Press Release: AFGE Council 238 Reaches New Contract with the EPA


Largest union representing EPA workforce wins deal that prioritizes DEIA, talent retention, remote work, enabling workers to meet climate emergency moment 

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238, representing 8,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees, has ratified a groundbreaking new contract with a first-of-its-kind scientific integrity provision that protects workers from political interference and ensures they will be able to continue to do their work protecting human health and the environment regardless of who is in power in Washington.

The contract includes crucial provisions that will ensure the Agency can maintain a strong, talented and diverse workforce that is best positioned to meet this climate emergency moment. 

The four-year contract comes at a crucial time for EPA workers. Last summer was the hottest on record, underscoring the dire need for a strong workforce that has the resources and protections needed to combat climate change, address natural disasters, and support affected communities. With former President Trump–who attacked science and gutted the EPA during his presidency–campaigning for a second term, Council 238 worked closely with members to ensure this contract best positioned the Agency to carry out its work to protect the planet regardless of who is in power. 

“President Trump attacked the federal workforce in ways we never thought we’d see,” said Marie Owens Powell, president of Council 238. “This contract is so significant because it provides protections for any employee asserting their scientific rights. An independent arbiter, not a political appointee, will determine whether science is being undermined. It puts employees in the best possible position to continue with the mission of the Agency no matter who sits in the Oval Office.” 

Among the key wins is a new article that promotes scientific integrity and safeguarding the scientific principles are guiding EPA’s work, ensuring that the Agency can fulfill its mission to address climate change and protect the environment without political interference. The article also provides whistleblower protection for any employee who reports scientific misconduct or suspected violation of the Scientific Integrity Policy, allowing EPA workers to accomplish the mission of the Agency without fear, intimidation, or retaliation.

Commitment to building a diverse workforce that reflects the communities the EPA serves was also a major sticking point for members, as was ensuring an equitable workforce and inclusive work environment. The new contract includes language that ensures the Agency prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) for all EPA employees, including DEIA training for employees. Notably, the Agency will now be implementing pilot projects to assess the effectiveness of neutral hiring techniques aimed at eliminating implicit racial bias in internal promotion procedures. 

Council 238 also won extended protections for remote work, telework and flexible work schedules and secured guarantees of growth opportunities so that employees can develop and advance in their careers at EPA. These key wins will help to foster a healthy work-life balance, enhance workforce retention and talent recruitment, and support the vital work of EPA’s workforce.  

Member participation in contract development was crucial to securing a contract that works for and benefits all EPA workers. More than 140 Council 238 members participated in a months-long process to brainstorm and draft contract proposals, leading to a contract that works better for all members and will allow the EPA to effectively continue its mission to protect our environment and fight against climate change. 

The contract is now undergoing EPA’s ”agency-head review” and is expected to become effective within 30 days.