WASHINGTON - Some of the largest federal worker unions say they will fight President Donald Trump's efforts to reform the federal workforce. During a massive rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday, government workers demanded a raise and said Trump’s budget proposal demonizes them.
This is partially about pay and partially about politics. Democrats have long enjoyed support and financial backing of government unions. While Democrats have pledged to fight for a pay raise for government workers, the unions in turn say they will back Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Trump administration wants to end automatic pay raises and make it a merit-based system. They also want to make it easier to get rid of bad workers and make it easier to reward good workers.
But many Democrats have rejected those reforms and they view this as an attack on the federal workforce.
"They don't want to know how government affects people so they take it out on you and say, ‘Well, we don't need so many public employees and they don’t need to be paid,’" said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, at the rally.
"Dignity and due process. That is what is being damaged by that orange-haired guy in the White House and his enablers, rationalizers and equivocators on the Republican side of the aisle here in the Congress," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
The fact that President Trump wants to put underperforming federal government workers on notice should come as no surprise to anyone who followed his presidential campaign as he repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and bring into the federal workforce the merit-based pay raises that are common in the private workforce.
While the union leaders rallied with Democrats on Wednesday, analysts say employee surveys show some of the biggest complaints about the current system of pay raises and promotions comes from federal workers themselves.
"Federal employees themselves will tell you in surveys that they see it is not about who performs and too many individuals are kept on the roles that should let go, and that destroys morale among high performers when they see others getting paid, but not doing their job," said Romina Boccia of The Heritage Foundation.
During his term, President Barack Obama froze the federal pay rate for several years.
Unions say they now want 3 percent pay raise for federal workers. That is in line with many private companies who are forecasting 3 percent increases this year. But supporters of Trump say under his plan, federal workers could make even more by getting merit-based raises.