Judge Tosses DOD Employee Suit Over Right to Unionize

(CN) –Defense Department employees suing President Donald Trump for an executive order they claimed violated their First Amendment right to join a labor union saw their complaint dismissed by a federal judge Tuesday.

The executive order, “Exclusions from the Federal Labor-Management Relations Program,”  was issued by President Barack Obama in the waning days of his presidency.

The Jan. 12 order excluded federal transportation command employees from engaging in any collective bargaining if their roles were related to national security.

In April, one of those employees, Kevin Snider, and the National Association of Independent Labor challenged the order.

The transportation command, located at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois, is one of nine command units for the Department of Defense. It describes itself as a purveyor of “full spectrum global mobility solutions and related ending capabilities for supported customers’ requirements in peace and war.”

The plaintiffs claimed the exemption barring them from joining a union went much further than declaring employees have no right to bargain. It violated their First Amendment right to associate, assemble, and petition the government by belonging to a labor union, they argued.

But U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson did not agree, referencing that the 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Ark State Highway Employees.

“The First Amendment does not impose any affirmative obligation on the government … to recognize [a public employee union] and bargain with it,” Jackson cited the high court’s ruling.

Additionally, he said, the plaintiffs constitutional rights are already protected under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, which requires the government to acknowledge some labor unions for federal employees for collective bargaining purposes.

Snider and the union’s claim failed because the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right of the federal government to “recognize a union for collective bargaining purposes,” Jackson wrote.

As a result, the judge said, the plaintiffs failed to state a claim.

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