President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday that overturned former President Donald Trump’s May 2018 orders to restrict federal collective bargaining.
The previous orders, which were the subject of several lawsuits and labor practice challenges, mandated a more constrained use of official time, required agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements under strict parameters and made it easier to fire federal employees.
Under the just-signed order, agencies will no longer be required to pursue such stringent negotiations with federal unions.
“The order will protect and empower federal employees who have dedicated their careers to serving the American people, many in difficult circumstances during the pandemic. The steps will include restoring collecting bargaining power and worker protections for federal workers,” said Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, at a Friday press briefing.
Biden has long been an outspoken supporter of unionization in the federal government and across private industries and stated before inauguration that restoring federal collective bargaining to its earlier freedom was a high priority for his administration.
“In a Biden administration, agencies are no longer under orders to strip long-held rights from contracts, run roughshod over employees and unilaterally impose workplace policies that disrespect their service to our country,” National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said in a statement.
“To be sure, NTEU was in the process of successfully challenging many aspects of the Trump executive orders because they were clearly in violation of civil service laws. Now, instead of continuing that contentious administrative and legal process, NTEU looks forward to returning to the bargaining table and negotiating with agency representatives that approach labor relations in a manner that is consistent with the law and with more respect for employees and their representatives.”
The order will also undo Trump’s creation of Schedule F employees, which was intended to move civil servants working in policy-focused roles into job classifications that would make them easier to fire and remove the open competition requirements for filling that job.
That order would have also enabled some political appointees to burrow into more permanent jobs by allowing agency leaders to name them to Schedule F positions that would not be subject to the stringent oversight normally placed on an appointee looking to move into a career post.
“President Biden’s action to restore workplace rights and protections for federal employees, along with his commitment to partner with labor unions as a good governance ally, means we can hit the ground running to help his administration deliver on vital priorities for the American people,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley.
“Federal workers can once again have confidence in their president’s commitment to the apolitical civil service, to standing up for workers’ rights, and to upholding merit system principles that safeguard against political interference in employment decisions.”
The executive order also aims to boost the pay of low-wage feds and contractors that currently make below $15 an hour.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.