The American Federation of Government Employees have encouraged federal employees to wear #RedForFeds in protest. Nationwide rallies come just a few hours before a federal district judge is set to hear oral arguments in a recent lawsuit against the Trump administration.
AFGE, along with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) are expected to speak at Wednesday’s rally. Meanwhile, several other labor organizations have announced their support for the federal employee unions, including SAG-AFTRA and the NFL Players Association. (SAG-AFTRA represents employees at Federal News Radio.)
AFGE and a dozen other federal unions sued the administration over the EOs last month. They argue the orders conflict with the the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and the Civil Service Reform Act.
This story will be updated continuously as the Washington D.C. protest unfolds.
Updated at 5 p.m.
Several hundred federal employees, retirees and supporters rallied outside the District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday afternoon.
At its start, #RedForFeds rally was a protest against the president’s recent executive orders but grew into more of a recognition and celebration of organized federal labor. The rally’s organizers encouraged federal employees to put aside their cheers for specific unions and focus on a broader message.
The protest wasn’t in support of AFGE, the union’s national president, J. David Cox, said. It was in support of all organized government labor. And as the crowd grew, the chants changed. When prompted with “who are we?!” from the rally’s organizers, the crowd cheered, “the labor movement.”
Both AFGE and NTEU were well represented on Wednesday, but other organizations — even those not as directly impacted by the president’s recent EOs — stood outside in the drizzling rain to cheer.
“This isn’t about any particular union or any particular attack,” Frederic Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said. “It’s about a much bigger assault on labor and on working people and on the American people.”
For Ernestine Ussery, a member with the National Education Association, Wednesday’s protests was one of her first rallies. She said it was important to her to stand up for the rights of the faculty and staff who teach at Defense Department schools, which her organization represents.
Some federal retirees also came to show support.
Robert Miller traveled from Roanoke, Virginia, to Washington to join his former colleagues at Wednesday’s rally.
“They are my brothers and sisters,” he said. “They will be for the rest of my life, and I bleed for them and they bleed for me. I couldn’t stay home knowing they’re out here and I’m sitting at home relaxing and watching sports on TV.”
Jeff Eagan retired from the Energy Department but serves as chief steward for the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 213.
“Federal employees work for us, all of us, but we need dignity and respect in our workplace,” he said. “Unions help us. They work together with management to see that our workplaces are managed well, managed fairly and that people are treated with dignity and respect.”
Though the Energy Department’s current collective bargaining agreement has not closed and remains in place after the president issued the recent executive orders, Eagan and NTEU Chapter 213 President Karen Griffin said they’re still concerned.
“We’ve been kept pretty safe because of that,” Griffin said. “We’re not up for re-negotiations yet, so everything is in place. However, we are dealing with some performance-based issues right now. They’re being put on hold until we can see the full policy, which is going to be rolled out at our agency in the next week. We’ll be going to full bargaining on that.”
Several members of Congress also came and fired up the crowd.
“We have never seen the kind of assault on the federal employee that we have seen in the last two years,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said. “We’re here today not to say, ‘Pretty please, don’t hurt us.’ We’re here to say, ‘We have rights as federal employees, and they’re going to be respected.'”