WASHINGTON—Culminating several days of in-person lobbying, but continuing a defense that’s been going since Donald Trump’s first day in office, federal worker unions, their congressional allies and other union leaders took their campaign against the GOP president’s edicts to Congress.
The mass rally of several thousand people on Capitol Hill on Sept. 24 drew attention to Trump’s anti-worker actions, from curbs on union representation for all two million federal workers down to sudden declarations that 900 of the lowest-paid disabled workers in the Portland, Ore., Veterans Administration hospital would be laid off – with two weeks’ notice.
Led by the Government Employees (AFGE) and the Treasury Employees (NTEU), unions and workers lobbied for legislation to stop Trump‘s edicts in their tracks in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
The Democratic-run House has agreed. The GOP-run Senate is another matter, though one speaker, Sen. Chris Von Hollen, D-Md., promised the crowd he would push the ban on Trump’s edicts through. Whether and when he, and other Senate Democrats, can succeed is up in the air.
The point of the rally was to get them to do so. “Talk is cheap. Let’s get to work,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said. “Something is happening in America,” federation President Richard Trumka declared before challenging Trump: “Bring it on!”
Trump’s edicts, which the unions are also challenging in court, throw federal worker unions out of their small offices in federal buildings, yanked away their computers, phones and fax machines, curb due process rights for federal workers, make it easier for bosses to fire workers for no reason at all and even tell union stewards that when they defend federal workers they must do so on their own time and on their own dime.
“We are proud and united union members and we stand here ready to fight to defend our collective bargaining rights, and to demand respect for our contract,” NTEU President Tony Reardon declared.
“Our fight is your fight and your fight is our fight,” said Lee Saunders, the AFSCME president. His union was one of more than 18 whose members helped swell the noonday crowd.
“In my 14 years” at the Health and Human Services Department, “I’ve never seen employees who have been targeted and harassed like this,” Deneen Johnson, chief steward of NTEU Local 229, told the crowd. “I’ve seen violations of employees’ rights and denial of due process of law.”
photos by Chris Garlock