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American Federation of Government Employees v. Trump

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 25, 2018

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants. NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FD-1, IAMAW, AFL-CIO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants. NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KETANJI BROWN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION.................................................................................................1

         II. BACKGROUND...................................................................................................7

         A. An Historical Overview Of The Management Of Federal Public Employees .......7

         B. The Statutory Provisions That Are Relevant To The Instant Dispute.................10

         1. The Purpose, Structure, And Provisions Of The FSLRMS...........................11

         2. The Federal Labor Relations Authority.......................................................14

         3. Relevant Miscellaneous Provisions Of The United States Code...................16

         C. The Challenged Executive Orders....................................................................17

         1. Executive Order 13, 836 (“The Collective Bargaining Procedures Order”) ... 17

         2. Executive Order 13, 837 (“The Official Time Order”)..................................19

         3. Executive Order 13, 839 (“The Removal Procedures Order”).......................23

         D. Procedural History...........................................................................................25

         III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS.................................................................27

         IV. ANALYSIS.........................................................................................................31

         A. This Court Has Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Because Congress Did Not Intend For This Matter To Be Resolved Through The FSLMRS Or CSRA Administrative Review Schemes......................................................................33

         1. Both The FSLMRS And The CSRA Evince A Fairly Discernable Congressional Intent To Channel Certain Claims To The FLRA And The MSPB..........................................................................................35

         2. The Unions' Claims Are Not Of The Type That Congress Intended To Funnel Through The FLRA or CSRA Statutory Review Schemes ................37

         a. Meaningful Judicial Review Of The Unions' Claims Would Be Foreclosed If The District Courts Could Not Hear These Claims.....37

         b. The Unions' Claims Are Wholly Collateral To The FSLMRS And The CSRA Administrative-Judicial Review Schemes...............48

         c. Although Potentially Helpful, The Agencies' Expertise Is Not Essential To Resolving The Instant Claims.....................................56

         B. The Unions' Claims Are Fit For Judicial Resolution.........................................59

         C. The President Has The Statutory And Constitutional Authority To Issue Executive Orders That Pertain To Federal Labor-Management Relations, So Long As His Orders Do Not Conflict With The Will Of Congress................66

         1. Before The Enactment Of The FSLMRS And CSRA, Presidents Had The Authority To Issue Executive Orders Regulating Federal Labor-Management Relations................................................................................66

         2. The FSLMRS And CSRA Did Not Divest The President Of Any Authority In This Field...............................................................................71

         3. The President's Executive Orders Concerning This Area Must Be Consistent With Congress's Pronouncements..............................................75

         D. Many Of The Order Provisions The Unions Have Challenged In This Case Impermissibly Infringe Upon The Statutory Right To Bargain Collectively......76

         1. Section 7103(a) And D.C. Circuit Caselaw Define The Contours Of The Statutory Right To Bargain Collectively...............................................78

         a. The Duty To Bargain.....................................................................80

         b. The Duty To Act In Good Faith.....................................................82

         c. Takeaways Regarding Agency Conduct With Respect To Federal Labor Negotiations.....................................................83

         2. Certain Provisions Of The Challenged Executive Orders Dramatically Curtail The Scope Of Bargaining Because Agencies And Unions Will No Longer Negotiate Over A Host Of Significant Issues.............................88

         a. The Orders Remove These Matters From The Scope Of The Right To Bargain Despite The Fact That Congress Has Made Them Negotiable...........................................................................88

         b. The Removed Topics Are Important To The Functioning Of Labor Organizations And The Fairness Of Collective Bargaining Negotiations................................................................92

         3. Certain Provisions Of The Executive Orders Impede The Prospect Of Good Faith Negotiations......................................................................100

         4. Defendants' Best ‘No-Conflict' Counterarguments Are Meritless..............105

         a. The Specious Section 7117 Suggestion........................................105

         b. The Mistaken ‘Mere Guidance' Characterization..........................111

         E. The Remaining Challenged Provisions Of These Executive Orders Are Legitimate Exercises Of The President's Authority........................................113

         V. CONCLUSION.................................................................................................118

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Constitution of the United States divides the powers of the Federal government into three spheres: “[t]o the legislative department has been committed the duty of making laws, to the executive the duty of executing them, and to the judiciary the duty of interpreting and applying them in cases properly brought before the courts.” Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488 (1923). Because “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . pose[s] an inherent threat to liberty[, ]” each branch of government must stay within its proper domain. Patchak v. Zinke, 138 S.Ct. 897, 905 (2018) (plurality opinion) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). When one of the three branches exceeds the scope of either its statutory or constitutional authority, it falls to the federal courts to reestablish the proper division of Federal power. See, e.g., Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 218 (1995) (rebuking Congress's intrusion into the judicial sphere); Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 577 (1992) (preventing the Judiciary from intruding into the executive sphere); Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 655 (1952) (halting the President's encroachment upon the legislative sphere). The instant case implicates these fundamental principles, for it relates to the power of the Judiciary to hear cases and controversies that pertain to federal labor-management relations; the power of the President to issue executive orders that regulate the conduct of federal employees in regard to collective bargaining; and the extent to which Congress has made policy choices about federal collective bargaining rights that supersede any presidential pronouncements or priorities.

         On May 25, 2018, President Donald J. Trump issued three executive orders relating to the administration of the federal civil service and the rights of federal employees to engage in collective bargaining. See Exec. Order No. 13, 836, 83 Fed. Reg. 25329 (May 25, 2018); Exec. Order No. 13, 837, 83 Fed. Reg. 25335 (May 25, 2018); Exec. Order No. 13, 839, 83 Fed. Reg. 25343 (May 25, 2018) (collectively, “the Orders”). Among other things, these Orders seek to regulate both the collective bargaining negotiations that federal agencies enter into with public-sector unions and the matters that these parties negotiate. The Orders place limits on the activities that federal employees may engage in when acting as labor representatives; guide agencies toward particular negotiating positions during the collective bargaining process; and address the approaches agencies shall follow when disciplining or evaluating employees working within the civil service.

         Between May 30, 2018 and June 18, 2018, numerous federal employee unions (“the Unions” or “Plaintiffs”) filed the instant consolidated cases against President Trump, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”), and the Director of OPM (collectively, “Defendants”), challenging the validity of the President's executive orders in various respects.[1] The Unions contend that the Orders conflict with the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act (“the FSLMRS”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 7101- 7135-and therefore constitute ultra vires and unconstitutional actions on the part of the President-and also that the Orders impinge upon the constitutional rights of federal employees. Several union plaintiffs initially insisted that the Orders amounted to such an egregious violation of presidential power, and worked such an immediate harm to the collective bargaining rights of federal employees, that a preliminary injunction was warranted. (See, e.g., Pl. AFGE's Mot. for a Prelim. Injunction, ECF No. 10.) However, the parties subsequently agreed to proceed straight to the merits of the Unions' challenges by having this Court resolve the instant dispute on cross-motions for summary judgment handled in an expedited fashion. (See Scheduling Order, ECF No. 16, at 1.)[2]

         Before this Court at present are Plaintiffs' and Defendants' ripe cross-motions for summary judgment.[3] The Court held a lengthy hearing on these motions on July 25, 2018, and since then, it has worked diligently to sort out, and resolve, the myriad complicated and contentious issues that the parties' arguments raise. For example, each of the four motions for summary judgment that the Unions have filed assails various provisions in the Orders (a total of twenty provisions are targeted), and each motion makes different claims regarding the validity of the challenged provisions. By and large, this Court has treated the Unions' four motions as one. Generally speaking, the Unions collectively contend that (1) the President has no statutory or constitutional authority to issue executive orders pertaining to the field of federal labor relations; (2) the challenged provisions conflict with particular sections of the FSLMRS in a manner that abrogates the Unions' statutory right to bargain collectively; and (3) certain provisions of the Orders transgress Article II's Take Care Clause, and also, in one instance, the First Amendment's right to freedom of association.

         For its part, the summary judgment motion that has been filed on behalf of Defendants raises two threshold issues: that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the instant dispute due to the channeling effect of the FSLMRS's administrative review scheme, and that some of the Unions' claims are insufficiently concrete to be prudentially ripe for judicial decision. On the merits, Defendants' summary judgment motion maintains that the President has ample statutory and constitutional authority to issue executive orders in the field of federal labor relations, and that the Orders do not, in fact, conflict with the FSLMRS's complicated statutory regime, either because the challenged provisions only constitute “guidance” to federal agencies or because a section of the FSLMRS specifically authorizes the President to reduce the scope of collective bargaining through the issuance of “government-wide rules or regulations.” Defendants further assert that the Take Care Clause claim is nonjusticiable, and that the First Amendment freedom-of-association claim is baseless.

         For the reasons explained at length below, this Court has decided that the Unions have the better of this argument. With respect to Defendants' threshold concerns, the Court concludes that it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the instant claims because, even though most disputes concerning federal labor-management relations must be channeled through the administrative review scheme that Congress has prescribed, this matter is different in kind than the disputes that Congress intended the FSLMRS's channeling provisions to cover. The Court further finds that the Unions' legal claims are generally fit for judicial resolution, and therefore, the prudential ripeness doctrine poses no bar to this Court's consideration of these challenges now.

         As to the merits of the Unions' contentions, while past precedents and pertinent statutory language indicate that the President has the authority to issue executive orders that carry the force of law with respect to federal labor relations, it is undisputed that no such orders can operate to eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned in the FSLMRS. In this Court's view, the challenged provisions of the executive orders at issue have that cumulative effect. Stated succinctly, by enacting the FSLMRS, Congress undertook to guarantee federal employees the statutory right to engage in good-faith collective bargaining with agencies and executive branch officials, and the pronouncements that the FSLMRS makes are clearly based upon Congress's stated opinion that “the right of employees” to “bargain collectively . . . safeguards the public interest, contributes to the effective conduct of public business, and facilitates and encourages the amicable settlements of disputes” in regard to the “conditions of [federal] employment.” 5 U.S.C. § 7101(a)(1). Viewed collectively, the challenged executive orders reflect a decidedly different policy choice; namely, the President's stated view that federal employees' right to engage in collective bargaining over the conditions of their employment is not apropos of an “effective and efficient Government[, ]” Exec. Order No. 13, 836 § 1(b), and should be rendered subordinate to the agencies' interest “in developing efficient, effective, and cost-reducing collective bargaining agreements[, ]” id. (preamble); see also Exec. Order No. 13, 837 (preamble); Exec. Order No. 13, 839 (preamble).

         Certain provisions of the Orders plainly further the President's intention to restrict the scope and effectiveness of federal employees' right to collective bargaining vis-à-vis the agencies (e.g., those directives that stunt negotiations by narrowing the terms that the agency can entertain related to significant matters, such as access to government office space for union business and the amount of official time that can be allotted to negotiations and counseling), see Exec. Order No. 13, 836 § 5(e), 6; Exec. Order No. 13, 837 §§ 4(a), 4(b); Exec. Order No. 13, 839 §§ 4(a), 4(c), or clearly constrain agency negotiators' ability to conduct collective bargaining negotiations in good faith (e.g., those mandates that direct agency representatives to pursue specific positions “whenever possible, ” such as limiting the annual aggregate official time awarded amount to one hour per employed union member per year), see Exec. Order No. 13, 836 §§ 5(a), 5(e); Exec. Order No. 13, 837 §§ 3(a); Exec. Order No. 13, 839 §§ 3. Therefore, this Court finds that these provisions conflict with congressional intent in a manner that cannot be sustained. (See Part IV.D, infra.) What remains of the Orders are those provisions that the Unions have not opted to challenge, and the few challenged provisions described in Part IV.E. See Exec. Order No. 13, 836 § 5(c); Exec. Order No. 13, 837 §§ 2(j), 4(c); Exec. Order No. 13, 839 §§ 2(b), 2(c), 4(b)(iii), 7.

         This all means that, ultimately, both sides' motions for summary judgment must be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and this Court will enjoin the President's subordinates within the Executive Branch to disregard: sections 5(a), 5(e), and 6 of Executive Order 13, 836; sections 3(a), 4(a), and 4(b) of Executive Order 13, 837; and sections 3, 4(a), and 4(c) of Executive Order 13, 839. In this Court's view, these directives undermine federal employees' right to bargain collectively as protected by the FSLMRS, and as a result, the President must be deemed to have exceeded his authority in issuing them. A separate order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. An Historical Overview Of The Management Of Federal Public Employees

         The history of federal public employment in the United States evidences two competing visions of the proper relationship between the President and the individuals who are employed to work for the federal government within the Executive Branch. See The Civil Service and the Statutory Law of Public Employment, 97 Harv. L. Rev. 1619, 1619 (1984). The first of these visions emphasizes “broad deference to the executive in matters of public employment[, ]” and is based on the belief that such deference “is essential both to efficient public administration and [to] the realization of the popular will.” Id. According to this view, the President must have free reign to discharge federal employees, and to regulate labor relations between the government and its employees, because such authority is necessary to run a capable and efficient Federal Government. See Id. at 1620. This belief also maintains that such power is necessary to ensure that the President can promote the will of the people by installing federal bureaucrats who actually seek to achieve the political platform that undergird the President's election. See id.

         The second vision of public employment worries that unfettered “executive discretion” to hire and fire civil servants can damage “the integrity of public administration in general, ” especially if an unchecked administration arbitrarily discharges career employees who hold contrary political views or who seek to blow the whistle on abusive employment practices within the Executive Branch. Id. This second vision of public employment also often asserts that a public employee has acquired a “property interest of sorts in his office[, ]” id., and expresses concerns not only about the impact that an abrupt dismissal might have on the administration of the federal government as a whole, but also on that employee's future employment prospects, see Id. at 1621. Based on such concerns, the second vision of the civil service system “fosters the view that the public executive ought to be extensively constrained in employment decisions” regarding apolitical civil service employees. Id. at 1619; see also, e.g., Harrison v. Bowen, 815 F.2d 1505, 1518 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (discussing how certain statutes constrain executive discretion to remove employees).

         As relevant here, these two different visions of the role of the President in managing the civil service have proven ascendant at different moments in American history, including during periods that precede the statute at issue in this case. Indeed, because “[i]nitially, presidents had broad powers to fill the civil service with their [own] appointees[, ]” Jacob Marisam, The President's Agency Selection Powers, 65 Admin. L. Rev. 821, 863 (2013), throughout the nineteenth century, newly inaugurated presidents would regularly purge the ranks of the civil service, see id.; see also U.S. Civil Serv. Comm'r v. Nat'l Ass'n of Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548, 557-58 (1973) (describing these practices). The exercise of presidential power to manage the federal workforce in this way waned significantly in the mid-twentieth century, as both President John F. Kennedy and President Richard M. Nixon expressly curtailed the purging practice by issuing executive orders that afforded significant procedural protections to civil servants. See, e.g., Exec. Order No. 11, 491, 34 Fed. Reg. 17605 (October 29, 1969); Exec. Order No. 10, 988, 27 Fed. Reg. 551 (January 17, 1962). The Kennedy and Nixon orders also authorized the creation of labor unions representing federal government employees, and expressly granted federal employees “limited collective bargaining rights[, ]” thus “provid[ing] the initial authorization for federal experimentation with unionization.” See Scott L. Novak, Collective Bargaining, 63 Geo. Wash.L.Rev. 693, 695-96 (1995); see also Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 464 U.S. 89, 91-92 (1983) (“BATF”).

         With the 1970s, the view that slothful federal employees enjoyed too much protection against discharge became increasingly popular, amidst mounting concern over government integrity in the wake of the Watergate scandal. It was against this backdrop that Congress enacted the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (“the CSRA”), Pub L. No. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1111 (1978), which was codified (as amended) in scattered sections of Title 5 of the United States Code. This legislation was expressly billed as an effort to codify the previous assortment of executive orders and rules that regulated the relationships between the federal government and its civil service employees. See The Civil Service and the Statutory Law of Public Employment, 97 Harv. L. Rev. at 1631-33. And the CSRA “comprehensively overhauled the civil service system, ” Lindahl v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 470 U.S. 768, 773 (1985), by replacing the “outdated patchwork of statutes and rules built up” during the previous hundred years through executive orders and federal statutes, United States v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 444 (1988) (quoting S. Rep. No. 95-969, p.3 (1978)), with “an elaborate new framework for evaluating adverse personnel actions against federal employees[, ]” id. at 443 (internal quotation marks, citation, and alternation omitted).

         Significantly for present purposes, Congress crafted the CSRA with the express goal of “balanc[ing] the legitimate interests of the various categories of federal employees with the needs of sound and efficient administration.” Id. at 445. To that end, “[t]he CSRA protects covered federal employees against a broad range of personnel practices, and it supplies a variety of causes of action and remedies to employees when their rights under the statute are violated.” Grosdidier v. Chairman, Broad. Bd. of Governors, 560 F.3d 495, 497 (D.C. Cir. 2009). At the same time, the CSRA also streamlined the lengthy and laborious appeals processes that pre-dated the CSRA, which made it easier for employers to take successful disciplinary or performance-based actions against federal employees. See Fausto, 484 U.S. at 445.

         The aforementioned FSLMRS, which addresses collective bargaining and labor unions exclusively, is Title VII of the CSRA, and is “the first statutory scheme governing labor relations between federal agencies and their employees.” BATF, 464 U.S. at 91.

         B. The Statutory Provisions That Are Relevant To The Instant Dispute

         The arguments presented in the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment in this case chiefly revolve around several provisions of the FSLMRS-5 U.S.C. §§ 7101-06, 7111-23, 7131-35-as well as a few miscellaneous provisions that appear either in the CSRA or elsewhere in the United States Code, see, e.g., Id. §§ 4302, 7301.

         1. The Purpose, Structure, And Provisions Of The FSLRMS

         The very first section of the FSLMRS lays out the purposes of the statute and the legislative findings that underlie it. Congress makes crystal clear that, in its considered judgment, labor unions and collective bargaining “safeguard[] the public interest”; “contribute[] to the effective conduct of public business”; and “facilitate and encourage the amicable settlement[] of disputes between employees and their employers involving conditions of employment[.]” 5 U.S.C. § 7101(a)(1). This statutory text also emphasizes the importance of adhering to “the highest standards of employee performance and the continued development and implementation of modern and progressive work practices to facilitate and improve employee performance and the efficient accomplishment of the operations of the Government.” Id. § 7101(a)(2). Broadly speaking, the FSLMRS sets out to accomplish these goals by, among other things: affirming the rights of federal employees to unionize and to engage in collective bargaining, see Id. §§ 7102, 7103(a)(12); determining what matters must, can, or cannot be bargained over, see Id. §§ 7102, 7106, 7117, 7121, 7131; and developing a dispute-resolution mechanism for the various foreseeable issues that might arise during the collective bargaining process or as part of a final collective bargaining agreement, see Id. §§ 7104-05, 7116, 7118-19, 7121-22, 7132.

         First and foremost, the FSLMRS firmly establishes the rights of federal employees to join labor unions for the purpose of petitioning government officials about labor matters, see Id. §§ 7102, 7102(1), and describes labor unions as entities that represent federal employees by “engag[ing] in collective bargaining with respect to conditions of employment through representatives chosen by employees under this chapter[, ]” id. § 7102(2). The terms “collective bargaining” and “conditions of employment” are terms of art within the FSLMRS, which means they have particular meanings that bear on this case. “Collective bargaining” is defined as “the performance of the mutual obligation of . . . an agency and the [union] . . . to meet at reasonable times and to consult and bargain in a good-faith effort to reach agreement with respect to the conditions of employment affecting such employees.” Id. § 7103(a)(12). The “conditions of employment” that are subject to negotiation under the statute include “personnel policies, practices, and matters, whether established by rule, regulation, or otherwise, affecting working conditions[.]” Id. § 7103(a)(14). Furthermore, when bargaining over such matters, both agencies and union representatives must abide by their obligation to “meet and negotiate in good faith[, ]” id. § 7114(a)(4), and this means that the parties to the negotiation must generally “enter into discussions with an open mind and a sincere intention to reach an agreement[, ]” United Steelworkers of Am., AFL-CIO-CLC, Local Union 14534 v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 983 F.2d 240, 245 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (quoting Sign and Pictorial Union Local 1175 v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 419 F.2d 726, 731 (D.C. Cir. 1969)).

         After establishing that the right to good-faith collective bargaining exists, the statute lays out what matters are subject to negotiation and the extent to which those matters must be discussed. In this regard, the FSLMRS establishes a three-tier system based upon the negotiability of matters in collective bargaining discussions. First, the FSLMRS establishes a default presumption that it is “mandatory” for agencies and unions to bargain over the “condition[s] of employment” in the workplace. U.S. Dep't of the Navy, Naval Aviation Depot, Cherry Point, N.C. v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 952 F.2d 1434, 1439 (D.C. Cir. 1992); accord 5 U.S.C. §§ 7102(2), 7103(a)(12), (14). Moreover, while the phrase “conditions of employment” is broad, the FSLMRS further explicitly emphasizes at least two mandatory bargaining matters: the scope of grievance procedures for disputes between employees and management, see 5 U.S.C. § 7121(a), and the availability of “official time[, ]” id. § 7131(d)-i.e., the availability of paid time to union members to work on union-related matters, see BATF, 464 U.S. at 91. Second, the FSLMRS explicitly designates a narrow category of matters (section 7106(b)(1)) as ‘permissive' matters for bargaining, in the sense that the parties may bargain over the matters contained within this section “at the election of the agency[.]” 5 U.S.C. § 7106(b)(1); see Id. (allowing, “at the election of the agency, ” negotiation as to the “numbers, types, and grades of employees or positions assigned to” any project, or “the technology, methods, and means or performing work”); see also Nat'l Treasury Emps. Union v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 414 F.3d 50, 53 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (acknowledging that these matters constitute “permissive” subjects of bargaining).

         Third and finally, the FSLMRS prohibits negotiation over matters relating to management rights or those matters subject to Government-wide rules or regulations. Accordingly, none of the bargaining rights the FSLMRS confers may interfere with the rights of federal agencies “to determine the mission, budget, organization, number of employees, and internal security practices of the agency” or “to hire, assign, direct, layoff, and retain employees . . . or to suspend, remove, reduce in grade or pay, or take other disciplinary action against such employees” as allowed by law. 5 U.S.C. § 7106(a). The statute also frees federal agencies of any obligation to negotiate over those “matters which are the subject of any . . . Government-wide rule or regulation[.]” Id. § 7117(a)(1). This means that the right to collective bargaining does not extend to rules or regulations that are “generally applicable throughout the Federal Government[, ]” even if the rule does not “apply[] to . . . a fixed minimum percentage of the federal civilian workforce.” Overseas Educ. Ass 'n, Inc. v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 827 F.2d 814, 816-17 (D.C Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Am. Fed'n of Gov't Emps., Local 2782 v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 803 F.2d 737, 741 (D.C. Cir. 1986).

         As mentioned, the FSLMRS also recognizes that a number of disputes may arise in the context of collective bargaining negotiations or during the execution of a collective bargaining agreement. Thus, the statute prohibits labor unions or federal agencies from engaging in “unfair labor practices[, ]” such as interfering with the ability of employees or agencies to pursue their rights under the FSLMRS, or refusing to negotiate in good faith. 5 U.S.C. § 7116(a)(1), (a)(5), 7116(b)(1), (b)(5). It also provides mechanisms for agencies and labor unions to resolve any impasse during negotiations, id. § 7119, and to determine whether a union's proposal is actually negotiable under the FSLMRS, id. § 7117(c).

         2. The Federal Labor Relations Authority

         The various relevant provisions of the FSLMRS discussed above cover a lot of substantive ground regarding the scope of federal labor-management relations. But there's more: to ensure that these statutory prescriptions are administered effectively, Congress also created a permanent agency that it named the Federal Labor Relations Authority (“FLRA”). See Id. § 7104(a). The FLRA has three members who are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. See Id. § 7104(a), (b). No. more than two of its three members may come from the same political party, see Id. § 7104(a), and the members may “be removed by the President only upon notice and hearing and only for” cause, id. § 7104(b). Thus, the FLRA is a bipartisan, independent agency. See Secs. Exch. Comm'n v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 568 F.3d 990, 997 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (Kavanaugh, J., concurring).

         Per the FSLMRS, the FLRA must “provide leadership in establishing policies and guidance relating to matters under” the statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7105(a)(1), and the agency is specifically tasked with promulgating regulations pertaining to the FSLMRS, see Id. § 7134. The FLRA must also carry out a number of other prescribed duties, such as “resolv[ing] issues relating to the duty to bargain in good faith under section 7117(c)[, ]” id. § 7105(2)(E); “conduct[ing] hearings and resolv[ing] complaints of unfair labor practices[, ]” id. § 7105(a)(2)(G); and providing, by and large, the final word relating to employee grievances under any grievance procedures established by a collective bargaining agreement, see Id. § 7122.

         When the FLRA is called upon to hear a dispute, it may hold hearings and take testimony, require an agency or labor union “to cease and desist from violations” of the FSLMRS, or otherwise “take any remedial action it considers appropriate to carry out the policies of this chapter.” Id. § 7105(g). However, the FLRA is not the final word on such matters; under the statute, “[a]ny person aggrieved by any final order of the [FLRA]” may, with two minor exceptions, “institute an action for judicial review of the Authority's order in” the federal court of appeals where that person resides, or in the D.C. Circuit. Id. § 7123(a). The statute further provides that when such an appeal is filed, the court of appeals “shall have jurisdiction of the proceeding and of the question determined therein[, ]” and may affirm, modify, or set aside the FLRA's order. Id. § 7123(c). Given the FLRA's expertise and the extensive role that Congress envisioned for this agency in administering the FSLMRS, the agency is entitled to Chevron deference when interpreting the ambiguous provisions within the FLRA. See Fort Stewart Schs. v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 495 U.S. 641, 645 (1990).

         3. Relevant Miscellaneous Provisions Of The United States Code

         Other statutory provisions that are either contained within the CSRA (but outside of the FSLMRS), or appear elsewhere in the United States Code, are relevant to this case. For example, in the CSRA, Congress created an agency known as the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”) that adjudicates employee objections to certain adverse personnel actions. See 5 U.S.C. § 7701; 5 C.F.R. § 1201.3 (listing the various types of actions that the MSPB may hear). Among other things, the MSPB is specifically empowered to hear cases regarding the removal or reduction in grade of an employee “for unacceptable performance[, ]” 5 U.S.C. § 4303, and cases involving an “adverse action taken against employees . . . based on misconduct[, ]” Fausto, 484 U.S. at 446; see also 5 U.S.C. § 7513. The MSPB's decisions are typically reviewable in the Federal Circuit. 5 U.S.C. § 7703.

         In the category of other sections of the United States Code that specifically address the President's ability to regulate the civil service, section 3301 of Title 5 authorizes the President to “prescribe such regulations for the admission of individuals into the civil service in the [E]xecutive [B]ranch as will best promote the efficiency of that service[, ]” id. § 3301(1), and the President is also expressly authorized to “ascertain the fitness of applicants as to age, health, character, knowledge, and ability for the employment sought[, ]” id. § 3301(2). Similarly, section 7301 of Title 5 states that “[t]he President may prescribe regulations for the conduct of employees in the [E]xecutive [B]ranch.” Id. The public law that enacted the CSRA also expressly states: “no provision of [the CSRA] shall be construed to limit, curtail, abolish or terminate any function of, or authority available to, the President which the President had immediately before the effective date of this Act.” Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Pub. L. 95-454, § 904(1), 92 Stat. 1111, 1224 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         C. The Challenged Executive Orders

         President Donald J. Trump issued the Orders at issue in this case on May 25, 2018, as part of a coordinated effort to overhaul labor-management relations within the federal government.[4] The Orders-dubbed “the Collective Bargaining Procedures Order”; “the Official Time Order”; and “the Removal Procedures Order, ” respectively-cover a variety of issues, as described below.

         1. Executive Order 13, 836 (“The Collective Bargaining Procedures Order”)

         Executive Order 13, 836, which is officially entitled “Developing Efficient, Effective, and Cost-Reducing Approaches to Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, ” aims to instruct federal agencies on the procedures (e.g., the methods and timing) that the President would like to see instituted with respect to collective bargaining negotiations, as well as some of the subjects of negotiation that the President would like to see eliminated from the collective bargaining process. This executive order sets the tone at the outset, by admonishing federal agencies for “fall[ing] short” of implementing the prescriptions of the FSLMRS, which in the President's view, is “consistent with” that statute's pronouncement that the FSLMRS should be interpreted to promote an “effective and efficient Government.” Id. § 1(a). The Order further provides specific examples of such alleged failures: the President laments the fact that “CBAs, and other agency agreements with collective bargaining representatives, often make it harder for agencies to reward high performers, hold low performers accountable, or flexibly respond to operational needs[, ]” id., and notes that this suboptimal result is often reached after years of taxpayer funded CBA renegotiations, see id., under circumstances in which “[a]gencies must also engage in prolonged negotiations before making even minor operational changes, like relocating office space[, ]” id.

         As relevant to this litigation, Executive Order 13, 836 purports to fix these problems, primarily by changing the collective bargaining procedures that federal agencies follow. See Id. §§ 5(a), (c), (e), (6). First, section 5(a) states that “[t]o achieve the purposes of this order, agencies shall begin collective bargaining negotiations by making their best effort to negotiate ground rules that minimize delay” and “set reasonable time limits for good-faith negotiations[.]” Id. § 5(a). In this regard, the Order also maintains that “a negotiating period of 6 weeks or less to achieve ground rules, and a negotiating period of between 4 and 6 months for a term CBA under those ground rules, should ordinarily be considered reasonable.” Id. Section 5(c), meanwhile, explains that when collective bargaining is delayed or impeded due to a union representative's “failure to comply with the duty to negotiate in good faith, ” the agency shall “consider” filing an unfair labor practice complaint with the FLRA or “propose a new contract, memorandum, or other change in agency policy and implement that proposal if the collective bargaining representative does not offer counter-proposals in a timely manner.” Id. § 5(c).

         In a similar vein, section 5(e) purports to impact collective bargaining procedures by announcing that, when “developing proposed ground rules, and during any negotiations, agency negotiators shall request the exchange of written proposals, so as to facilitate resolution of negotiability issues and assess the likely effect of specific proposals on agency operations and management rights.” Id. § 5(e). Moreover, “[t]o the extent that an agency's CBAs, ground rules, or other agreements contain requirements for a bargaining approach other than the exchange of written proposals addressing specific issues, ” agencies are required, “at the soonest opportunity, [to] take steps to eliminate them.” Id. Finally, section 6 homes in on the substance of the negotiations: it provides that “[t]he heads of agencies . . . may not negotiate over the substance of the subjects set forth in [section 7106(b)(1) of Title 5 of the United States Code] and shall instruct subordinate officials that they may not negotiate over those same subjects.” Id. § 6.

         The net effect of these challenged provisions is to set a presumptive timeframe for the completion of collective bargaining negotiations (roughly five to seven months), see Id. § 5(a); to remove certain matters from the bargaining table completely, see Id. § 6; to require agencies to seek an exchange of written proposals about specific issues during rounds of collective bargaining, and to call for the elimination of other approaches, see Id. § 5(e); and to ask agencies to consider taking certain steps (e.g., the potential implementation of the agency's own unilateral agreement) if union representatives delay or impede the negotiations in bad faith, see Id. § 5(c).

         2. Executive Order 13, 837 (“The Official Time Order”)

         Executive Order 13, 837 is entitled “Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Use[.]” Exec. Order No. 13, 837. In this Order, as with all the Orders, there is no mention of Congress's statutory statement that “labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest.” 5 U.S.C. § 7101(a). Rather, the Order suggests that the work of the agency itself is the only relevant interest that the public has as far as federal employees are concerned, and to make this crystal clear, the Order announces that “[t]o advance this policy, executive branch employees should spend their duty hours performing the work of the Federal Government and serving the public.” Exec. Order No. 13, 837 § 1 (emphasis added). As justification for this policy statement, the Order points to Congress's direction that the FSLMRS should be interpreted “in a manner consistent with the requirements of an effective and efficient government[, ]” and asserts that “[a]n effective and efficient government keeps careful track of how it spends taxpayer's money and eliminates unnecessary, inefficient, or unreasonable expenditures[.]” Id. In so doing, the Order implies that the official duty time that some federal employees (representatives of federal labor unions) spend working on union business or representing federal employees in collective bargaining (which federal law allows) is an inefficient and ineffective taxpayer expense. See id.

         To this end, Executive Order 13, 837 specifically redefines-and limits-the extent to which federal employees may engage in union business during working hours (a practice that the FSLMRS calls “official time” and that the Order dubs “taxpayer-funded union time”), and the Order also prohibits federal employees from using certain federal resources when working on non-agency business. The “[p]urpose” preamble announces four animating principles: (1) that “agencies should ensure that taxpayer-funded union time is used efficiently and authorized in amounts that are reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest”; (2) that “[f]ederal employees should spend the clear majority of their duty hours working for the public”; (3) that “[n]o agency should pay for Federal labor organizations' expenses, except where required by law”; and (4) that agencies should “eliminate unrestricted grants of taxpayer-funded union time” by “requir[ing] ...


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