With a new administration taking office today, so changes will follow throughout the federal workforce. President Biden has said that he plans to alter the Trump administration’s federal workplace policies, from everything that may be easily waved, to dedicating time to longer processes of reform.
Biden’s first move will probably be to redact the trio of executive orders from May 2018, in which Trump granted a major increase of ability for management to control and fire federal employees. Trump’s order allowed agencies to dictate the subjects over which they would bargain, set limits on the amounts of union official time, and also gave the green light to management to exert the fullest range of its powers under law. At the time in 2018, J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, said in a statement: “These executive orders are a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed.”
Biden has been vocal in his opposition to these executive orders, and during his presidential campaign he said that: “On my first day in office, I will restore federal employees’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, restore their right to official time, and direct agencies to bargain with federal employee unions over non-mandatory subjects of bargaining. I will aggressively hold the line against any effort to undermine workers’ rights and to diminish federal employees’ right to due process in the workplace.”
Hopefully another early target for Biden is the new service Schedule F job classification, enacted by Trump in his executive order last year in which hundreds of thousands of federal workers convert into at-will employees, essentially turning the civil service into a partisan machine where jobs can be handed out as rewards for political support. Employees converted to Schedule F would lose a major amount of their civil service protections and could be fired without cause. The Office of Management and Budget had identified 88% of its workforce for the new Schedule F classification.
It has been anticipated that once Biden took office, he would rescind the Schedule F job classification, so the question is likely not if but when. With the ongoing pandemic and national economic instability on the forefront of the nation’s mind, it is hard to say exactly when Biden will prioritize rescinding this executive order when there is still so much to be done for the struggling American people.
Another candidate for quick repeal is Trump’s executive order banning certain kinds of diversity and inclusion training for federal employees, contractors and grantees. Biden plans to sign a new executive order, designed to begin “the work of embedding equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programs and institutions.”
Under this new executive order, federal agencies will be directed to conduct a review of the “state of equity” within their organizations. Agencies will then have 200 days to outline and detail their plans for dealing with unequal barriers within their policies and programs.
From reinstating federal employees’ rights to bargain and defend their jobs, to removing the politically charged leverage of Schedule F, and also making sure diversity and inclusion are guaranteed within the federal workplace, Biden should be busy during his first days in office.