Secret White House memo says end pensions and retiree health benefits
Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

WASHINGTON — A Trump White House budget memo, leaked to news services and publicized by the Electrical Workers, proposes killing traditional “defined benefit” pensions and retiree health benefits for newly hired federal workers.

And James Sherk, the labor advisor for Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, also demands Trump call for enacting pension “reforms” – a code word for cuts – for the nation’s current two million federal workers.

And he wants to “bring paid leave in line with private sector norms,” while forcing federal workers to pay more for their health care, by eliminating a 25 percent cap on the workers’ co-pays.

Sherk, a former analyst at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, contributed those sections as his part of the Domestic Policy Council’s budget memo. The DPC sent the memo upwards as Trump prepares his proposed federal budget for fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1.

But Trump has already imposed one of Sherk’s schemes: Freezing civilian federal workers’ pay for this calendar year.

Left unmentioned: Thanks to expiration of a prior law funding the “general government,” top Trump officials and insiders got raises on Jan. 1, even as Trump locked out almost 400,000 federal workers and ordered 400,000 more, deemed “essential” to toil without pay.

Sherk’s anti-worker proposals are part of a larger Domestic Policy Council memo. It includes other DPC budget schemes. One would double the budget of the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, to $55 million.

That office enforces the 1959 GOP-passed Landrum-Griffin Act, which forces unions – unlike corporations – to disclose virtually every penny of their spending, from paychecks to paper clips, leaving the records open to mining and exploitation by the radical right and corporate interests.

In one of many other areas, two more Trump DPC staffers proposed increasing work requirements for Medicaid recipients while cutting federal research funds on chronic disease prevention, “environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety.”

They also want to cut money for the Healthy Start program that helps poor kids and their mothers get needed and proper pre-natal and newborn care. Meanwhile, the DPC staff wants Trump to add money for the federal office that lets businesses opt out of providing health care coverage, especially reproductive rights coverage, for “conscience” reasons.

Sherk’s anti-worker schemes continue the Trump government’s “near-constant attack on federal employees,” IBEW Government Employees Department Director Paul O’Connor told one of the services, named Crooked, that leaked the memo.

“Just like the tax plan, it’s about paying dividends to the richest and leaving pennies for the rest of us.”

“The rights of working people are being eroded in the private sector,” O’Connor said. “A 401(k) doesn’t compare to the security of a pension. In a lot of ways, the federal government is the last bastion of solid employee compensation.”

Thanks to Western New York Labor Today, which tipped us off to this story.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.