In a letter Thursday, March 5, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., urged Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to ensure the Pentagon upholds workplace protections and safeguards the collective bargaining rights of U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees.

Smith — in an effort with the entire Senate Democratic Caucus led by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. — wrote to Esper following a Trump administration memorandum directing Esper to consider abolishing collective bargaining rights for as many as 750,000 of the department’s civilian workers, including a diverse workforce of janitors, firefighters, food service workers, teachers, depot maintenance technicians, welders and other professionals. The senators strongly disagree with the president’s claims that collective bargaining rights could pose a threat to national security.

“We support efforts that strengthen our national security, however this Memorandum represents a serious incursion on federal employees’ collective bargaining rights and sets a dangerous precedent in suggesting that those rights somehow compromise our national security,” the letter states. “We urge you to exercise great restraint in using this new authority and continue to maintain the historically productive relationship that DOD has with its employee unions.

“There is no evidence that the presence of unionized employees has ever had any negative impact on DOD’s national security mission.

“In fact, DOD and its unions have always had a mutually beneficial partnership. Unions have helped draw attention to health and safety hazards, as well as instances of waste, fraud, and abuse on the part of contractors. Moreover, a unionized workforce allows DOD to recruit and retain highly-skilled employees who might otherwise work elsewhere. In short, we believe that the Department’s unionized workforce has enhanced our security, not detracted from it. President Trump’s Memorandum arbitrarily and needlessly threatens this positive relationship.”