Money bill in the House reverses many harmful Trump schemes
Among the many things the House bill would do is protect six-day mail delivery, something Trump has been scheming to end. | David Goldman/AP

WASHINGTON—Federal worker unions are lauding a draft House money bill that gives all two million U.S. government workers a 3.1% general raise next January 1. GOP President Donald Trump declared he’d give them zero.

Not only that, but Trump wanted to dismantle the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – in essence, the government’s HR department – and transfer its functions to an unaccountable political appointee within the White House. The money bill bars that Trump scheme, too.

The two pro-worker provisions are part of a large money bill covering the Treasury Department and general government spending on such things as buildings, rent and worker pay. But the measure also saw Appropriations subcommittee Democrats slam several other Trump initiatives while giving the GOP members one win on reproductive rights. The key provisions include:

  • No to Trump’s Mexican Wall. The bill bans using money from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund “to plan, design, construct or carry out a project to build a wall, barrier, fence or road” along the U.S.-Mexico border – or even to build an access road to the wall. That fund has $1.5 billion of the $5 billion-$7 billion Trump wants for his wall.
  • Trump wants to cut the federal poverty rate by redefining poverty down. That would throw millions off eligibility for food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid and federally subsidized housing. Section 634 of the measure tosses that scheme out by banning the government from using any funds to advance it.
  • The measure also tells health insurers their policies for federal workers must include contraceptive coverage – unless the insurers object for religious reasons.
  • In a win for the GOP, the measure also keeps the 44-year-old Hyde Amendment banning federal funding for abortions, in this case, applied to all federal workers, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. On the other hand, the bill also orders federal agencies to give woman workers a site at work to breastfeed their babies.
  • And the bill also bans the frequent GOP scheme to end six-day mail delivery.

Killing OPM would have been a long step back to the old spoils system of the 19th century, and just what Trump and his anti-worker right-wing ideological backers in and out of the White House wanted, said J. David Cox, president of the Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal workers union.

But the Appropriations Financial Services and General Government subcommittee bounced Trump’s anti-OPM plan. Lawmakers inserted a flat ban on the “reckless and potentially dangerous” idea, Cox said. Then, in their June 3 work session, the subcommittee unanimously passed the entire money bill.

Both Trump moves that the panel discarded are part of his ideological war against workers, especially federal workers, and their unions. The war also includes Trump’s executive orders evicting unions from their small spaces within federal office buildings, seizure of phones, fax machines and computers union reps used to help protect workers, and forcing the reps to do so on their own time and on their own dime.

Trump also barred the feds from communicating with lawmakers.

A federal judge in D.C. overturned most Trump anti-federal worker moves last year as both unconstitutional and violating federal law governing union-management relations. But several Trump political appointees, notably the Secretaries of Education and of Veterans Affairs, are following Trump’s orders – and defying the judge.

The Democratic-run House panel appears to be coming to the workers’ defense, however.

The money bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 “would recognize the invaluable contributions federal employees make to our country by providing them with a 3.1% pay raise next year,” Cox said. “The bill also rejects the Trump administration’s reckless proposal to dismantle the Office of Personnel Management, and takes steps to protect workers’ rights.”

Those steps include strong language within the bill to protect rank-and-file whistleblowers, a close reading of the 174-page measure shows.

“Federal employees earn less today than they did at the start of the decade, due to years of pay freezes and incremental adjustments that failed to keep pace with inflation,” Cox elaborated. “Many agencies are struggling to recruit and retain employees due to noncompetitive salaries that lag private-sector standards. This pay raise is a critical investment in our government’s most valuable resource – its workers.”

Treasury Employees (NTEU) President Tony Reardon agreed. His union and other federal unions voiced those same concerns to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a private meeting the week before.

Union members “raised strong concerns about the plan that would give an unconfirmed political appointee control over government-wide personnel policy,” Reardon said. And NTEU “reiterated its position that moving part of OPM to the Executive Office of the President threatens the merit system and removes the agency’s nonpartisan, independent status.”

“NTEU also updated Hoyer on the ongoing attacks on employee collective bargaining rights — particularly at the Department of Health and Human Services — and the need to protect federal employee benefits.”

There are two apparent sections of anti-union language in the measure. One bans all federal agencies from giving unions workers’ home addresses unless the worker agrees or a court authorizes release of the address. That’s followed by a ban on giving telephone numbers, mailing addresses or e-mail lists of worker contacts “to any person or organization outside the federal government” unless the House and Senate Appropriations Committees say “yes.”

The full Democratic-run House Appropriations Committee will consider the measure this month.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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