Trump can't help himself when it comes to gutting protections for federal workers.
Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that will strip federal employees of essential rights and workplace protections.
The order demands that more civil servants be classified as Schedule F employees, which will make it easier to fire them, thereby making them more susceptible to political pressure.
Under the new rule, more federal workers be categorized as "at-will" employees who can be fired without cause. They may also be barred from joining the unions that represent public servants.
Lawmakers, labor leaders, and good government experts have all decried Trump's latest power play. Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, said the executive order would effectively erase the protections needed to maintain a politically neutral federal workforce.
"Being able to place any number of existing career positions into this new Schedule F not only blurs the line between politics and the neutral competency of the career civil service, it obliterates it," Stier said in a statement. "We urge Congress to act swiftly to examine the development and potential impact of this executive order."
"This is the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes," Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement on Thursday. "The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service."
It's hardly the first time Trump has attacked government workers.
In February, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump bragged about cutting back federal worker's pay raises. Trump officials have boasted about cutting agency budgets and stripping power from regulatory agencies in favor of businesses and local governments.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has steadily chipped away at labor unions by making it easier for workers to opt out of union membership — a policy similar to so-called "right-to-work" laws implemented in conservative states.
The mistreatment of federal workers has trickled down from Trump to government agencies, led by Trump's hyper-partisan Cabinet appointees. Last June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was relocating two of its scientific agencies from Washington to Kansas City — news that shocked employees and upended many of their careers, even forcing some into early retirement.
Workers at the agencies who decided not to relocate were offered $25,000 buyouts, with the condition that they would not be allowed to work for the federal government for at least five years. Workers who accepted the buyout offer then received a letter informing them that the department would only be paying them $10,000 — 60% less than what was originally offered.
The Trump administration has also targeted federal workers with disabilities. In 2017, the federal government fired 2,626 full-time employees with disabilities — a 24% increase from the previous year — according to documents from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission obtained by NBC News.
Trump's latest executive order will likely make federal workers even more vulnerable, and could undermine the integrity of the civil service as a whole.
Walter Shaub, who served as the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, sharply criticized Trump's executive order. He said it is "dangerous" to politicize the civil service, as it puts pressure on public servants to be "loyal to politicians instead of the Constitution and the rule of law."
"I've been warning for some time that, if Trump is reelected, he'll work to politicize the civil service and set America on a path back to the 19th century, when the spoils system made Feds loyal to political patrons," Shaub tweeted on Wednesday. "That's bad if you don’t like corruption and abuses of power."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.