With the Republicans back in charge across the board there was bound to be a showdown coming with the unions sooner or later. In the case of federal workers, some union leaders apparently aren’t willing to even wait for the new administration to move into the office. J. David Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is drawing the battle lines early and plans to take the fight directly to Trump if he tries to meddle in the union’s affairs. (Government Executive)

If the message of J. David Cox, the president of the largest federal employee union, could be summed up as succinctly as possible, it would be: Don’t panic…

“We’ve been here and done this over and over,” Cox said. He noted while there is always some apprehension during a presidential transition, “I’ve been on this merry-go-round before. This union has been on this merry-go-round before.”

He expressed skepticism Trump would follow through with his promise to institute a hiring freeze on his first day in office. Even if he does, Cox predicted, the outcry from the American public waiting longer to receive government services would force Trump’s hand to shift the policy quickly.

Here’s a partial list of the agenda items which Cox’s AFGE plans to “fight” Trump on:

  • Attempts to strip federal employees of defined-benefit pensions
  • Limits on union “official time”
  • Stripping feds’ due process rights
  • Shifting toward a pay-for-performance personnel system
  • Preventing agencies from automatically deducting union dues from paychecks

Trying to stop any reform of a cripplingly expensive pension system was probably a no brainer. The “union official time” issue is one we’ve written about here before. It’s the hours (or realistically weeks or months per year) that union officials collect a paycheck on the taxpayer dime and do no work for the government because they are taking care of “union business.” (That’s a pretty sweet gig which sounds like something straight out of an episode of The Sopranos.) The “due process right” he’s talking about is the unique privilege government union workers have in challenging any dismissal or disciplinary measures for any sort of malfeasance up to and including criminal activity. (In the private sector you’d have your desk cleaned out before lunch.) And “pay for performance?” You mean actually rewarding only the workers who excel at their jobs? That’s heresy, man. What are you thinking?

The article takes great pains to describe Cox as a “jovial” fellow who is such an optimist that he’s, “never seen a half-empty glass of water.” But that stands in contrast to his past actions and statements. This is the same guy who told the world in February of 2015 that he would open “the biggest can of whoop ass” on any members of Congress who attempted to reform the unions.

Every time the “fools” in Congress try to hurt the federal workforce, said AFGE National President J. David Cox in a passionate address to his members, “We get bigger. We get stronger and we fight harder.”

He added: “We are a force to be reckoned with and we are a force that will open up the biggest can of whoop ass on anyone” who votes against the union’s interests.

Yeah, that sounds like a really jovial optimist to me. It’s going to be an interesting battle to be sure, particularly after the GOP realigns the Labor Relations Board. Mr. Cox is clearly looking for a fight. Let’s hope that we’ve finally elected a crew in Washington that is ready to take him up on his offer.