EPA Union Wins Stronger Scientific Integrity Safeguards

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028
Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933


EPA Union Wins Stronger Scientific Integrity Safeguards

Political Interference with Science Now Becomes an Unfair Labor Practice


Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s largest employee union has won a provision protecting scientific integrity in its new collective bargaining agreement with the agency. This achievement opens the door to the use of federal labor law as a new tool to combat meddling by EPA political appointees and senior managers with science, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The new contract provision was won at the bargaining table by Local 238 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union local in the agency representing 7,500 employees, nearly half of EPA’s 16,000-employee workforce. It appears to be the first time a federal employee union has won scientific integrity protections in a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement takes effect later this month and has a four-year life.

The provision’s features are stronger and less nebulous than EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, first adopted in 2012 and now undergoing revision, including:

  • Scientists are free to openly discuss their scientific work with the press and at scientific conferences. The current policy is limited to expressions of personal views;
  • Management must provide a written explanation for denying “attendance at scientific conferences/meetings during duty time.” The current policy has no such provision; and
  • Any future Scientific Integrity Policy “will be subject to negotiation as required by law, regulation, and this Agreement.” As a result, the union will have a say in any substantive scientific integrity rules or procedures.

“Union members recognize that EPA’s Scientific Integrity Program is completely toothless and that meaningful protection for scientists can only be obtained outside agency confines,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy was not once invoked during the entire Trump term. “Unfortunately, the draft policy EPA is now circulating does not provide any enforceable safeguards for either scientists or their work product.”

As part of an official collective bargaining agreement, the scientific integrity provision will be enforceable by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. That agency will be able to conduct arbitrations and rule on disputes between the union and EPA.

“AFGE should be congratulated for bringing scientific integrity to the bargaining table,” added PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, noting that the other EPA employee unions should add scientific integrity to their bargaining portfolios.  “The only drawback to this approach is that supervisors and other employees who are not union-eligible are sometimes themselves the victims of politicized science within EPA.


Look at the scientific integrity provision in the AFGE contract

Compare EPA’s current scientific integrity policy

Examine EPA’s draft policy entering its final stage of review

See crippling weaknesses in EPA’s scientific integrity program

Note latest EPA scientific integrity scandal

Phone: 202-265-7337

962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

Copyright 2001–2024 Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility

PEER is a 501(c)(3) organization
EIN: 93-1102740