Largest National EPA Employees’ Union Kicks Off Campaign for New Contract that Meets Climate Emergency Moment
AFGE Council 238, EPA largest union, representing over 7,500 employees, to begin contract negotiations with EPA on June 13; Staffing, scientific integrity to drive discussions
U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, AFGE Council 238 leaders joined member town hall to voice support as negotiations near
WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238 leaders and members gathered for a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday to kick off their campaign for a new contract that promotes scientific integrity and provides for staffing levels that allow the Environmental Protection Agency’s workforce to protect human health and the environment as the climate crisis advances.
After taking a beating during the Trump administration, the union’s contract campaign is focused on winning an agreement that protects EPA’s workforce and scientific integrity no matter who is in power in Washington.
Just ahead of the Town Hall, President Biden authorized the use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of clean energy technologies – unlocking new powers to meet the climate emergency. AFGE Council 238 called on the President to invoke this last month and applauds the White House for this significant step in fighting the climate crisis. The union is urging the Biden Administration and the agency to continue to tackle climate change nationwide by investing in EPA staff and negotiating in good faith during upcoming contract negotiations, which begin June 13.
“We really took it on the chin in the last administration. The Trump administration waged a four-year-attack on EPA workers and science itself and we are determined to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Marie Owens Powell, AFGE Council 238 President. “What we want is a living commitment in our contract, to our values of protecting human health and the environment and to our climate goals so it’s enforceable no matter who has political power.”
During the town hall, Powell said that more than 140 bargaining unit employees participated in a months-long process to brainstorm and draft contract proposals. The union presented 37 proposals to the agency ahead of Monday’s bargaining kickoff.
“We’ve provided very well-thought-out documents grounded in science and law,” Powell said.
AFGE members and leaders were joined at the town hall by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Tim Whitehouse.
“I know Congress has failed to do its job in passing meaningful climate legislation because of a handful of corporate-backed Democrats who care more about their donors from the fossil fuel industry and investments rather than making sure that people have a good quality of life or creating a livable planet for our children,” said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan). “I just want you all to know. You have a fighter and a partner, in me, in the United States Congress.”
AFGE Council 238 was a leading voice of resistance to the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the EPA and prevent enforcement on big polluters. Under the Biden administration, AFGE leaders have continued their efforts to rebuild the Agency to its prior strength and effectiveness. Members of the AFGE Council 238 voted last month to declare a climate emergency and demanded President Biden do the same. As part of the climate emergency declaration, EPA’s frontline workers are urging the federal government to take immediate action in response to the climate crisis and its rapidly escalating catastrophic impacts.