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Trump Guts Union Benefits in his Budget

The proposal would cut pensions, freeze pay & limit bargaining rights for all federal workers

Brian Young's picture
Apr 05, 2019

Trump has submitted his 2020 budget and he is using the plan to enact a series of changes to the federal workforce. Many of the provisions that Trump included seek to legislate executive orders that the courts have recently struck down, including calls for cuts to annual leave and retirement security, pay freezes and a weakening of collective bargaining rights.

Once again Trump is proposing an across the board cuts for federal workers. Over the last two years, Trump has proposed the pay freeze but he has consistently been thwarted by the Congress. A pay increase for federal workers was previously negotiated in February as part of the budget deal to re-open the government. That budget provided funding for these raises through September 30th.

“Clearly the administration learned nothing from the disastrous 35-day partial government shutdown,” said National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon in Government Executive. “The American people know full well that federal agencies need resources and federal employees deserve a fair paycheck, and this budget proposal—essentially a blueprint for how to ruin the civil service—provides neither.”

Trump is also proposing a change to the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System. These include increasing employee contributions, eliminating cost-of-living adjustments, changing annuity calculations for retirement from using the highest three years of work to five – effectively lowering the amount someone would get – and eliminating a supplement for those forced to retire early. According to an independent investigation from Vox, these changes would cost the average federal worker $75,000 in retirement savings. While $75,000 might not sound like a lot to a so-called billionaire like Trump, that equates to nearly 1 years salary being taken away from federal workers retirement savings.

The budget proposal would also try to “modernize the civil service.” This section would codify Trump’s unconstitutional executive order from 2018, that was struck down by a federal judge, which attempted to shorten the firing process to 30 days in which an employee could improve their performance instead of the contractually agreed upon 120.  The administration is also trying to resurrect another invalidated executive order that would narrow the scope of grievance procedures for bargaining unit employees and reduce the overall number of paid leave days. As Government Executive reported, the new proposal would create one combined category of leave that employees could access while simultaneously reducing the total number of days off by an unspecified amount. Both of these issues have already been collectively bargained and cannot be changed without a new CBA or a new law being passed in Congress.

The budget also includes a 31% cut to the EPA’ budget which could result in 2,000 positions being unfilled in 2019.

Thankfully Democrats in the House have said that this bill is dead on arrival. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told the Washington Post that the budget bill is “nonstarter” that “once again attacks our hard-working federal workforce by freezing their pay and threatening their retirement savings.”

Instead, some Congressional Democrats have proposed a plan that would increase the value of retiree inflation adjustments and end restrictions on payouts to those retired under the FERS system. They also have proposed a January 2020 raise of 3.6 percent.

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