Yesterday, several Senators spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of federal workers and in opposition to the three executive orders (EOs) issued by the President on May 25, 2018, that adversely impact employee collective bargaining and due process rights. Speakers consisted of Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Senator Warner said, “As someone who spent longer in business and management than I have as a role as a Senator, I know one of the things that any good business leader… [knows is that] how you treat your workforce reflects the quality of the service that workforce provides to its customers… That’s why, Mr. President, I also rise today with great concern about recent efforts by this administration to scapegoat and undermine the work of our federal employees. It started with hiring freezes… [and] continued by undermining workforce protections and their ability to organize as part of a union and have that collective voice heard in terms of representations with management. And it culminated last month with the Trump Administration’s plan to freeze federal employee pay and cut retirement benefits… This is the thanks our federal employees get for their service.”
Senator Tester said, “I want to remind the country about the vital work that’s being done each and every day by these hardworking public servants. Now it’s no secret that organized labor is under attack, and the bargaining rights, hard-earned benefits, safe working conditions, and the fair pay of American workers is under attack from folks right here in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals around the country. But we aren’t ones to run away from a fight… I’ve been honored to work with our friends in labor to address disparities in federal benefits and pay… I am committed to defending our workers and holding Washington accountable in fights for a stronger federal workforce each and every day, because that’s what the American people expect.”
Senator Brown said, “[It’s] shameful, Mr. President, these are public servants under attack by the Administration. [It’s as if] federal workers are not Americans, as if federal workers are not people, as if federal workers are just a cost to be minimized. The Administration has issued executive order after executive order to restrict those workers’ freedom to advocate for themselves and for taxpayers in the workplace. They make it easier for short-term political appointees to retaliate against nonpartisan career public servants… This is all part of the larger attack on workers in this country, larger attack on our labor movement… My colleagues talk about freedom all the time. How about freedom to band together and speak as one voice to get better treatment and better wages and better benefits. Make no mistake, Mr. President, an attack on public service unions is an attack on all unions and an attack on unions is an attack on all workers.”
Senator Cardin said, “It’s not easy, as we all know, to serve in the public today. And there’s been an all-out assault by the Trump Administration on our federal workforce. They’re not only hurting our federal workforce, they’re hurting our country. The pay freezes, the hiring freezes, the proposed cuts to benefits, all of that says to those who want to serve their nation in public service that maybe this is not the right field for you. And we’re seeing a hollowing out of our federal workforce… And we’re finding that the President’s policy is one of the most antigovernmental policies we’ve ever seen from any President… [Federal workers] have had to go through sequestration and government shutdowns with the uncertainty that comes with those issues. But just recently in May, the President’s executive orders …[were] brought out. They are absolutely outrageous, three executive orders. There’s a court hearing today that was held. And I’m hopeful that the courts will intervene… As I said earlier to some of our federal workers, this is not just about trying to bust unions. This is about busting democracy. I say that because the civil service laws were passed for a reason. They were passed for a reason. We don’t want to see cronyism and corruption with patronage in our federal workforce. And that’s why we have a civil service law.”
Senator Hirono said, “These workers deserve our respect, appreciation, and unwavering support for their service. They certainly don’t deserve the contempt and animosity that Donald Trump and his administration have directed at them. The collective weight of this Administration’s anti-workers [agenda] has taken a toll on the federal workforce and the executive orders President Trump issued in May are already making things worse by undermining workers’ rights to fair representation in the workplace… Collectively, these executive orders sabotage the hard-fought gains federal workers have achieved through decades of organizing and collective bargaining at agencies throughout the federal government. This sabotage has a purpose, to make life so miserable for our federal workforce that they either quit their jobs or retire. The long-term damage that gutting our federal workforce would cause to our nation, economy, and communities is serious. And that’s because as Teddy Roosevelt recognized, when he pushed for the first major federal civil service reform, he said a quality professional civil service is a bulwark against corruption and cronyism. Public servants uphold the law and promote the public interest.”
Senator Murray said, “[Federal employees] work tirelessly every day to make sure our lives are a little bit better. And while it is the responsibility of government to ensure every worker is able to go to work without putting their health or safety at risk, earn a living wage to support their families and retire with dignity, the federal government has even more direct responsibility for its own workers and should be a model for treating workers fairly and protecting their rights. Unfortunately, Mr. President, since day one, President Trump has fought to roll back those worker protections and undermine their rights. And now he has taken a number of steps targeting federal workers’ right to join together and collectively bargain for better working conditions. Through a series of executive orders, President Trump has made it harder for workers to organize, for their unions to effectively represent them when they have a dispute with management, and for federal agencies to bargain …collectively with their employees in good faith. And these executive orders target protections that were painstakingly negotiated and agreed to by both parties to make sure workers who are paid with our taxpayer dollars are treated fairly, and that workplace disputes in the federal government are resolved efficiently and equitably.”
Senator Kaine said, “The executive orders that the Administration issued on May 25 are part of a concerted effort to go after federal employees, the overwhelming majority of whom are hardworking individuals driven by the pursuit of public service. Now, under this Administration, the workforce has already before these executive orders been subject to hiring freezes, proposed pay freezes, and cuts in their retirement. These additional executive orders severely restrict or eliminate long-standing workplace rights and perpetuate less than optimal working conditions… Let me just talk about the implications for hundreds of thousands of federal employees. First… it will be easier to fire employees without due process which leaves employees open to retaliation for personal or political reasons. We’ve seen not just the Administration, but the President himself fire notable federal employees, … and call others into question and challenge them publicly, in public settings just for doing their jobs. And the thing that most excites the President [is] to try to attack these federal employees if they take any position that he views as disloyal to him, if they’re doing an investigation in ethical violations or other improprieties, that he goes out after them and even fires them. Leaving employees open to being fired because the political leader doesn’t think you are loyal enough is not the system that we should have or we should allow.”
Senator Van Hollen said, “Rather than treating these federal civil servants with the dignity and respect they deserve, we have the Administration taking multiple steps to harm the ability of these men and women to do their job for the American people. And it’s especially ironic in an administration where we’ve seen people appointed to heads of cabinet agencies who have been documented to have wasted lots of taxpayer dollars and to have abused the public trust to see an administration that puts those people in the highest offices at the same time they’re undermining the work of federal employees who go to work every day. So, I’m pleased to join my colleagues today to stand up for these federal employees. I wish we didn’t have to be here, but we have to be here because the Trump Administration issued a series of executive orders just a few months ago that go after federal civil servants just as we’ve seen this administration attack workers’ rights in the private sector across the country… It is really important that we work together to protect the integrity of the federal civil service. We have had a system over time where folks have been judged on their merits, not judged on their political favoritism or whether or not they were really good at saying exactly what their boss might want to say. We want a civil service that values independent thinking and also values merit. And by taking these actions, unfortunately, the Trump Administration is undermining those efforts. So I hope that the courts [and] I hope that this body will join us in pushing back on these efforts by the Trump Administration to undermining the integrity of our workforce and stand up for the hardworking federal employees who are doing the work of this country every day.”
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) also spoke out against the attacks on federal workers with Senator Brown via a Facebook live post yesterday. NTEU appreciates these Senators for standing with us against the Administration’s proposals and for being champions of the federal workforce.