Federal Worker Executive Orders: What Civil Servants Need to Know

Machinists Union (IAM) and NFFE Federal District 1 (NFFE-IAM) members at a growing number of federal agencies are reporting drastic changes to work rules and procedures. More changes can be expected as agencies seek to comply with President Trump’s executive orders (EO’s) concerning the federal workforce.

Under the guise of “civil service reform,” each of the orders takes away rights from federal employees. The orders slash rights to negotiate workplace rules, protections against unfair discipline and the time union reps use for legally mandated representation.

While the IAM and other federal worker unions wait for an expected July 26 decision to our lawsuit challenging the EO’s, it is imperative that federal workers stay engaged, vigilant and unified during this tumultuous period for civil servants.

The IAM Government Employees Department created this resource center to answer federal employee questions and outline our path forward. There will be more to come after the court’s ruling.

What do the EO’s say?

On May 25, 2018, President Trump issued three executive orders aimed at weakening the rights of federal workers. Here’s a summary from NFFE-IAM:

Executive Order #13836: Re-open collective bargaining agreements and then rush negotiations

  • Directs agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements as soon as possible;
  • Sets arbitrary timelines for the negotiation process which, when exceeded, will result in the unilateral imposition of terms by the agencies;
  • Establishes a new bureaucracy called “The Labor Relations Group” that will dictate “one-size-fits-all” proposals to agencies engaged in bargaining; and
  • Encourages agencies to engage in “take-it-or-leave-it” bargaining tactics inconsistent with agencies’ good-faith bargaining obligations.

Executive Order #13837: Hamstring unions’ ability to represent workers

  • Attempts to prevent union stewards from using official time to aid employees in preparing or pursuing grievances;
  • Directs agencies to drastically reduce official time authorizations to 1 hour per bargaining unit employee per year, an attack designed to make it harder for your union to help you; and
  • Cuts off access to agency office space for union officials carrying out their representational duties making it harder to help workers.

Executive Order #13839: Fire first, ask questions never

Encourages agencies to abandon fairness concepts such as progressive discipline process;

  • Encourages agencies to tailor different penalties for the same or similar offenses, ignoring established law; 
  • Directs the Office of Personnel Management to give performance appraisal more weight than seniority when an agency faces a reduction in force, creating great potential for unfairness; and 
  • Instructs agencies to take away our ability to grieve unfair removals from service or to challenge performance appraisals or awards at all.

How has my union responded?

The IAM, NFFE-IAM and a coalition of federal worker unions have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the executive orders. A federal judge is considering the IAM’s position that the orders impede on congressional authority.

IAM representatives are working collaboratively to gather information from members as the government implements executive orders.

The IAM continues to gather widespread bipartisan support in Congress against the orders.

“We refuse to sit on the sidelines while the president oversteps his constitutional authority and tramples on the freedom of working people to join together,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Federal employees who fulfill our country’s mission every day should not be used as pawns in a political game.”

READ: Machinists: White House’s Attack on Federal Workers is Illegal

I’m a federal worker. What do I need to know now?

Agencies are individually implementing work rule changes after the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance on the executive orders on July 5. The orders are designed to hurt your union’s ability to represent you at work.

 We have reports of agencies seeking to reopen collective bargaining agreements and reducing the time and resources of union representatives to represent employees.

The best thing you can do is become a member of your union and attend union meetings!

While we wait for a ruling in federal court, federal employees should first obey any disciplinary action or work rule change handed down from management. Then, report the action to your shop steward.

Please write your lawmakers now and tell them to publicly support federal workers and condemn any attack on the mission of the federal workforce. Then, call 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to the offices of your U.S. representatives and senators.



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