Congress Kicks Off 2017 By Trying to Gut the Civil Service

Categories: Week In Review

In the early hours of the 115th U.S. Congress, elected officials began a collective effort to roll back federal working peoples’ rights, pay, and benefits through an array of new and revived legislation. These attacks - The Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency (PAGE) Act, the Holman rule, and the Ensuring VA Employees Accountability Act – are likely the first of many challenges facing public servants this year and in the years ahead. Here's the breakdown: 

The PAGE Act 

The popular narrative used by Washington insiders is that the federal government is inefficient and its workers are held responsible for the work that is done. The truth is that the rules currently in place don’t prevent the government from firing bad employees. They make sure punishments against bad employees are justified and good employees aren’t punished wrongly or unfairly.  

Yet, despite that, some in Congress have taken it upon themselves to put forth the PAGE Act to further cripple federal workers' rights. 

The Holman Rule 

In one of their first acts this year, the House of Representatives voted to dust off a rule from the 1870's that allows them to reduce the number of federal employees. This means that any Representative can single out a civil servant who disagrees with them politically, and end their career. It’s been called “a backdoor way … to dismantle the federal workforce,” by Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and will also allow Congress to reduce pay for government workers  — down all the way to just $1 if they so choose. 

Messing with the Permanent Record of VA Employees 

The new bill, H.R. 27, is yet another attempt to dismantle our nation’s largest and most important health care system. It would essentially brand VA employees with a 'Scarlet Letter' that they could not remove. The bill prohibits VA workers from clearing their employee records of past reprimands. Even if that reprimand was years ago, was a result of whistleblowing, or a result of some form of retaliation. This assault on VA employees’ rights at work would take away second chances for workers like you, making it easier for managers to fire you and harder for VA hospitals to hire the best and brightest healthcare professionals to care for our heroes. 

Responding to Attacks on Public Servants 

AFGE wasted no time this year in fighting back against these frivolous attacks on federal workers. As Congressional leaders were busy assailing our civil service system, AFGE’s brothers and sisters were spreading the word and calling their elected officials.

More than 1,600 members sprang into action by writing, calling, and speaking with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to push back against the Holman rule. Despite a strong rapid response, it's apparent that this Congress has an agenda. It will take more than 1,600 letters to change the minds of lawmakers.  

We have been, and will continue to: press elected officials from both parties to protect federal working peoples’ rights, work with members to spread the word and incite action, and speak out in the news to make sure workers’ voices are heard.  

It’s a fight that is just beginning, but it’s one that AFGE is ready for. Last week, National President J. David Cox Sr. spoke to NBC Channel 4 in Washington about the Holman rule and what it means for federal workers. Stay tuned for more as we continue to champion the rights of our public servants in the 115th Congress.   

More to Come 

We’re just now out of the first week of January, and we’re already seeing attacks on federal workers rolling in at an unprecedented pace. If something isn’t done soon, working people may soon have little to no rights at work, no representation, and be open to losing their job at the whim of a politician. 

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