For months, you’ve heard about NTEU’s repeated efforts to get HHS to negotiate in good faith over our contract. They’ve asked Secretary Azar to meet with us, and when he refused, NTEU submitted a petition with thousands of our signatures. NTEU has filed multiple national grievances for bad faith bargaining and have alerted members of Congress and the media about HHS’ mistreatment of its employees. Last week, we took our concerns more public with loud and spirited informational picketing outside of HHS headquarters.
How did we get here?
This started in May when the president issued three anti-employee, anti-labor executive orders. Emboldened by those orders, HHS decided this summer to restart negotiations after a deliberately long delay. And when the talks began, their intention was clear: to impose a contract stripping HHS employees of nearly all our rights and benefits.
On the second day of what was supposed to be a multi-week bargaining schedule, HHS offered a contract that eliminated 21 articles—a full one-third of the contract. They called it their last best offer and refused to discuss the proposals. Instead, they swiftly declared an impasse so that the Federal Service Impasses Panel can unilaterally impose their pared-down contract.
In August, a Federal District Court judge agreed with NTEU, declaring multiple sections of the executive orders invalid. The orders, the judge said, conflict with the law requiring agencies to bargain in good faith. HHS nevertheless refused to return to the table, claiming its proposals were independent of the orders. In short, HHS is saying that eliminating your rights and benefits and ignoring the law is its own idea of how employees should be (mis)treated.
Think that despite its proposals to eliminate popular programs like AWS and telework from the contract, those benefits will continue to be offered to frontline employees? Think again. In a move indicative of how it would exercise the complete discretion it is seeking, HHS recently announced that non-bargaining unit employees are limited to one telework day per week.
The Federal Service Impasses Panel will meet on November 14 to decide whether to take jurisdiction over the dispute or send NTEU and HHS back to the bargaining table. NTEU hopes the Panel will agree that a few minutes of bargaining is not an impasse.
NTEU also continues to pursue our grievances and unfair labor practice charges against HHS. Last week, NTEU told an arbitrator that HHS violated its own unilaterally-implemented ground rules by opening more than the maximum number of articles. HHS also reached into unopened articles containing key rights and benefits, proposing to eliminate them entirely.
What can you do?
We must keep the pressure on HHS and stay engaged in the fight for a fair contract. Here are a few ways to show management that we stand in solidarity:
- If you are not already a member, join NTEU.
- Show your support on social media by posting a photo with a “Shame on HHS” sign and use the hashtag #ShameOnHHS.
- Sign the petition demanding that HHS return to the bargaining table.
- Wear black clothing every Wednesday.
- Wear a Shame on HHS sticker.
- Tweet Secretary Azar at @SecAzar (Get sample tweets).