Trump court appeal seeks to cut civil service protections

By on 26/09/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The administration's bid to uphold its executive orders will be heard at the DC Court of Appeals (Image courtesy: AgnosticPreachersKid).

The Trump administration has filed an appeal against a recent court judgment which invalidated three executive orders clamping down on civil service union activity.

The Justice Department filed a notice on Tuesday and the case will be heard at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

In May this year, Trump signed three executive orders that made it easier to fire federal employees, limited the time and scope of collective bargaining negotiations, and severely curtailed the time spent and the areas covered by union activities on government time.

Court wrangles

In response, a number of unions sued the administration. And in August, US District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled for the unions: he found nine provisions within the three executive orders to be unlawful, saying that key elements within them amounted to an “evisceration” of unions’ ability to bargain collectively and were in conflict with the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act.

Government departments were ordered to roll back any measures they had implemented following Trump’s executive orders, with Judge Jackson prohibiting “the president’s subordinates from implementing or giving effect” to them.

There were concerns some government departments would not fully comply with the ruling, as a number had begun to introduce the new rules. Just last week this was put to the test, when an American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local filed a motion accusing the Veteran’s Affairs department of contempt of court.

Looming battle

AFGE Local 3399 said staff at a medical centre in Columbia were still being told they must receive prior permission for the use of “official time” for union work, despite the August court ruling which invalidated Trump’s executive order on the matter.

The motion was struck down on Friday September 21 after the administration’s defence argued it had been brought to court  “without the barest effort to confer with Defendants’ counsel beforehand”.

The administration’s appeal and attempt to reinstate Trump’s executive orders has been widely anticipated. Following the decision by Judge Jackson in August, a Justice Department spokesperson said it was disappointed and told the Washington Post it was “considering the appropriate next steps to ensure the president is able to fulfil his constitutional duties, run an effective and efficient government, and protect taxpayers from waste and abuse”.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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