The Department of Housing and Urban Development is about to evict a federal employee union from office space provided by the government as part of President Donald Trump’s increased pressure on government unions.
Under a proposal released Friday, HUD would give the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) until mid-July to vacate any space it uses at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters or federal field offices.
“The union shall have until July 15, 2018 to vacate all offices they currently occupy, return all government property they currently possess and cease using government resources. This applies to field and HQ,” HUD officials said in notice to AFGE sent June 14.
HUD officials stress that this is a proposal, but the AFGE is sounding the alarm. “This seems to be a deliberate attempt to undermine our ability to prepare and conduct these negotiations,”Holly Salamido, president of the AFGE HUD council, told Government Executive.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, AFGE representatives and negotiators are allowed to use HUD offices, phones, printers and other equipment, a practice HUD wants to end in future agreements with the union. HUD is also in the process of negotiating a new agreement with AFGE, the largest federal employee union. (RELATED: Trump Just Made It Easier To Fire Bad Federal Employees)
HUD’s proposed mid-term agreement, which is not part of the larger contract negotiation going on between AFGE and HUD, says unions would not be allowed to hold meetings without written permission, and will not be allowed to use any government resources, including “office or meeting space, reserved parking spaces, phones, computers, computer systems, copy machines, paper, filing cabinets, keys, scanners, external drives, fax machines, use of printing services.”
“To throw us out on July 15 when we’re going into negotiations, we wouldn’t have copiers, we wouldn’t have scanners or telephones or private offices where we can hold discussions,” Salamido said. “And they know that our best negotiators will be engaged in the full-term negotiation, and we can’t have people be in two places at the same time.”
A HUD spokesperson pointed out that it seems odd to provide space for union representatives while the department rents off-site space for employees working to fulfill HUD’s mission.
“We’re committed to good faith bargaining with the unions,” HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said. “However, HUD currently rents additional space for employees to work outside of its designated buildings in locations like Washington, D.C., and we also pay rent for union activity space in other locations nationwide. Utilizing that space for employees assisting in housing families in need would be a much more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Trump’s May executive order aimed to decrease the cost of negotiating union agreements. The government pays the salaries for negotiators advocating for both the unions and for the government, and the agreements can take years to finalize. In 2016 alone, the government spent $16 million on union negotiator salaries, according to the White House.
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