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Gage Skidmore

DeVos Tries to Bust Department of Education Union

AFGE alleges that DeVos is trying to break their union by eliminating union time and forcing members to re-sign with the union every year

Brian Young's picture
Mar 19, 2018

Betsy DeVos trying to bust a union, shocking we know, but that is the charge that the Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) is launching at the Secretary of Education.

AFGE alleges in an unfair labor practice charge that has been filed with the Federal Labor Relation Authority that the Department of Education (DOE) is violating federal labor law by throwing out a collectively bargained agreement that covers 3,900 employees.

After months of anti-union proposals and hostile behavior at the bargaining table, Department of Education management told AFGE Council 252 President, Claudette Young on Friday, March 9, that it would not negotiate and would instead implement its own terms. This unilateral proposal is an illegal management edict that guts employee rights, including those addressing workplace health and safety, telework, and alternative work schedules.

DeVos is also trying to take away AFGE’s ability to fairly represent their members. For federal unions like AFGE, they must get employees to opt into the union, however, they must represent every employee in the bargaining unit regardless if they pay dues or not. With 3,900 members, this takes a lot of manpower and time. To help with this, AFGE, like many unions, has negotiated union time into the contract. This means that certain union officials like stewards and elected leaders can use part of their day to work on union issues, like representing a member at a disciplinary hearing. This way, hearings do not have to be held after work, costing the government more money, and the employee ensures that their rights are protected. However, in DeVos’ unilateral plan, this would be taken away. Her new edict requires shop stewards and local union officers to use leave without pay to carry out their statutory representational duties – which include things like meeting with employees and managers to resolve workplace disputes, addressing issues of discrimination and retaliation, and effecting improvements in work processes. This would also require union officials to lose office space in DOE buildings as well as return any computers, phones, and office equipment that the DOE has assigned to Council 252.

On top of severely restricting the union's access to their members, DeVos’ edict would kick every union member out of the union at the end of the year. AFGE would then have to take on the costly and time-consuming process of having every member re-sign. This would occur every year, meaning that instead of representing their members, Council 252 would be forced to spend their time reaching out to long-term dedicated union members to get them to fill out the paperwork to stay in their union.

Since AFGE members did not vote to approve the contract, the union has vowed to contest it in court. “The Education Department has imposed on its workers an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over,” AFGE Council 252 President Claudette Young said. “Secretary Betsy DeVos and her management team are attempting to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and kill the union.” The edict comes after DeVos has spent stalling and negotiating in bad faith with AFGE.

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