In a major victory for unions and a sharp rebuke to President Trump, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that key provisions of three May 25 executive orders violate federal workers’ right to representation.

With support from IBEW and other unions, federal workers rallied in Washington, D.C., and across the country July 25 to fight Trump administration executive orders taking aim at their union rights. A federal judge has now reversed key provisions of those orders. Photo Credit: Jay Mallin for AFGE viaFlickr

The 122-page decision upheld arguments by the American Federation of Government Employees, the first union to fight Trump’s executive orders in court, that the president overstepped his authority on matters that are subject to negotiation by federal agencies and their workers.

“President Trump’s illegal action was a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress specifically guaranteed to the public-sector employees across this country who keep our federal government running every single day,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said. “We are heartened by the judge’s ruling and by the huge outpouring of support shown to federal workers by lawmakers from both parties, fellow union workers, and compassionate citizens across the country.”

National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon called the ruling “a resounding victory for all who want a fair and effective civil service.”

Specifically, the orders slashed the time frame for underperforming workers to improve, from the contractually agreed 120 days to a new maximum of 30 days; significantly reduced “official time” that workers with union duties can use to fulfill their legal obligation to represent colleagues; and directed agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements, ordering the Office of Personnel Management to analyze settled contracts for so-called “wasteful” provisions.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said the executive orders violated the First Amendment and laws governing separation of powers and would “impair the ability of agency officials to keep an open mind, and to participate fully in give-and-take discussions during collective bargaining.”

Jackson noted that official time is protected by Congress, which “undertook to guarantee federal employees the statutory right to engage in good-faith collective bargaining,” adding that doing so “safeguards the public interest.”

Anti-union politicians habitually exploit such widely misunderstood provisions as official time, IBEW Government Employees Department Director Paul O’Connor said.

“They call it ‘taxpayer-funded official time,’ and while that’s not necessarily incorrect, it is disingenuous because all federal time is taxpayer-funded time,” O’Connor said in an earlier story about the executive orders. “Whatever any cabinet secretary does, or Secret Service agent does, is taxpayer-funded time too. They make it sound like it’s inherently wasteful, and that’s just not the case.”

IBEW leaders joined federal unions in applauding Jackson’s ruling.

“The anti-union attacks on working people from this administration are a disgrace, and that’s effectively what Judge Jackson said in her decision,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said.

“Like AFGE, our union and the entire labor movement is pushing back every day against political attacks at all levels of government, and in many cases we’re winning,” he said. “But the fact is, the assault on our rights will only get worse unless and until we go to the polls – as we all must do in November – and vote out the members of Congress, the state legislators, the city council members and the rest of them who are hell-bent on doing us harm.”