The rain held off and thousands of federal workers and supporters rallied in front of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia building on Wednesday, July 25th. The date and location were significant because Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was scheduled to hear the case filed by several unions against the Trump May 25th Executive Orders, that seek to severely restrict collective bargaining for federal employees, at that court house.
Several prominent politicians joined AFGE President, J. David Cox on the stage to address the crowd that appeared as a sea of red. The rally was organized by AFGE and the theme was Red for Feds. Federal employees were encouraged to wear red to show support. Among those showing support for federal employees collective bargaining rights included Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Jamie Ruskin from Maryland and Congressman Gerry Connelly and Don Beyer from Virginia. Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, Congressional Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi and Senator Bernie Sanders also showed their support. Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO addressed the throng as well.
President Cox stressed the fact that this rally was not just about one union but was to show support for the labor movement as a whole. Employees’ right to collective bargaining has been under attack in this country and the Executive Orders are just another example of that onslaught against working people.
We have long suspected that the Agency wants to privatize. But, it seems, that Congress won’t allow it – at least not at one fell swoop. So, it appears, that Agency officials are engaged in an end-run around Congress and using hiring practices to implement de facto privatization. How? Consider what happens when your colleagues resign, retire or are fired; they are almost never replaced with full-time staff – at best they are replaced by contractors. At worst, their positions go unfilled while the branch is expected to produce the same level of content as before. If we hear “you have to learn to do more with less” one more time we will scream.
Even low-level supervisors are telling us that when they lose people they are not being allowed to fill their positions; sometimes they are given a little bit of contractor money to help accomplish the mission.
Examine the vacancy announcements of the past year; we estimate 90% of them are for GS-13 positions and above. Think about that: in the past year more than a hundred full-time GS-12 and below employees have left the Agency and fewer than a handful have been replaced by full-time employees.
It seems obvious what the Agency is doing. And no one seems willing or able to stop it.
At this point what you need to do is protect yourself: those at the GS-12 level and below are likely the last generation of full-time government employees who will staff the Agency. In a few years, as a result of retirements, resignations and terminations, this Agency will almost assuredly consist of GS-13s and above managing hundreds of contractors.
It appears for now that the Agency is not contemplating RIFs as a way to reduce headcount, but it is looking for other ways to do so, either removal or encouraging retirement or resignation. Our advice? Keep your nose clean and stay on the straight and narrow path; if you do, the Agency will probably let you remain and someday retire. But you will increasingly be a minority, surrounded by contractors with none of the benefits you enjoy. And, because of President Trump’s executive orders, you have fewer protections than ever before. You are almost an at-will employee. It’s a new day, so ride the wave and know that, if nothing changes, the way the Agency is staffed in the future will not be anything like it has been for generations.