Back in May, the President signed three executive orders that undermined the protections of unionized federal agency employees. So, can the President control or undermine the collective bargaining rights of federal employees? The executive orders were challenged in court, and in August, a federal judge ruled in favor of the employees.
An overreach of executive power
The executive orders stated that federal employees that collectively bargain are not using governmental resources in an efficient manner, attempting to restrict and eliminate their right to do so. However, the federal court found that the President overstepped his authority in issuing the orders, and issued a permanent injunction directing federal agencies to disregard the three executive orders, because it undermined collective bargaining rights protected by the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute or FSLMRS.
In essence, the executive orders attempted to make it easier to fire federal employees that fail to promote the President’s political agenda, allowing for employees to be fired for holding contrary political views or file whistleblower complaints for unfair or abusive conduct by the executive branch.
Historical protections prevented enforcement of executive orders
In the past, newly elected presidents were able to fire federal employees upon taking office, which was a common practice in the nineteenth century. However, during the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, each of these Presidents limited the ability to do so by enacting procedural protections for federal employees. Following concerns raised by the Watergate scandal, Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) to wipe out past executive orders and federal laws to better protect civil servants from political firings. The CSRA was enacted to reduce bureaucracy, making government more efficient by providing employee protections so they could focus on carrying out their duties and the mission of the individual agency.
Underscoring the power and importance of union membership
This victory by the unions to ensure their employees remain protected demonstrates the benefits of union membership and the way in which it protects the interests of workers. In a time when unions are under constant attack, it is important to remember how unions protect the rights of all employees to obtain fair working conditions, benefits, and pay.