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Trump's War on Unions and Education

The FLRA has ruled Trump and DeVos violated 14 labor laws

Brian Young's picture
Dec 03, 2021

While Trump was still in the White House, he issued a series of executive orders directly targeting federal unions. One of the department's that was the most successful in enacting the orders was the Education Department who was led at the time by Betsy DeVos.

At the time, a federal union filed unfair labor practice charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) claiming that the actions violated labor law. With Trump no longer in charge and his appointees off of the FLRA, the board has taken a fair look at the case and has found that Trump’s Department of Education violated 14 labor laws.

The 14 violations came from 14 separate unfair labor practice cases which were filed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) between March 2018 and August 2020. The cases alleged that the Education Department violated the Federal Labor-Management Relations Statute. After investigating the cases, the FLRA combined the 14 cases into one complaint and allowed the case to be heard before an administrative judge in November.

Once the charges were condensed into one case, the Department of Education was given the opportunity to defend themselves, but they refused to submit any information before the deadline. In FLRA cases this is essentially the same as admitting guilt and pleading guilty.

“Under the Trump administration, the Department of Education engaged in a three-year campaign to strip its employees of their fundamental rights and destroy their union,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “Now that the FLRA has affirmed these charges, we look forward to working with the department’s new leadership to restore employees’ rights and ensure workers are made whole for losses resulting from these illegal actions.”

AFGE is the exclusive bargaining unit of about 4,000 Department of Education employees. They initially filed charges against the department way back in 2018 when the Education Department refused to negotiate with the union. Four months after that first charge the FLRA actually found the case had merit, but the agency continued to refuse to work with the union. Instead they continued to violate labor law including implementing changes to telework policies, imposing new employee performance standards, reorganizing the chief information officer’s office, and relocating both the Chicago and Dallas regional offices all without negotiating with the union. They also denied union leaders the ability to provide fair representation to employees, refused to recognize union leaders in its regional offices, and refused to negotiate over labor-management changes ordered by President Trump.

“While most other agencies have been working to undo the anti-labor actions of the previous administration and work with unions in good faith, the Department of Education so far has failed to do so by allowing these illegal actions to stand,” Kelley said. “Now that the FLRA has found the department guilty of these violations, it’s time for the department to restore workers’ bargaining rights and work with the union to settle all outstanding litigation matters and move forward to build a better relationship with the union and the employees we represent.”

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While it is important that the FLRA issued this decision, since it took so long to get a decision, the new Biden administration has already rolled back many of these policies and has ordered the Department to negotiate numerous issues with the union.

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