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Trump Declares War on Federal Workers and Their Unions

With the Trump Administration attacking federal sector unions and the civil service system, IFPTE and a coalition of federal unions are defending federal employees' rights to union representation and the public interest.

Right now, federal employees are facing an extraordinary effort by the Trump Administration to turn back the clock on decades of progress that has led to the United States' merit-based federal civil service system. Three executive orders issued by President Trump before the Memorial Day weekend seek to hamstring federal sector unions’ legal requirement to represent workers and by limiting official time, direct agencies to reopen collective bargaining agreements and impose unfavorable terms on federal workers, and encourage agencies to adopt policies that erode fairness concepts such as progressive discipline, performance improvement plans, seniority, and grievance filings for performance appraisals.

A fourth White House executive order, issued on July 10, effectively politicizes the hiring of Administrate Law Judges (ALJs) at federal agencies by replacing nonpartisan merit-based hiring of ALJs with hiring by politically-appointed agency heads. . The vast majority of the 1,800 ALJs in the federal government work at the Social Security Administration and are represented by the Association of Administrative Law Judges/IFPTE Judicial Council 1. However, the EO on ALJs is far-reaching for it impacts ALJs that adjudicate on issues including financial regulations, environmental safety, occupational health and safety, labor law and worker rights, housing, health and number of other facets of the federal government (see OPM's list of ALJ's by agency here).

IFPTE, as part of the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA), filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration on June 13, challenging that "Defendant Trump has no authority to issue these Executive Orders from either the Constitution or from Congress" (the complaint can be read here). The FWA lawsuit was combined with two other lawsuits against the Trump Administration's EOs - filed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) - on June 19.

As part of the FWA, IFPTE is working with Members of Congressional in both parties and building bipartisan support to stop these destructive executive orders from being implemented. Here are some recent developments and media coverage on IFPTE and the FWA's efforts:

Here’s What the Three Trump Executive Orders Will Do:

Executive Order #13837: Hamstring unions’ ability to represent workers
  • Attempts to prevent union stewards from using official time to aid employees in preparing or pursuing grievances;
  • Directs agencies to drastically reduce official time authorizations to 1 hour per bargaining unit employee per year, an attack designed to make it harder for your union to help you; and
  • Cuts off access to agency office space for union officials carrying out their representational duties making it harder to help workers.
Executive Order #13836: Re-open collective bargaining agreements and then rush negotiations
  • Directs agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements as soon as possible;
  • Sets arbitrary timelines for the negotiation process which, when exceeded, will result in the unilateral imposition of terms by the agencies;
  • Establishes a new bureaucracy called “The Labor Relations Group” that will dictate “one-size-fits-all” proposals to agencies engaged in bargaining; and
  • Encourages agencies to engage in “take-it-or-leave-it” bargaining tactics inconsistent with agencies’ good-faith bargaining obligations.
Executive Order #13839: Fire first, ask questions never
  • Encourages agencies to abandon fairness concepts such as progressive discipline process;
  • Encourages agencies to tailor different penalties for the same or similar offenses, ignoring established law;
  • Directs the Office of Personnel Management to give performance appraisal more weight than seniority when an agency faces a reduction in force, creating great potential for unfairness; and
  • Instructs agencies to take away unions’ ability to grieve unfair removals from service or to challenge performance appraisals or awards at all.


  • IFPTE LOCAL ACTION ALERT: Please send IFPTE your Local’s specific examples of how the Trump EOs are inconsistent with the public interest, including examples of money savings from the use of official time. Contact Matt Biggs ( or Faraz Khan ( with examples.

IFPTE Locals Weigh In on EOs Impact on Efficiency, Federal Employee Rights, and the Public Interest

Read reports from IFPTE locals on how the Executive Orders undermine union representation and how federal agencies, federal employees, and the public benefit from federal sector union representation.

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