House appropriators put protections for federal workers into FY21 funding bill

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House lawmakers hope to further protections for federal workers in the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations process.

The House Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee voted to pass its bill on the afternoon of July 8, sending it to the full committee for consideration.

The bill would codify language to block merging the Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration -- an administration goal that has drawn opposition from congressional Democratic leaders.

“None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be obligated or expended to reorganize or transfer any function or authority of the Office of Personnel Management to the General Services Administration or to the Office of Management and Budget,” the bill states.

Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act blocked the merger, which Margaret Weichert pushed during her brief tenure as acting OPM chief.

In March, the National Academy of Public Administration contracted with OPM to conduct a cost-benefit analysis studying the effects of a potential merger.

Despite legal prohibitions, the White House has pressed on with its efforts to initiate the reorganization. GSA, in its budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, included budget plans for OPM.

In April, members of the House Oversight Committee who had pushed hard to include the NDAA's prohibition complained that GSA was flouting the law.

The Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill also requires that Congress be notified at least 15 days before any interagency or service-level agreements that are worth $100,000 or more are executed between GSA and the Office of Management and Budget.

Additionally, it seeks to protect federal sector unions by mandating that such organizations be allowed to access facility space and use official time while conducting union business.

The bill would require that all telework-eligible employees and employees with health risks be allowed to telework, a point of contention between unions and management that began before the COVID-19 pandemic but emerged as a top issue as agencies began considering how and when to move to a broader remote-work posture.

As currently written, it would also stop agencies from implementing any collective bargaining agreements that were not “mutually and voluntarily agreed to by all parties” dating back to April 30, 2019.

The tactic of agencies self-imposing union contracts without mutual agreement has rankled union workers at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration and other agencies.

The bill did not include language about pay raises for federal workers, however. In February, the White House asked for one percent raises for civilian federal workers and three percent for their military counterparts.

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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