The Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to protect public health and the environment. Without the EPA, we wouldn’t have clean air and water. Contaminated lands and oil spills wouldn’t have been cleaned up. There would have been more illnesses and deaths caused by all kinds of chemicals and toxins such as lead and radon in our homes.
In other words, without the EPA employees conducting and sponsoring research, setting standards and enforcing regulations, many of us would have been dead by now.
EPA employees have been taking care of us, but elected officials are not taking care of them. They let this important workforce dwindle to the size it was decades ago while the population continues to climb. In fact, over a thousand EPA employees left the agency during the Trump administration, which tried to eliminate the EPA, taking with them decades of knowledge and expertise. The agency has not recovered since. The workforce is currently at the size it was during the Reagan administration.
Even though Congress and the Biden administration have given EPA more funding, employees are worried there won’t be enough people to implement the programs.
AFGE Council 238, which represents about 7,700 EPA workers across the country, held a rally in front of the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC on Feb. 15, calling for more staffing, more pay, and more generous career ladders as a way to recruit and retain employees. The rally comes as the council is in the middle of contract negotiations with the EPA and is calling for these changes.
“More pay, EPA! More pay, EPA! More pay, EPA!” the employees chanted at the start of the rally.
“There is no stopping us now. We’re here today to raise our voices for more pay and EPA employees,” said Council 238 President Marie Owens Powell. “We need to fix the career ladders. We need those special pay scales that are available to retain our staff. Give us the staff, we’ll get the job done.”
Council 238 Vice President Joyce Howell said the council is also calling on the EPA to make EPA jobs more attractive by approving remote work more liberally than it has to date, and by taking concrete actions to address diversity issues in the workplace.
Also speaking at the rally were PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, Sierra Club's Labor and Economic Justice Director Derrick Figures, Labor Network for Sustainability President Joe Uehlein, Environmental Integrity Project Executive Director Eric Schaeffer, and AFGE President Everett Kelley.