Education Secretary Betsy DeVos accused of union-busting

The union alleges that the Department of Education failed to negotiate “in good faith” with them

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published March 16, 2018 7:00AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) ((AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File))
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) ((AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File))

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that they failed to negotiate “in good faith” with the union over a new contract. To wit, the American Federation of Government Employee is seeking to hit Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s department with an unfair labor practice charge.

“The Education Department has imposed on its workers an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over,” AFGE Council 252 President Claudette Young said in a statement. “Secretary Betsy DeVos and her management team are attempting to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and kill the union.”

After months of alleged “hostile behavior” from the Department of Education, AFGE was told that the Department wouldn’t negotiate and instead would implement their own rules with a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). According to the press release by AFGE, the CBA was an illegal agreement that would “gut” employee rights--such as “workplace health and safety, telework, and alternative work schedules.”

The forced rules, according to AFGE, require some employees to carry out their statutory representational duties without pay — such as meetings to resolve workplace conflict, meetings to address issues like discrimination, and bettering work processes. The agreement went into effect on Monday.

The union represents 3,900 Education Department employees across the country.

The announcement continues to explain:

"Joining the union is voluntary for workers, yet AFGE and other federal unions are required by law to represent everyone covered by the union contract – even if they choose not to join. For this reason, Congress provided representational time so that the union can carry out its legal duty of fair representation to all those who are covered by the contract, including those who choose not to pay dues. Removing access to this time is like asking the fire department to operate without firetrucks or a firehose."

"AFGE did not agree to these unilateral terms," Young said. "AFGE is, and has been, eager to return to the table to negotiate a fair and just contract, which all employees deserve."

According to Politico, the Department of Education claims that AFGE forced the agreement on themselves.

"The union spent more than a year dragging its feet on ground rules negotiations without reaching any agreement, and then failed to respond in timely manner to negotiate over the contract proposed by the Department," spokeswoman Liz Hill said in a statement to Politico.

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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