Trump Cancels Federal Employees’ Scheduled Pay Raise
On Thursday, in the latest example of the Trump Administrations’ battle against government employee unions, President Trump announced that he was cancelling across-the-board pay raises for civilian federal workers. Last year, the White House and Congress agreed to an average pay raise of 1.4 percent for civilian workers and 2.1 percent for service members. Members of the military are still slated to receive their raise, but the civilians’ raise has been axed. Under Thursday’s announcement, about 1.8 million people will not get an automatic pay boost come 2019.
Trump blamed the nation’s fiscal situation, stating that “We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” The need for maintaining fiscal stability comes despite the fact that in 2017, the President signed a package of tax cuts that is predicted to add roughly $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over the next ten years. He has called for federal worker pay to be based on performance and be structured toward recruiting, as rewards are given to “high-performing employees and those with critical skill sets.”
Pay for military personnel will not be affected; in fact, service members are due to receive a boosted 2.6 percent pay increase in 2019. The raise came as part of a $716 billion defense spending bill that Trump signed earlier this month, and the President frequently praises the raise while describing his administration’s accomplishments.
It is the traditional time of year for such announcements: the White House typically issues pay orders at the end of August. This practice is to avoid costly automatic pay increases that occur on October 1st, in the absence of a spending bill. Pay freezes for civilian government workers are nothing new; under the Obama Administration, civilian workers faced multiple years of freezes as the country recovered from 2008’s recession. Trump’s freeze is unexpected, however, as the economy surged 4.2 percent last quarter.
His announcement on Thursday does follow his typical stance; in May, Trump signed executive orders that made it easier for managers to fire underperforming employees, and to order the renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements. This week, a judge struck down those executive orders and argued that Trump exceeded his authority and was intentionally trying to incapacitate unions’ ability to negotiate.
Once Trump announced the cancellation, backlash came almost immediately from a variety of sides. Republicans, Democrats, and union leaders all made clear their opposition of Thursday’s freeze. The denial of an increase in pay is troubling for civilian workers, as living costs continue to rise, and they have already endured years of little to no increase in pay.
The president of Machinists Union International, Robert Martinez Jr., released a statement calling it “a slap in the face” for workers. “We are approaching a dangerous national security situation when we will be unable to attract the best and brightest to fill important roles within our federal government,” he said. This is an aspect that also worries federal employees; if wages are stagnant, there may be trouble when it comes to recruiting new workers in the future.
Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) said she would make an effort to reverse the pay freeze. “We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees,” she said in a sharp statement.Representative Scott Taylor (R-Va.) agreed on Twitter: “Our offices oppose this and will be working with other offices next week on this issue.” He made clear how much he opposes the Administration’s proposal to freeze pay.
“Zero. This seems to be how much respect President trump has for federal workers,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote. “It is outrageous and hypocritical after spending billions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. Suddenly, the White House finds that there is zero money left to pay a minimal cost-of-living adjustment to patriotic, dedicated public servants.”
It seems that Trump’s cancelling of across-the-board pay raises for federal employees has led to dissent across the board. It’s a common theme in today’s America that workers are struggling with stagnant wages, and according to the President, working for the government as a civilian does not carry any exception.
Laura Myers is a Lead Contributor for theDailyLead.