The Secret Memo: Trump’s Plan to Slash Your Pay, Healthcare, Retirement

Categories: The Insider

This is the third segment of AFGE’s 5-part series: The Secret Memo: Inside Trump’s Plan to Destroy Unions. 

“Proud to make America work” is not just AFGE’s pretty slogan – it represents who we are as a union representing generations of federal workers who join the public service to make a difference in the lives of their fellow Americans. Whether it’s those moved to service by President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”, or the first responders and heroes who kept our nation moving forward after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on American soil, these men and women answered the call to action and joined the public service to contribute.  

These patriotic Americans do their jobs with pride. They are our nation’s scientists, researchers, doctors, nurses, correctional officers, mechanics, food inspectors, claims processors, accountants, first responders, transportation security officers, meteorologists, and more.  

Sadly, they are also the target of the Trump administration, which not only seeks to undermine their work but also their livelihood and families. 

A leaked White House memo prepared in 2017 outlines President Trump’s plans to politicize the federal workforce by slashing pay and paid leave and making it harder for feds to afford health care and retirement.  

The administration wants to resurrect the failed pay system previously implemented at the Defense Department, known as NSPS - the National Security Personnel System, which was later repealed by Congress after just three years because it discriminated against employees who were non-white or worked outside the Pentagon. NSPS was never a “pay for performance” system but merely a product of political ideologues aimed at suppressing civilian compensation and eliminating workplace rights. 

Now, in a secret memo, the administration lays out its plan. Here’s what three bullets of that memo say exactly: 

1.  Reform Federal Pay. (Legislation) The Trump administration should work with Congress to develop legislation overhauling federal compensation. The new system should prioritize performance over seniority and aim for parity with private-sector pay. Much of the detail of these reforms was worked out by the Bush administration in developing the National Security Personnel System at DoD. The Obama administration eliminated the NSPS shortly after taking office. 

2.  Reform Federal Benefits. (Legislation) The Trump administration should work with Congress to develop and enact legislation bringing federal benefits in line with private sector standards. These reforms should include: 

    1. Eliminating the defined benefit FERS pension for new federal employees, while increasing TSP employee match. 
    2. Requiring current federal employees to contribute more to their FERS pension costs, while giving them the option of switching entirely to the TSP (with the enhanced match) 
    3. Eliminating the requirement federal employees pay 25% of their healthcare premiums to encourage greater competition on cost that would reduce overall premium costs; and 
    4. Bringing federal paid leave benefits in line with private sector standards at large firms;  

3.  Federal pay freeze. (EO) President Trump should issue an Executive Order suspending the annual cost-of-living adjustment in federal employees’ pay for 2018. President Trump should commit to maintaining this pay freeze until Congress sends him legislation comprehensively overhauling federal compensation.  

From the pay freeze to retirement cuts, these proposals are the blueprint for the anti-worker measures in every Trump administration’s budget proposal. Even after shutting down the government and forcing federal employees to work 35 consecutive days without pay earlier this year, the administration doubled down on its savage disregard for the federal workforce by proposing to freeze federal workers’ pay in 2020 in addition to other healthcare and retirement cuts.   

Federal employees’ pay needs to go up, not down. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data, federal salaries lag behind those paid by employers in the private, state, and local government sectors by a nationwide average of more than 30%. By law, that gap was supposed to have been closed 16 years ago. But opponents of paying federal employees market rates always cite budget and other issues as reasons not to close the gap. The administration is now pushing to change the way the pay gap is measured as a way of preparing the ground for a wholesale replacement of the locality pay system.  

Federal workers have lost more than $200 billion from cuts to their pay and benefits since 2011, and today, the average federal employee makes 7% less than they did at the beginning of the decade when adjusted for inflation. 

Next week we will discuss what the administration’s secret memo reveals about their plan to dismantle the federal workforce. 


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