Top Dems Request Documents on Union Busting at the Department of Education
Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2018)—Today, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos requesting information on the troubling reports of the Department suspending ongoing collective bargaining negotiations with the union representing agency employees.
“We are investigating reports of sudden and troubling actions by political appointees at the Department of Education to suspend ongoing collective bargaining negotiations with the union representing employees at the Department, to cancel all previously scheduled negotiation sessions, and to unilaterally force onto these employees a new collective bargaining agreement that was neither bargained for nor agreed to by the Department’s workforce,” the Ranking Members wrote. “The reports raise serious questions about whether Trump Administration officials are complying with laws requiring them to conduct negotiations in ‘good faith’ with the employees who dedicate their careers to promoting education in our nation.”
The law requires both the agency and union to negotiate in good faith with a sincere resolve to reach a collective bargaining agreement. Cummings and Scott expressed concern that Department did not bargain in good faith after the Trump Administration took power in 2017:
- Between October 2016 and December 2017, the Department and the union had been engaging in preliminary negotiations to establish ground rules, pursuant to Article 5 of the previous collective bargaining agreement, which required that chief negotiators for both the agency and the union meet at Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. During this time, the parties had come to an agreement on certain terms and proposals, modified others, and withdrew still others.
- However, in December 2017, the Department declared that the parties were at an impasse and provided the union with what it deemed its Last, Best and Final Offer.
- On February 8, 2018, the Department notified the union that it intended to unilaterally implement a contract.
- On February 14, 2018, the Department cancelled all remaining bargaining sessions that the parties had previously scheduled.
- On that day, February 14, 2018, the union submitted a demand to bargain to the Department, but the Department refused to bargain.
- On March 9, 2018, the Department notified the union that it would unilaterally implement its terms.
- The union submitted the Department’s terms to a ratification vote by the employees, and the vote failed, but the Department implemented these terms anyway.
The Department unilaterally made significant changes to the collective bargaining agreement that had been in place previously and reduced the number of articles from 44 to 8. For example, the new contract severely restricted the amount of “official time” union leaders may spend on labor relations, required union officials to turn in agency equipment including laptops and cellphones, and evicted union officials from agency office space.
“These changes obstruct employees in need of their union’s services and representation,” the Ranking Members wrote. “In addition, the Department promoted the false impression that the union endorsed and is a party to the agreement, despite the fact that the terms were dictated by Department management without the consent of the workforce.”
The Ranking Members requested the Department withdraw the terms covering the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252 that the Department unilaterally implemented in March, resume bargaining with AFGE, and abide by the terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement. They are also requesting all documents, communications, and information related to the decisions on bargaining with AFGE Council 252, and any outside employee bargaining and federal unions.
Click here to read today’s letter.