Trump imposes 'illegal directive' on EPA
Members of Congress join EPA workers in charging ‘attack on science,’ environment, and civil servants
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Union workers at the Environmental Protection Agency charged Monday that President Trump had imposed an “illegal directive on EPA employees” that threatens clean air and water.
“Trump attacked us today and our rights by imposing unilateral work rules that wipe away our labor rights and our previous contract,” said Nicole Cantello, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 representing many EPA workers, at a rally held at Federal Plaza in Chicago’s Loop.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said it was more than an attack on workers’ rights; it was an attack on the air we breathe and the water we drink.
“These are the people who every day go to work to protect the Clean Air and Water Act,” she said. “It is also an attack on science. This president has never believed in science. And when you go after the Environmental Protection Agency, which he has from Day One, you are challenging science at a moment when we know that there is an existential threat to global warming that we need to address.”
“What the president has done is illegal,” Schakowsky said. “The environment needs to be protected by these workers.”
“What the president has done is illegal. The environment needs to be protected by these workers.”
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
“If EPA workers have to work under unfair conditions,” Cantello said, “they will worry more about being disciplined than they will worry about how they will protect our health and the environment.”
She added that it was nothing new, as the Trump administration idled many EPA workers during the government shutdown to start the year, cut staffing levels and the agency’s proposed budget, and has been accused of being lax on enforcement to the benefit of business — as with its reluctance to take action on a cancer cluster caused by emissions of ethylene oxide at Sterigenics in Willowbrook.
“For the last two years, Trump has systematically tried to silence federal workers and the scientists and engineers at EPA,” Cantello charged.
Calling it “a systemic attack on our environment and our working families” as part of Trump’s “pro-polluter agenda,” Colleen Smith of the Illinois Environmental Council said it represented “a new low” in the administration’s “efforts to undermine the environment” and the “dedicated professionals” working at the EPA.
“The American people want clean air and water,” said Matt Muchowski of AFGE’s District 7. “The Trump administration has declared war on the people who protect our environment. The administration has also declared war on workers.
“We will not allow Trump to silence the voice of federal employees,” he added.
“He has waged a war against organized labor,” said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago. “He has waged a war against environmental protection. And he’s continued to roll back the progress that we have made through years and years of struggle.”
According to Cantello, the work directive was unilaterally imposed without negotiations and attempts to do away with the old union contract. “There are no talks,” she said. “We’re in the courts now. We’re fighting it out in the courts.”
“This president is governing by fiat, and that isn’t right,” said Don Villar of the Chicago Federation of Labor. Calling it “an attack on civil servants,” he added, “Their work impacts the way we live every day.”
He pointed out that earlier conflicts had resulted in victories. “We fought the shutdown. We won, right?” Villar said. “We can fight this and we will win again.”