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Mon Oct 7, 2019, 12:52 PM

The Trump Administration Has Figured out How to Get Rid of Federal Workers Without Firing Them [View all]


The Trump Administration Has Figured out How to Get Rid of Federal Workers Without Firing Them
“What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government.”
Nathalie Baptiste


“It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” acting White House chief of staff and budget chief Mick Mulvaney told the audience at a South Carolina Republicans’ dinner in August. “I know that because a lot of them work for me, and I’ve tried. You can’t do it.”

But Mulvaney reassured his audience that the Trump administration seems to have found a loophole. “By simply saying to people, ‘You know what? We’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, DC, and move you out to the real part of the country,’ and they quit,” he explained. “What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

Mulvaney was referring to the June announcement from Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, when he told 181 staff members at the USDA’s Economic Research Service office that in just three months they would be relocated to new offices over one-thousand miles away in Kansas City, Missouri. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, another small scientific agency at USDA, would also be moving to the midwest. ERS conducts research on agriculture and economics, and Perdue said the move would help the staff be closer to midwestern farming regions and save taxpayer dollars. In return, officials in Kansas City offered $26 million in incentives, but Perdue refused to disclose the details. The workers could either uproot their lives and move or lose their government jobs.

The announcement was met with shock. The deadline to decide whether or not an employee was moving to Kansas City expired on September 30, but the union negotiated the option for employees to request another 60-day extension. It appears that most had already made their decision before the deadline. Of the 181 employees told to relocate, only 16 did. Another 24 will remain in their positions in DC. But a whopping 141 employees, or 78 percent, left ERS completely. The relocation also resulted in the number of women working in research and administrative positions dropping. According to data provided to Mother Jones, women made up 36 percent of the employees before the move. Now, that number is down to 30 percent. The numbers are even more striking in Kansas City. Of the 27 people working there, only one is a woman.

“None of us believed it would happen,” Laura Dodson, the acting Vice President of the ERS union, told me. “He didn’t have the authority, it wasn’t backed by Congress, and every scientist in our field said don’t [move the office.]” The USDA inspector general issued a report saying that while Perdue had the legal authority to move the offices, congressional approval is needed before any agency can be reorganized. Perdue argued that that provision was unconstitutional and forged ahead.

Those who left were not necessarily giving up large salaries or a flashy job, what they did lose was security. The salaries for civil servants range from more than $19,000 to around $138,000, but federal employment also is accompanied by generous retirement packages and quality health care. Today, 364,000 federal government employees call the Washington, DC, metropolitan area home. Since Reagan insisted “government is the problem,” federal employees have been demonized by those on the right, and the Trump administration has been no exception. Donald Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp,” and that effort appears to include debilitating the civil service in government agencies. “It was done with malice,” Dodson argues. “They intended for us to leave.”

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https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/10/the-trump-administration-has-figured-out-how-to-get-rid-of-federal-workers-without-firing-them/

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Reply The Trump Administration Has Figured out How to Get Rid of Federal Workers Without Firing Them [View all]
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