The Justice Department has filed notice it is appealing a ruling by a federal judge that invalidated key provisions of a set of executive orders aimed at weakening federal employees’ union representation and easing their firing.
The Tuesday decision comes a month after U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington dealt the Trump administration a setback in its efforts to rein in the power of federal employee unions.
Jackson ruled in August that major elements of the three executive orders the White House issued just before Memorial Day were not valid, largely because the president lacks the authority to interfere with the collective bargaining rights Congress gave civil servants 40 years ago.
The orders had weakened the right of employees to challenge disciplinary action against them, including dismissal; limited work conditions that could be bargained over; and instructed agencies to restrict what is known as official time — the work that union officials perform on behalf of their members while on the clock.
The orders were challenged by about a dozen unions representing federal employees, led by the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest.
An AFGE spokesperson declined to comment on the appeal, as did the Justice Department.
After the judge’s ruling, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon told federal agencies to “fully comply” with her decision and hold back on implementing the orders.
But several unions say management at several agencies involved in contract negotiations are attempting to get around the court’s ruling by pushing for provisions in the rules at the bargaining table, particularly a reduction in official time.
Tensions have been particularly high, for example, at Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, which are negotiating new collective bargaining agreements.