United States District Judge Ketji Brown Jackson ruled to roll back President Donald Trump’s executive order, signed in May of this year, that gave more discretion to the government in firing its employees.
This ruling came early on Saturday and put a hold on the order, which applied to public-sector unions that represent government employees.
The president’s order had reduced the time allotted for underperforming federal employees to improve from a maximum of up to 120 days to a maximum of 30 days, before they could be fired.
The order also limited the possible avenues for workers to appeal their evaluations and lowered the amount of time employees could spend in union-related activities during working hours, The New York Times reported.
Judge Jackson’s ruling stated, “Among other things, these Orders seek to regulate both the collective bargaining negotiations that federal agencies enter into with public-sector unions and the matters that these parties negotiate.
“The Unions contend that the Orders conflict with the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act … and therefore constitute ultra vires and unconstitutional actions on the part of the President — and also that the Orders impinge upon the constitutional rights of federal employees.
“Several union plaintiffs initially insisted that the Orders amounted to such an egregious violation of presidential power, and worked such an immediate harm to the collective bargaining rights of federal employees, that a preliminary injunction was warranted.”
White House officials presented the executive orders as a way to improve the functionality of the government when they announced they had been signed in May.
“These executive orders will make it easier for agencies to remove poor-performing employees and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used,” Andrew Bremberg, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said on a call with reporters, according to The New York Times.
The unions argued that the order was illegal, as federal law requires such rules to be negotiated between government agencies and the unions themselves.
According to the complaint filed by the unions, the president does not have the authority to overrule the federal law that covers these issues.
Jackson agreed with them, calling certain provisions of the executive orders a “conflict with congressional intent in a manner that cannot be sustained.”
“We are very pleased that the court agreed that the president far exceeded his authority and that the apolitical career federal work force shall be protected from these illegal, politically motivated executive orders,” said Sarah Suszczyk, the co-chair of a coalition of government workers unions.
However, government experts agree that firing government employees can be a laborious and bureaucratic process.
“Very clearly the administration is trying to do all it can to weaken the role of public employee unions,” Donald F. Kettl, a professor of public policy at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an interview at the time. “It’s part of a far broader strategy, that’s in many ways bubbling up from the states, to turn the civil service into at-will employment.”
Near the end of his ruling, Jackson expanded on his reasons for ruling with the plaintiffs:
“In short, there is no dispute that the principle mission of the FSLMRS is to protect the collective bargaining rights of federal workers, based on Congress’s clear and unequivocal finding that ‘labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest.’ 5 U.S.C. § 7101(a). Congress did not intend for union challenges to the validity of executive orders that threaten such collective bargaining rights to be funneled to the FLRA. Upon exercising its subject-matter jurisdiction over the ripe claims that the Unions bring here, this Court has concluded that many of the challenged provisions of the Orders at issue here effectively reduce the scope of the right to bargain collectively as Congress has crafted it, or impair the ability of agency officials to bargain in good faith as Congress has directed, and therefore cannot be sustained.”
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