President References Federal Workforce in State of the Union Address

NTEU National President Tony Reardon
NTEU National President Tony Reardon

Last night, NTEU National President Tony Reardon had the privilege of attending the State of the Union address to Congress as a guest of Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a champion for federal employees on Capitol Hill.

During his address, the President stated,

All Americans deserve accountability and respect—and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers—and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

While no specific details were included, the President’s words may foreshadow the development of federal employee personnel policies that would be of concern to NTEU.

In 2017 Congress passed the Veterans Administration Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that resulted in large measure from frustration on patient wait times and other issues at the Veterans Administration (VA), which is struggling with inadequate budgets and staffing levels. However, the law delivered a serious blow to the due process rights of federal employees who work at the VA, and narrowed their collective bargaining rights.

A dark contrast photo of the US Capitol against cloudy gray skies.There has already been interest on the part of some in Congress to make federal employees ‘at-will,’ and to expand the recent VA law to other agencies across the federal government, as well as to advance other anti-worker and anti-union measures. NTEU strongly opposes these legislative efforts, and has advocated against these issues before Congress, joining with other unions and organizations, to express our beliefs that expanding these changes in laws to other federal agencies would revert the current civil service system into the spoils system, where one retains his or her job at the favor of one’s superior. Further, it would be a personnel system where employees would not be safe from undeserved discipline or retaliation from management, and where bargaining unit members could not be fully represented as they are now.

Tony’s message to the administration and to Congress is that, at a time when they have failed to pass or enact agency budgets, with the nation artificially operating to avoid hitting the debt ceiling with no apparent plan in sight to provide relief from sequestration, four Continuing Resolutions so far this fiscal year to keep the government open, a shutdown last week, and less than nine days until a possible second shutdown, what the American people need is an administration and Congress that understands and respects the role of federal employees, and the civil service institution that has served this country with distinction for more than 100 years. It is the state of governance that is imperiling the nation, not the federal workforce.

Rest assured, with your support, NTEU will defend the well-conceived due process rights of frontline federal employees.