Federal Union Leaders Hit Trump Trashing of Joint Labor-Mgmt. Councils

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Leaders of the two largest federal workers’ unions slammed Republican President Donald Trump’s decision to trash joint labor-management councils set up to work through problems. Treasury Employees (NTEU) President Tony Reardon predicted Trump’s ruling would cost the government – and taxpayers – money rather than save it.

Trump signed an executive order late on September 29 abolishing the forums, where workers, including union reps from NTEU and the Government Employees (AFGE), and managers met to discuss and solve problems without confrontations.

Trump said Labor-Management Councils in every agency and a related advisory council on job safety and health wasted managers’ time and federal money. They “have not fulfilled their goal of promoting collaboration in the federal workforce,” he said. He offered no proof for those statements. The councils “produced few benefits to the public, and they should, therefore, be discontinued.”

While Trump did not say so, his executive order is also part of the Trump-GOP campaign to kill virtually everything his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, did. That’s because, as Trump’s order executive orders in 2009 and 2015 established and extended the councils. Obama issued those orders.

Other parts of Trump’s anti-Obama campaign include administrative dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies to insurers to help low-income people afford coverage, announced October 13, trashing the Iran nuclear dismantlement deal on the same day and throwing 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals permit holders out of the country.

The end of the subsidies hurt millions of low-income people who may not be able to afford paying more for insurance, and all other insured people, as the firms implement higher rates for everyone to help pay for costs for the low-income policyholders.

Ending the labor-management councils will actually cost taxpayers money, Reardon said. That’s because cases – particularly in job safety – the councils could handle in-house, by avoiding hazards and conflicts in the first place, will now result in confrontations, accidents, injuries and “costlier, otherwise preventable” workers’ comp claims.

“This is an ominous sign for the future of federal labor-management relations. For an administration trying to reduce operational costs and make agencies run more efficiently, to state it is too time-consuming and costly to meet with its own employees is self-defeating.”

AFGE President J. David Cox emphasized, as did Reardon, that Trump is cutting off communication lines with his own employees, the federal workers. AFGE is the largest federal workers’ union, and Trump’s anti-worker actions have spurred its growth this year.

“While Trump's new order does not overturn existing collective bargaining agreements, it does take away a valuable resource for labor managers and directors of federal agencies to start a dialogue and work through problems,” Cox said.

“By taking away this important resource, the Trump administration is once again attacking government workers. In light of the changes created by this executive order, AFGE will create a public forum to air workplace concerns, and work with the media to ensure the interests of our union and our members are heard,” Cox vowed.

Trump claimed, however, that “Nothing in this order shall abrogate any collective bargaining agreements in effect on the date of this order.”

But he also said “Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof” or the authority of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Before heading OMB for Trump, Mulvaney was a rabidly rightist and anti-worker – including anti-government worker -- GOP congressman from South Carolina.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work