HUD moves to evict union from federal office space

Negotiations at the Housing and Urban Development department are scheduled to begin today for the new collective bargaining agreement with the public sector union representing their workers, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 222. It’s going to be a lengthy process, lasting well into the summer, but HUD officials last week decided to kick off the negotiations with a rather unusual bargaining tactic. They issued the union an eviction notice, telling them to clear out their offices and move union officials to an off-site location by the middle of July. Needless to say, this didn’t go over well with the union at all. (Government Executive)

On June 14, the department issued a notice to the American Federation of Government Employees Council 222, which represents HUD employees, that it wishes to remove from AFGE’s existing collective bargaining agreement union employees’ right to HUD office space, phones, computers and other agency property by July 15. The proposal is intended to bring the department into compliance with President Trump’s recent executive order curbing official time, and it gives the union 15 days to demand to bargain, otherwise the eviction will move forward, the notice said.

But union officials said the effort runs afoul of both the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act and the executive order HUD officials cited as justification for the eviction. The executive order states that it does not “abrogate any collective bargaining agreement [already] in effect,” and Holly Salamido, president of the AFGE HUD council, said unions are not required to renegotiate existing CBA provisions outside of full term negotiations.

This was clearly an effort by HUD Secretary Ben Carson to bring the department into compliance with the President’s new executive order limiting “official time” and use of taxpayer-funded resources for union business. Unfortunately for HUD, the union does seem to have a point when it comes to current labor laws. Preemptively changing their agreement before the new collective bargaining session is completed seems to run afoul of the law, though both sides are allowed to make “proposals” ahead of the bargaining talks.

Carson’s people seemed to take that message to heart and came back with a response stating that the eviction notice was, “simply a proposal.”

All of this provides us with a bit of humor on a Tuesday morning, but these upcoming labor negotiations will be something to keep an eye on. It’s the first major round of talks along these lines since President Trump began moving to curb union excesses in the public sector. His executive order limiting “official time” and making it easier to remove delinquent government workers was long overdue, but now the philosophy behind those orders will be put to the test.

For far too long, government worker unions have essentially had a free hand when it comes to labor negotiations. They were able to sit down and bargain with government officials who were often beholden to the unions for their massive contributions to campaign coffers. The taxpayer basically had no voice at the table, leading to distorted deals which left us with things like unions using taxpayer-funded office space and resources and officials who are paid a salary by the taxpayer but do zero government work. Now it’s just possible that the union will see some pushback from negotiators on the other side of the table.

And if they decide to go on strike? Well, Trump already said he was looking for ways to cut back on staffing and save money. This could be a win-win.