Ex-ethics chief slams 'outrageous' lie from White House that Pentagon needs to bust unions for national security
Former director of government ethics, Walter Shaub (Photo: Screen capture)

On Thursday, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub blasted the White House for claiming that the Department of Defense has a national security need to suspend collective bargaining rights of its civilian employees, calling it "outrageous."

In a recent memo, the White House granted Defense Secretary Mark Esper the authority to shut down unions in the Pentagon, citing national security. But this explanation was shot down by Esper himself, who told lawmakers in a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill that he did not request the memo — and that he cannot even confirm whether he intends to act on it.

President Donald Trump's administration has taken a hard line against the collective bargaining rights of federal workers. In 2018, Trump signed a series of executive orders that rolled back grace periods and appeals for federal workers accused of underperformance and restricted the time employees can engage in union business on official hours — which was mostly struck down by a federal judge. And in 2019, Trump issued new guidelines making it significantly easier for unionized federal workers to suspend union dues and membership — which experts warn gives government agencies more leverage to intimidate workers out of union participation.

Shaub served in the Office of Government Ethics in the first year of the Trump administration, but clashed constantly over ethics controversies and swiftly resigned to take up a position with the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center.