The Trump administration is trying to rescind protections for LGBTQ workers at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that have been in place since 2002, prompting outrage from the NLRB Professional Association, an organization that represents NLRB workers.
NLRBPA President Karen Cook sent a letter on Thursday, March 5 to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) that LGBTQ Nation has obtained. The letter informs Feinstein of how two administration officials are attempting to get rid of protections for LGBTQ workers.
The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing labor law, particularly when it comes to collective bargaining and unjust labor practices.
Currently, LGBTQ workers at the NLRB are protected by terms of a collective bargaining agreement that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2002. In 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the NLRB and the NLRBPA also banned discrimination based on gender identity.
The collective bargaining agreement ended in 2019 and the organizations are currently negotiating a new contract. According to Cook’s letter, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb and NLRB Chair John Ring – who were both appointed by Trump – sent a proposed contract that eliminated the ban on anti-LGBTQ discrimination and said, “prior MOUs, agreements, or settlements executed prior to the latest date below are not incorporated into this agreement.”
The contract also proposes eliminating the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee that was operated by both workers and management, which Cook said has “turned what was historically a cooperative relationship between management and the union into an adversarial relationship.”
Last, Cook wrote that Robb and Ring are attacking the union’s grievance and arbitration system that handles workers’ complaints, and not just for LGBTQ people, but for all “allegations of discrimination including but not limited to: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or retaliation, that could be filed as an EEO complaint.”
This means that workers who have suffered discrimination at the NLRB won’t be allowed to go to their union to rectify the situation and will instead have to file a formal complaint with a different federal agency, taking away an option to address discrimination. Cook said in the letter that the Trump administration’s hostility to LGBTQ equality means that “our LBGTQ members will have no legal protection from discrimination.”
“It is a mark of shame that employment discrimination against LGBTQ employees, including federal employees, has been tolerated for so long, and to callously take those protections away after so long a struggle for equal treatment would be unconscionable,” Cook concluded.
Ed Egee, Director of Office of Congressional & Public Affairs at the NLRB, told LGBTQ Nation that the agency has “no comment on ongoing collective bargaining.”
Jerame Davis, Executive Director of Pride At Work, told LGBTQ Nation, “This administration is wildly inconsistent in nearly everything they do, but when it comes to screwing working people and attacking the LGBTQ community, they’re like a well-oiled machine.” The organization represents LGBTQ working people’s interests within the labor movement.
“The NLRB exists to protect working people from unfair labor practices, so how better to combine the administration’s distaste for working people and LGBTQ folks than to strip workers in that agency of protections they’ve had since 2002? It’s a disgrace.”
The Trump administration has long opposed protections for LGBTQ workers. In January, the Department of Interior removed anti-discrimination guidelines from its employee ethics guide. The Trump administration also eliminated mentions of LGBTQ people from several government websites.
Trump also banned transgender people from serving openly in the military, making anti-LGBTQ discrimination official policy.
Moreover, the Trump administration has fought against LGBTQ job protections outside of the government. The administration has filed multiple briefs in federal court cases arguing that federal law does not and should not protect LGBTQ people from job discrimination.
Trump has also said that he opposes adding protections for LGBTQ people to federal law, threatening to veto the Equality Act if it passes. His administration went so far as to eliminate LGBTQ protections from a trade deal.