Union Challenge of Trump Executive Orders Rejected by Federal Court

A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt unions a setback in their legal fight against executive orders President Trump had signed targeting federal government workers and their unions.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower-court ruling from last summer that struck down the main provisions of the executive orders, which Mr. Trump issued in May 2018.

Mr. Trump’s orders had sought to reduce the amount of time that underperforming workers were given to improve, limit their options for appealing evaluations and reduce the amount of paid work time that they can use to attend to union business.

The administration said the orders would make government more efficient. Many experts agreed that changes like making it easier to remove poor-performing civil servants were necessary. But they argued that the executive orders went well beyond what was required to achieve that objective.

Some congressional Democrats have expressed concern that the orders could subject professional government workers to political interference.

The appeals court on Tuesday did not rule on the legality of the executive orders. It simply concluded that the previous court lacked jurisdiction when it rejected them.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the court ruled that the unions must first appeal the orders to the agency that adjudicates labor disputes between federal employee unions and management, known as the Federal Labor Relations Authority. If the unions lose in that venue, they can resume their court battle.

Still, federal employee unions said the ruling was wrong and would hurt workers.

The decision “is a tremendous blow to federal employees and their voice in the workplace,” J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement.

The decision does not immediately reinstate the executive orders. Instead, the orders will continue to be largely postponed while unions decide on their next legal step, which could include an appeal to the full federal appeals court or the Supreme Court.

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