Legislatively Overturning Fort Stewart Schools: The Trump Administration’s Assault on Federal Employee Collective Bargaining

Richard J. Hirn

In his Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Submission President Trump noted that about 60 percent of Federal employees belong to a union and lamented that dealing with Federal employee unions ostensibly “consume[s] considerable management time and taxpayer resources, and may negatively impact efficiency, effectiveness, cost of operations, and employee accountability and performance.” Although he acknowledged that Federal employee unions can negotiate over fewer matters than can unions in the private sector, he nonetheless claimed that collective bargaining contracts can negatively impact agency performance, workplace productivity, and employee satisfaction. The President told Congress that “[a]gency managers will be encouraged to restore management prerogatives that have been ceded to Federal labor unions,” and that “[t]he Administration sees an opportunity for progress on this front and intends to overhaul labor-management relations.” The Administration took such an opportunity this past April when it submitted proposed legislation to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that would revamp the statutes that authorize the Department of Defense (DOD) to operate schools on bases in the United States and overseas for military dependents. In 1990, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Fort Stewart Schools v. Federal Labor Relations Authority that teachers and other educational personnel in DOD’s domestic dependents schools could collectively bargain over wages because, unlike the majority of Federal employees, their salaries are not set by statute. DOD’s new legislative proposal contains a provision that would statutorily overturn the Fort Stewart Schools decision by granting the Secretary of Defense sole and exclusive discretion to set compensation rates in the DOD dependents schools. This article argues that those bargaining rights are at risk if the Administration succeeds in eliminating the right of teachers in DOD schools to bargain over pay.

Full article available here.