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  • On the Chopping Block: Federal Employee Wages and Benefits
    Posted On: Jan 15, 2018

    Trump Administration officials have suggested ways to save the government money in the next budget. And, no surprise, some of the savings are expected to come at the expense of working people.  

    The proposals call for slashing the wages of federal workers, endangering their retirement, making them pay more for health care – even taking away paid holidays.

    “This is a continuation of the near-constant attacks on federal employees,” said Government Employees Department Director Paul O’Connor. “Just like the tax plan, it’s about paying dividends to the richest and leaving pennies for the rest of us.”

    According to a leaked memo, officials in the Domestic Policy Council submitted a list of recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget for incorporation in the fiscal 2019 budget that President Trump will send to Congress in February.

    The recommendations cover several agencies and issues. Among those, the memo’s authors suggested the Office of Personnel Management freeze federal workers’ pay, which they singled out as the most important cost-saving measure because it’s the only one the Trump administration can do unilaterally. The memo also recommended slowing seniority-based raises, eliminating the defined benefit retirement plan and retiree health benefits for new hires and bringing paid leave “in line with private sector norms,” which could mean fewer paid holidays.

    “The rights of working people are being eroded in the private sector,” O’Connor said. “A 401(k) doesn’t compare to the security of a pension. In a lot of ways, the federal government is the last bastion of solid employee compensation.”

    The architect of most of the attacks on working people is Trump’s labor advisor, James Sherk. Formerly with the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, Sherk has authored a number of anti-union briefs, claiming that public sector collective bargaining damages the economy and advocating for right-to-work laws and changes to election rules in favor of employers. He’s also referred to unions as cartels.

    Sherk is also behind the memo’s recommendation to raise the budget of the Office of Labor-Management Standards from $38 million to $55 million. “The agency does not have the resources necessary to fulfill its mission of robustly investigating union corruption,” he wrote.

    The recommendations have no immediate legal force but, like the president’s budget itself, reflect the administration’s priorities, making it an ideological blueprint.

    “Even if this doesn’t go through, a lot of people will still be stressed, wondering what will happen,” O’Connor said. 

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