Two years ago, convention delegates reelected Eugene Hudson Jr. by acclamation to the second-highest office in the largest federal employee union.
He had no opposition then, but he has plenty now.
All but one member of the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) National Executive Council (NEC) voted to boot Hudson from his secretary-treasurer’s post last week.
“I was removed for political reasons,” Hudson said. He is not going quietly.
By telephone and on his Hudson Delivers Truth website, he presses the case that he was retaliated against because of his efforts to check union expense-account abuse and his plans to run against AFGE President J. David Cox Sr.
“Over the past several years,” he wrote, “I have been an outspoken critic of how AFGE President J. David Cox and other members of the NEC have spent AFGE money for personal use, including family vacations to the Virgin Islands.”
This internal fight comes at a particularly bad time. When a strong, united front is needed against Trump administration and congressional efforts attacking federal employees, the largest union is engaged in an in-house battle.
Federal workers face serious cutbacks under budget proposals advanced by President Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans. The House approved the Holman Rule, which allows Congress to halt the pay of individual federal employees without using civil service procedures. A law slashing civil service due process protections has been enacted for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where AFGE represents most employees. Taking the “fire feds faster” fever to an extreme, legislation introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) would allow staffers to be fired “for no reason at all.” And when voices of sanity are needed to combat Trump’s disgraceful coddling of white supremacists and Confederate traitors, AFGE has this unwanted diversion.
This intramural bout, Hudson said, “will be a distraction.”
Cox now has Hudson’s duties on top of the president’s.
Cox declined to comment.
“In removing Mr. Hudson from office, the NEC found him guilty on the basis of internal charges in connection with his use of AFGE staff and email for campaign or personal purposes,” a union statement said.
The press office did not respond to a series of questions and made it clear AFGE had nothing more to say: “We will not be commenting further at this time,” the statement said, blaming “potential or ongoing litigation.”
That unwillingness to talk leaves questions unanswered.
For example, a July 19 certified mail letter from Cox to Hudson said several charges against him were dismissed by a committee of investigation. The committee, however, found “probable cause” that Hudson violated the organization’s constitution “when you directed a staff member to distribute an email on your behalf to a list of email addresses, including government email addresses, obtained using AFGE resources.”
Hudson sent the email critical of Trump to some AFGE members Nov. 15, one week after he won an electoral college victory to the surprise and consternation of union leaders.
“But one thing that is certain,” Hudson wrote, “the new administration and the Republican Congressional majority have a bull’s eye planted on the backs of federal workers and the unions that represent them. The question is whether we are ready for this assault.”
The message apparently wasn’t the problem; union leaders have been harsh critics of Trump. The issue is a procedural one.
That raises this question — should a procedural violation that has had no apparent ramification be enough to sack the secretary-treasurer?
Cox’s letter quoted the original charge leveled by Keith Hill, an AFGE vice president. It said Hudson’s “email, as opined by AFGE GCO [general counsel’s office] has violated the Hatch Act, and exposed AFGE to certain … financial and disciplinary consequences.”
Hudson, however, could not have violated the Hatch Act. It applies to political activity by federal employees. Hudson worked for the union, not the federal government. A Nov. 22 confidential memo from AFGE General Counsel David A. Borer to Cox made it clear that “AFGE, and its staff, are not federal employees subject to the Hatch Act.” Why Cox repeated the allegation that Hudson’s email “violated the Hatch Act” is not clear.
Furthermore, as Hudson correctly noted in a Statement of Position posted on his website: “The Hatch Act does not prohibit pre- or post-election receipt of email. Although the NEC has not responded to my request for information, there is absolutely no evidence that a single recipient of my email forwarded it to another federal email address.”
Union officials feared that if union members forwarded Hudson’s message from government computers, that might violate the law. Borer’s memo also complained that Hudson’s email was not reviewed by union lawyers as required.
Calling his removal “outrageous on its face” in a letter to AFGE members, Hudson said that “even if the charges against me had been accurate, that I had violated procedure, there was no harm identified and the MOST that one would have expected would have been a verbal reprimand.”
“I have no intention of taking this lying down,” he added. “I will be taking actions in the coming days.”