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Federal employee union starts contract negotiations with Trump’s EPA

Union leaders and allies held a news conference for the beginning of EPA contract negotiations.

Leaders from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 and their supporters speak about the “EPA Employees’ Bill of Rights” during a press conference.
Leaders from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 and their supporters speak about the “EPA Employees’ Bill of Rights” during a press conference at the Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building in the Loop on Tuesday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Union leaders demanded on Tuesday that Environmental Protection Agency leadership protect their workers and the future of the agency at a news conference in Chicago.

“Our demands are simple,” said Nicole Cantello, president of District 7 of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Fair working conditions and the right to ... protect public health and the environment.”

Cantello said the Trump Administration “declared war” on the EPA and its workers in June, when the administration unilaterally imposed contract changes, such as removing employee grievance rights, without consulting the union.

The government employee union and EPA began new contract negotiations in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

AFGE Local 704 represents over 900 Midwest EPA employees; nationwide the union represents 8,000 EPA employees.

Cantello was joined at Tuesday’s news conference at the Metcalfe Federal Building in the Loop by environmental advocacy groups, EPA employees and Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. The CFL, a not-for-profit group that supports labor organizations, has an ownership interest in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“…Donald Trump took away many of those rights guaranteed under our collectively bargained contract and imposed … a unilateral anti-employee directive,” said Loreen Targos, an EPA scientist. “We fought for six months for a seat at the table to win back our rights that were taken away.”

The union also released a 10-point EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights and urged the public to go online to sign a petition supporting their cause. Demands in the Bill of Rights include the right to scientific integrity in their work and the right to enforce environmental laws without political interference.