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With new ‘imposed contract,’ Trump’s EPA tries to neuter worker rights

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Agency announces new collective bargaining agreement—which was not agreed upon

The Trump administration continued its attacks on federal workers this week with a new “agreement” that would kneecap the power of unions representing EPA employees.

The development, as watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) noted Wednesday, is a new “Master Collective Bargaining Agreement” between the federal agency and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Far from an agreement, said PEER, the document is really an “edict.”

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It was not the result of negotiations.

“In the Trump world, there is no bargaining, only ultimatums,” said PEER executive director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney.

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EPA attorney Robert Coomber announced (pdf) the change in an email to employees on Monday, in which he said the new document was handed down because AFGE wanted to limit the number of potential changes to the existing agreement. The new, non-negotiated agreement, said Coomber, will be effective starting July 8, 2019.

The 75-page agreement (pdf) lays out a number of changes that would limit the union’s ability to help employees. As noted by PEER, the new terms would, among other things, require the union to vacate its office space; deprive employees of union grievance and arbitration for terminations, discipline, lay-offs, and a host of other adverse actions; slash the amount and scope of time union officials could spend assisting employees; and deprive union access to websites, agency intranet, and even bulletin boards in communicating with its members.

“Not only is the Trump White House waging war on environmental protection, rolling back regulations, and gutting enforcement, but is targeting the dedicated professionals laboring through very difficult circumstances within EPA,” said PEER Pacific director Jeff Ruch.

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Government Executive noted in its reporting Wednesday on the new agreement that it “would change EPA’s performance assessment for bargaining unit employees, making it easier to place them on a performance improvement plan and subsequently fire them.” It also follows a pattern within the Trump administration, the outlet said. “Representatives of employees at the departments of EducationHealth and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs are all fighting their agencies’ efforts to curtail negotiations or otherwise limit unions’ power,” it noted.

Trump issued executive orders last year attempting to similarly curtail power by unions representing federal employees, but that effort was largely blocked by a federal court.

“Now,” Nicole Cantello, union president of AFGE Local 704, told Common Dreams, “the administration, through EPA management, is attempting again to implement key portions of these destructively ambitious executive orders through the collective bargaining process in an imposed contract.”

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But Cantello is hoping this renewed effort by Trump won’t come to fruition.

“We are committed to fighting this imposed contract,” she said, “and taking next steps that will prove our hard-won rights can not be swept away.”

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Trump’s EU ambassador is using the ‘Don Jr. defense’ of being too dumb to break the law: national security expert

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Gordon Sondland, the man whom President Donald Trump appointed to be his ambassador to the European Union, told congressional investigators on Thursday that he didn't understand that President Donald Trump might be holding up establishing direct contact with Ukraine's government unless the government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

However, given that the president did ask him to run all Ukraine policy through attorney Rudy Giuliani, and given that Giuliani was already publicly boasting about trying to get Ukraine to probe Biden, Sondland's testimony raises the question of what he actually believed the president's intentions were in withholding aid to the country this past summer.

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Historians demolish John Yoo for claim Founding Fathers wouldn’t want Trump impeached in an election year

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Comments made by attorney and law professor John Yoo on Fox News on the Founding Father's intentions about impeachment received a brutal debunking by two historians -- including one of his colleagues at UC Berkeley.

Appearing with Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, lawyer Yoo -- who is infamous for providing President George W. Bush's administration with legal justifications for the torture of prisoners of war -- claimed that the Founding Fathers would object to the president being impeached in an election year.

According to Yoo, Democrats are getting it all wrong when they say the Constitution compels them to hold impeachment proceedings against Trump just one year before the election.

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McConnell drops a surprise on Trump — calls for an even stronger resolution to rebuke him

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated he opposes the bill out of the House to denounce President Donald Trump's military withdrawal in Syria because it isn't tough enough, reported Bloomberg's Steven Dennis.

https://twitter.com/StevenTDennis/status/1184840222846148608

"My first preference is for something stronger than the House resolution," McConnell said according to Bloomberg's Laura Litvan.

She went on to say that McConnel wants a bill that outlines what action should take place in Syria.

McConnell said the House version was "curiously silent on the issue of whether to actually to sustain a U.S. military presence in Syria."

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