AFGE is joining a coalition of unions, academics, and other allied organizations in calling on House and Senate leaders to include language in year-end legislation passed by both chambers that would prevent a return of a system in which government workers could be fired for political reasons and without due process.
The merit system is the backbone of public service, but at the end of his term, former President Trump issued an executive order creating a new service classification called Schedule F for any career federal employee whose job is in any way connected to federal policy.
This new classification put tens of thousands of current and future federal workers in “policy-making” positions and stripped them of important workplace protections against mistreatment or discrimination, such as unfair removal. It politicized the civil service, allowing the administration to hire and fire for political reasons.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the Trump administration reclassified 68% of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) employees as Schedule F employees. The new classification was not fully implemented at OMB or other agencies as President Biden repealed the EO after he took office. Former President Trump, however, said he would bring it back if he takes back the White House in 2024. Other Republican presidential contenders have also expressed support for the idea.
“If such a broad exception to the merit-based system were fully implemented, it could radically change how our government operates,” said the coalition in a letter to congressional leaders. Lack of competitive service protections could allow an administration to enact a wholesale change in government personnel. While the first step in this direction may be taken by opponents of the merit system, it is not difficult to imagine it becoming the norm for all future administrations.”
“If government employees owe their jobs more to personal or political allegiance rather than merit, they will be more beholden to the party in power instead of the law of the land. That erodes safeguards for the rule of law within the institution of the executive branch, which could undermine the power of Congress and set the stage for greater inter-branch conflict,” added the coalition. “More substantial employee turnover from one administration to the next would also lead to loss of institutional knowledge and expertise within government.”
The coalition urged Congress to take the threat of Schedule F seriously and urgently pass legislation blocking it, either as stand-alone legislation or part of the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act.