Judge Strikes Down Trump's Move To Ease Firing Of Federal Workers
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Early this morning, a U.S. district judge struck down major provisions of three executive orders that were intended to make it easier to fire federal workers and weaken the influence of their unions. President Trump signed the orders in May, saying they would save taxpayers around $100 million a year. Today, unions are celebrating the decision by U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. One of those celebrating is David Borer, general counsel for the AFGE union, the American Federation of Government Employees. It's the largest federal worker union. And he is with us now.
Mr. Borer, thanks so much for joining us.
DAVID BORER: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: As briefly as you can, because I understand you litigated this matter, can you just give us your chief objections to the Trump administration's orders?
BORER: Well, the executive orders issued by the White House attempted to undermine federal unions in the same fashion as Wisconsin governor had tried to undermine state unions, and that is to restrict the rights of federal workers, to restrict the rights of their unions and to generally make it harder for unions to operate in the federal sector.
MARTIN: One of the provisions of these executive orders would have limited the time that a worker who was deemed underperforming could have to repair his or her reputation, let's say. The administration says it needed that because it needs more flexibility to get rid of workers that it says are poorly performing. Now, a lot of people work for employers who can fire them at will. What would you say to the public who says, well, you know, why should civil servants get more protections than I have?
BORER: Well, the point really is everybody deserves those same kind of protections. The provision you're talking about is performance improvement plans. The idea is a mature labor relations system shouldn't be about punishing employees. It should be about bringing them along, coaching them up, getting them to perform better and then, only as a last resort, punishing bad performers if they can't comply with the requirements of the job.
MARTIN: Overall, how would you assess this ruling in the context of the year that organized labor has had so far? As you pointed out, a number of state governments have moved aggressively to curtail public sector labor unions. In June, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that many unions considered a major blow by ending mandatory union fees for government workers nationwide. And then you have this ruling in your favor. How do you assess this in the context of the overall trends?
BORER: It's absolutely a major win for AFGE and all federal workers. The cases you talk about obviously have been setbacks for the labor movement. But we're stronger than ever. AFGE is growing, and we're going to continue to fight these things. This case shows what we can do when we all pull together.
MARTIN: That's David Borer. He's the general counsel of AFGE, the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest of the dozen unions which was suing the administration over these executive orders. Mr. Borer, thanks so much for talking with us.
BORER: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.