Senators Question Legality of Trump Memo Purporting to Grant Secretary Esper Authority to Exempt Employees from Labor Protections; Trump Memo Undermines Hardworking DoD Civil Servants Who Help Keep Country Safe
WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging him not to use the authority purportedly granted by President Trump’s January 29 memo to exempt civilian employees at the Department of Defense (DoD) from the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), which provides labor protections and rights to federal employees, including the right to join a union and collectively bargain.
“President Trump’s decision to allow you to bust DoD workers’ unions appears to be motivated purely by an anti-union bias and will harm national security,” wrote the senators. “DoD’s unionized civilian federal workforce provides key support to DoD’s mission and the military forces that carry it out, and stripping away these workers’ rights would result in profound damage to them and to DoD’s national security mission.”
The FSLMRS, which protects the collective bargaining rights of most federal workers, including many civilian workers at the DoD, provides the President conditional authority to exclude federal agencies or subdivisions from its requirements if certain conditions under the statute are met.
In their letter to Secretary Esper, the senators questioned the legality of the President delegating this authority and whether the statutory requirements to exempt agencies or subdivisions were met. The senators also refuted the argument that collective bargaining and labor rights can be incompatible with national security, as asserted in the President’s memo, noting that unions-which have long existed in national security agencies-strengthen national security by providing stability for workers and ensuring a strong, well-trained, professional workforce.
“The Memo not only undermines national security and the hardworking DoD civil servants that help keep the country safe, but also may violate the FSLMRS,” the senators wrote. “We request that you commit, in writing, not to act on the authority that the Memo purports to delegate, and ensure civilian DoD workers maintain their rights under the FSLMRS.”
The senators requested a response to their letter by March 12, 2020.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Senator Brown in penning this letter to the President.
The senators’ full letter to Secretary Esper can be read here.