Trump signs executive orders aimed at loosening clout of federal labor unions
Gregory Korte, USA Today May 25, 2018
Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
Washington – President Trump wants federal agencies to fire low-performing workers, negotiate better union agreements and slash the time that federal employees can spend union activity and still be paid.
Those directives appear in a series of executive orders Trump signed Friday, the afternoon before the Memorial Day weekend.
Andrew Bremberg, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said the orders fulfill a promise in Trump’s State of the Union address to overhaul the federal workforce.
Then, Trump asked Congress to “empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”
But labor unions representing federal workers said the moves were part of a politically motivated assault on the merit system.
“It’s basically an attempt to make federal employees at-will employees, so you cam make them political employees, so you can hire anyone who had a bumper sticker for you in the last election,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing federal employees.
“This would begin the process of dismantling the merit system that governs our civil service,” said Tony Reardon of the National Treasury Employees Union. “It is worth remembering that many of these federal employees are on the job over this holiday weekend protecting our borders, ensuring our food supply is safe and welcoming visitors to our national parks.”
The executive orders aim to:
► Make it easier agencies to fire low-performing workers by limiting the amount of time that workers can spend on probation, encourage firing instead of suspensions, and requiring agencies to share information about bad employees so they don’t hop from one agency to another.
► Get tougher at the bargaining table when the government negotiates union contracts. The order centralizes negotiating strategy in the White House Office of Management and Budget, which will post copies of federal labor agreements online.
► Limit the amount of time that federal workers can spend on union business. The federal government spent almost $175 million to pay workers for this “official time” in 2016, according to the Office of Personnel Management. That includes time spent lobbying Congress and representing workers in disciplinary actions — practices Trump wants unions to pay for themselves.