WASHINGTON – A federal judge struck down significant sections of three executive orders on government workers, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump's attempts to curtail the power of labor unions representing federal employees.
In an opinion Saturday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump exceeded his authority because Congress has established collective bargaining rights for federal employees through the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act.
The three executive orders, signed in May, were an attempt to make good on a promise in Trump's State of the Union address to make it easier for the government to reward good workers and fire bad ones.
But four labor unions representing federal workers sued, arguing that Trump was attempting to unilaterally dictate new terms to labor contracts they had already negotiated.
Specifically, Trump's orders attempted to cap the amount of time union officials employed by the federal government can spend on union business, speed up disciplinary procedures and unilaterally adopt performance-based pay plans.
Jackson said presidents do have the power to sign executive orders on federal employee-management relations – but only as long as they don't conflict with the law. On balance, the judge wrote in her 122-page decision, "this Court has decided that the unions have the better of this argument."
Federal employee unions celebrated the ruling.
“The judge rightly found that the president is not above the law and cannot, through these blatantly anti-union and anti-worker executive orders, eviscerate employee rights and undermine the collective bargaining process established by Congress,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“Federal employees can return to work on Monday knowing that their rights are intact, and that presidential overreach targeting career civil servants was curbed," said Suzanne Summerlin, a lawyer for the National Federation of Federal Employees.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.