelley, “and we will not stop doing everything we can to prevent that from happening.”

Government Executive noted that “unionized workforces within the Defense Department vary widely.”

“Civilian workers at the U.S. Coast Guard are represented by the [AFGE], as are the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency,” the outlet reported. “Blue-collar workers at military bases and depots across the country are represented by a variety of unions, and teachers at on-base schools for children of service members bargain collectively as well.”

Trump and corporate-friendly officials in his administration have been attacking public- and private-sector unions since the president took office in 2017.

Last October, Politico obtained an internal memo penned in 2017 by White House domestic policy adviser James Sherk, who urged Trump “to eliminate all job protections for federal workers and a requirement that federal contractors provide paid sick leave for employees.”

“The Trump administration has already acted on key recommendations in the memo,” Politico reported. “For example, it has changed overtime pay calculations and put forth rules making it harder for companies to be held liable for labor violations committed by franchisees and contractors.”

The memo, Politico noted, also recommended that Trump “issue an executive order eliminating employee unions at the Defense Department on the basis of national security.”

In an October statement responding to Sherk’s recommendations, AFGE said “the administration’s divide-and-conquer strategy with respect to organized labor is as disgusting as it is shameful.”

“But it won’t work,” the union said. “Across this country, our members and the members of every other labor union are getting educated, organized, and mobilized. As the largest union representing federal employees, AFGE will continue to resist the president’s mob mentality and disrespect for the federal workforce and the work they do.”

Thank you to all who already support our work since we could not exist without your generosity. If you have not already, please consider supporting us on Patreon to ensure we can continue bringing you the best of independent journalism.

Leave a Comment

5 Comments on "‘A Travesty and a Disgrace’: Trump Quietly Issues Memo That Could Abolish Union Rights for 750,000 Federal Workers"

avatar
newest oldest most voted
Rutokin
Guest
Rutokin

WTF does he think he’s doing? I guess he’s to stupid to figure out that it’s going to cost him at least 2million votes for that moronic thought. Way to go Einstein

Independent
Guest
Independent

Does he want union employees to be paid what he pays the illegal
immigrants he has working for him? I know he is the chosen one and cannot be punished for hiring them but have his businesses been charged and/or punished for hiring illegals? Are illegals still working for his companies? If so someone needs to do something about it.
REMINDER: where are the children that donnie separated from their parents? Moms want to know.

Lou
Guest

I wouldn’t fear this illiterate fat man, things are changing every day. More people are seeing how transparent he is. Remember 2018 where women stood up and voted for their Representatives and took trump down for the worst defeat ever in American history for Republicans and trump 44 to 0, now that’s going to happen in Nov. I’m speaking for my wife now GO WOMEN VOTE YOUR RIGHT AND FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. THANKS.

Allan
Guest
Allan

In the interests of national security, in November, tRump will be kicked out of office and handed to the SDNY for sentencing.

Linda H
Guest
Linda H

How long is it going to take to undo all the harm this sick man is inflecting on this country. He has to be ousted.