Guest Post by J. David Cox, Sr., National President, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO
Over the last several years, anti-union lawmakers and their corporate allies have waged a relentless battle against working people. Now, the campaign to dismantle collective bargaining rights has arrived squarely at the steps of the federal government and the public workers who keep our country healthy, safe, and strong.
On March 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that eliminates workplace due process and dismantles the grievance and arbitration rights of workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. This bill, H.R. 1259, is just the first of several bills that take Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union tactics and bring them to federal workplaces nationwide. Rep. Jodey Arrington’s (R-Texas) bill, H.R. 1461, attempts to undermine union representation at the VA altogether. First, the bill severely limits who can serve as a union officer or representative and how much time they can spend representing their coworkers. Second, it attempts to starve the union of membership dues by permitting members to stop paying their already-voluntary dues whenever they choose.
But efforts to silence workers at the VA is just the beginning. This month, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted on strict party lines to send Rep. Jody Hice’s (R-Ga.) bill, H.R. 1364 – the Official Time Reform Act – to the full House. It could be voted on as soon as this week. The Act would punish government employees who serve as union volunteers by capping the amount of time they spend representing their coworkers – known formally as ‘official time.’ If they go above an arbitrarily chosen time limit, their earned retirement and pensions will be stolen from them. This means that union volunteers who step up and defend workers in cases of discrimination, whistle-blowing, or unsafe working conditions will be punished by losing their pension accrual. It is a blatant attempt to punish union activists and deter anyone else from stepping up to take their place.
Beyond these naked attacks on the fundamental rights of workers on the job, union members at government agencies like the EPA, HUD, TSA, Coast Guard, and others now work for newly appointed leaders intent on dismantling their agencies or imposing enormous funding cuts. To top it off, President Trump’s proposed budget will lead to tens of thousands of federal jobs lost, nationwide furloughs, and cuts to critical services the American public counts on. This budget is calling for a 31 percent cut to the EPA alone – enough to put thousands of union members out of a job overnight.
Their intent is clear: kill federal unions so it’s easier to gut the remainder of the Labor Movement. Fundamental rights enjoyed by most workers for nearly a century are now hanging on by a thread.
AFGE’s more than 310,000 members in federal and D.C. government are the first targets in an all-out assault from a White House and a Congress intent on destroying Organized Labor once and for all.
It’s time to stand in absolute, unbreakable solidarity.
AFGE is asking for your help on behalf of government employees, fellow union members, and all Americans. Please help us stand against these union-busting bills today. No less than our movement’s survival is at stake.
Call your lawmaker at 855-974-4792. Tell them to vote no on H.R. 1461 and H.R. 1364.