Congresswoman asks Dem presidential candidates to address federal workforce


Ahead of Virginia's March 3 primary for the 2020 presidential race, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) published an open letter urging the Democratic hopefuls to consider how they would work to restore faith in the civil service.

Job satisfaction across the federal government has flagged continuously every year under the Trump administration, according to the Partnership for Public Service, which puts out a “Best Places in Government To Work” report every year. In 2019, the public sector’s employee engagement score dipped to 61.7 points out of 100, compared to 77 in the private sector.

 “From its inception, Donald Trump’s administration has set out to inflict harm on our public servants and the vital role our federal agencies play in serving the American people,” Wexton wrote in the letter. “This administration has launched attack after attack on the nonpartisan civil service — severely undercutting workers’ rights, deliberately leaving agencies understaffed and key positions unfilled, and using employees as bargaining chips in budget negotiations.”

Wexton specifically pointed to the Department of Agriculture’s unpopular decision to relocate two key agencies and the Department of Education’s implementation of a collective bargaining agreement that federal unions decried as an unfair labor practice but couldn’t get relief for due to vacancies at the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

She added that none of the Democratic candidates running have yet spoken about their policy plans for the federal workforce in any of the debates.

“If elected, you will be the head of our federal agencies and their more than 2 million employees, 85% of whom live outside the Washington D.C. Metro region. Your title won’t just be Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, you will be the CEO of the largest employer in our country,” Wexton wrote. “In the House, we’ve been fighting back, but what this President is doing will have lasting damage to the integrity, morale, and retention of our federal workforce. It will be that much more difficult to recruit and retain the talent you will need.”

The letter comes a day after House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked White House counsel Pat Cipollone to hand over documents related to the rehiring of a former Trump aide to oversee the Office of Presidential Personnel. Maloney's request followed a report that the administration has actively sought to purge career officials deemed insufficiently loyal to President Trump.

So far, none of the national federal employee labor unions have endorsed a particular candidate for the 2020 race.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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