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The Biden administration nixed a union contract with one of the few pro-Trump federal labor groups this week that would have granted employees expanded control over their workplace conditions and strengthened their collective bargaining power.
The rescinded agreement—which had been signed by the Department of Homeland Security days before President Joe Biden took office—required DHS to obtain “prior affirmative consent” from the border control workers’ National ICE Council union before making changes to their compensation, work hours, and other working conditions.
The Biden administration’s crackdown on union activity is at odds with the president’s stance during the campaign, when he vowed to strengthen workers’ rights and blasted Donald Trump for allegedly waging a “war on organizing, collective bargaining, unions, and workers.”
“Joe Biden believes the federal government should not only defend workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively, but also encourage collective bargaining,” he said on his campaign website, adding that on his first day in office he would “direct his agencies to bargain with federal employee unions over non-mandatory subjects of bargaining.”
The administration’s decision comes after over 100 progressive advocacy groups, including Indivisible, the Daily Kos, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sent a letter to DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to repeal the contract before the 30-day deadline on Feb. 18.
The groups argued that the DHS agreement with the 7,000-member National ICE Council conferred “enormous power and benefits” onto border control workers that could have allowed them to interfere with Biden’s immigration agenda. The National ICE Council supported Trump in the presidential election.
The Government Accountability Project, one of the progressive organizations that opposed the union contract, argued that the deal would have allowed rank-and-file union employees “to slow and impede agency activities by requiring its express written approval prior to implementing changes in the conditions of [their] employment.”
Now that the agreement has been repealed, DHS can continue to “unilaterally change working conditions for its employees,” according to GAP.