At-Will Employment For Federal Workers: President Trump Approves Via Executive Orders Which a Federal Judge Subsequently Blocks

Unions won a major victory against the Trump administration’s attempts to weaken protections that apply to many federal workers when Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columnbia invalidated provisions in three executive orders Trump’s administration issued back in May. These key provisions would have made it easier to terminate federal workers, as well as place notable limitations on union activities.

President Trump’s intent to run the United States like one of his businesses has been apparent in his words and actions since the 2016 election. He touted his successful business prowess throughout his campaign, a move that appealed to many of his supporters.

These campaign promises followed President Trump when he took office. Since his inauguration day, President Trump has fired or otherwise forced out over two dozen staff members at the Cabinet level. More recently, the president and his aides want the power to do the same with approximately 1 million federal employees working at various agencies he oversees.

Unions are a large reason why the president’s hands are tied. About one-third of federal employees are union members afforded certain job protections—one of which includes a process that allows workers to demonstrate improvement in their job performance to avoid being fired.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson held that the Trump administration’s executive orders were a violation of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute of 1978. This is a law through which Congress granted the right to unionize and negotiate job contracts to federal employees. While the ruling is seen as a decided victory for unions, it comes at an uncertain time, where unions have also faced hostility from the Trump administration and Republicans. Judge Jackson’s ruling holds that the president does not have the power to restrict a union’s activity. Only the future will tell if further challenges to unions may follow.

Additional Reading:

Read American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO v. Trump et al on Justia Dockets

Trump Wants to Fire Federal Employees at Will. A Federal Judge Said He Can’t.,, August 27, 2018

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