A union representing employees of the Social Security Administration has demanded that the Biden administration kill a new “pronoun policy” geared toward transgender workers, saying it forces political views on members.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 2505 filed a Union-Management Grievance Friday over a policy announced internally on Wednesday called the “Policy on Prohibiting Discrimination, Including Harassment, Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression,” which the agency calls the Pronoun Policy for short. The union, which represents 600 low-level employees in Oklahoma and Arkansas, said the policy changed restroom access, the dress code, and “created a new form with the employee’s name, gender identity, pronouns.”
“All of the changes are violations of Article 1, Section 2 as they changed existing terms and conditions of employment,” the grievance said. “Having made these changes without advanced notice and the opportunity to bargain, in addition to SSA violating 5 USC 71, SSA also violated Article 1, Section 2.”
The grievance went on to say the policy violates employees’ freedom of religion and free speech rights by forcing workers to address people by their preferred pronouns and creates a hostile work environment for employees who do not agree for political or religious reasons.
“This new policy will create a chilling effect on them and is essentially forcing them to agree with this political view in spite of their own personal political or religious beliefs,” it added.
On March 1, SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi announced the policy to employees with the subject “Building an Equitable and Inclusive Culture: Gender Identity.”
“Soon, you will receive notice of a mandatory training to help you prepare for full implementation of the policy, which will happen on March 31, 2023. Available starting March 2, this training will increase your knowledge of using pronouns and gender-neutral language and supporting employees and colleagues in the workplace,” the email said.
The 27-page policy, obtained by The Daily Wire, defines the terms agender, bigender, cisgender, gender diverse, genderfluid, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and two-spirit, and lays out numerous ways in which the agency will support employees who wish to transition to one of those categories.
“The agency makes note that every transition is different, and some employees may want none of these changes, all of these changes, some of these changes, or additional changes not listed in these procedures,” it said.
It provides a 19-part form to be filled out to manage an employee’s gender transition, and an email template for managers to announce an employee’s new gender that says “The agency supports [PROPER NAME] in their transition/affirmation… If you are interested in learning more about how SSA supports gender transition/affirmation, I invite you to refer to [insert link to policy/COSS statement of choice].”
It says transgender employees may use the bathroom of their choice, and that “continued intentional misuse of an employee’s name or pronoun could… lead to disciplinary action.”
“At meetings, employees, managers, and supervisors can introduce themselves with the pronouns they use, which may prompt others at the meeting to share the pronouns they use, e.g., ‘Hello, my name is Michael. My pronouns are he/him.’ Additionally, employees, managers, and supervisors should consider including their proper names, pronunciations of their names, and pronouns in their email signatures, e.g., Brianne (Bree-anne) Doe (they/theirs),” it adds.
Ralph Dejuliis, the union local president, said two employees have already asked for a religious exemption. He told The Daily Wire that under Kijakazi, social justice initiatives were distracting the agency from basic issues that were preventing it from serving needy Americans efficiently.
“SSA has already put out a video for all the employees to watch on gender transition. How many people have been working on this… when it takes six months to get an initial disability decision?” he said.
Dejuliis said his personal politics are liberal and progressive, but he finds it inappropriate to force any brand of politics on people through a government job.
“It’s forcing everyone to have a liberal socially work position,” he said. “I represent people in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Half the people I represent have concealed carry permits. They are not woke.”
The policy has “a name for people who don’t like gays and transgender: transphobic. You make up a special name to demonize people? Why don’t you call me sinner because I don’t go to your church?” he said.
A spokesman for the Social Security Administration dismissed the local chapter’s complaint.
“The allegations in this locally filed grievance are inaccurate,” Mark Hinkle told The Daily Wire. “We have resolved the bargaining obligations associated with the referenced policy with all of the unions representing Social Security employees, at the national level.”
In Kijakazi’s email to staff, she said “I want to thank everyone including the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) workgroup, our union partners, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer + (LGBTQ+) Advisory Council for your collaboration.”
But Dejuliis said he was blindsided by the policy.
“No one higher up in the union seems to know anything,” he said. “[The agency’s] idea of a union partner is when the union says ‘hey boss, that’s a great idea.”
“The union’s role is to enforce its contract. When SSA acts like they have here, implementing stuff with no consultation with the union, failing to provide data, we have to file a grievance,” he added. “When they’re telling our members we will discipline you for not following this new policy, that’s a violation of this contract and protections of constitutional rights. You can’t order me to say certain things that are not related to my job.”
Kijakazi’s email added that, “In my Pride Month video message last June, I discussed the agency’s work to increase equity and equality for gender-diverse and transgender customers. In October, the agency began offering people the choice to self-select their sex in their SSN record, without needing to provide medical or legal documentation of their sex identity… Our new internal Pronoun Policy marks the latest milestone in our work to support President Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combatting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.”