PAGE Act would politicize federal workforce, upend pay and pension system, abolish unions

WASHINGTON – Some members of the House of Representatives are continuing their assault on working families with a venomous piece of legislation that would politicize the federal government’s workforce and give political appointees unchecked authority to fire, demote, and discipline employees at will, the American Federation of Government Employees said today.

“Giving political appointees and the managers who serve them free reign to punish workers without cause, while removing the checks and balances that keep everyone honest, is the antithesis of accountability,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The bill, to be introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana, would make all new federal employees “at will” workers, meaning they could be suspended or fired for any reason or no reason. It also would allow political appointees to immediately suspend current workers, deny them pay, and allow them just 10 days to appeal.

“Instead of encouraging frontline workers to report mismanagement or wasteful spending, this bill would create an environment where employees are fearful of doing or saying anything that could get them fired,” Cox said. “If this bill had been in place two years ago, we never would have heard about the Phoenix VA waitlist manipulations because no one would have dared come forward to blow the whistle on the supervisors who concocted the scheme.”

In addition, the bill would:
Deny any pay adjustment whatsoever to workers who fail to receive a performance rating above “fully successful” in a new, management-designed rating system that would inevitably allow subjectivity, favoritism, and politics to influence ratings.
Allow the government to deny earned pensions to any current or future employee who is convicted of a felony.
Eliminate an employee’s right to representation at the worksite by no longer allowing union representatives to resolve disputes, address issues of discrimination or retaliation, or propose improvements in the workplace during the workday.
Allow agencies to continue workplace investigations even after employees have quit or retired.
Allow political appointees to demote career executives and reduce their pay without cause.

“This bill is called the Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act, but it actually would do neither,” Cox said. “In fact, a better title would be the Promote Fear and Political Allegiance Act, since it would give political appointees and their subordinates unchecked authority to target workers and politicize the civil service.”

A key provision of Rokita’s “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency (PAGE) Act” states:

Any employee in the civil service hired on or after the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act shall be hired on an at-will basis. Such an employee may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.
The PAGE Act completely undermines our nation's civil service system by making all new federal employees "at will," taking away federal employees' due process rights, silencing the voices of federal employees by eliminating their right to have union representatives in the workplace, and giving the government the authority to take away their earned pensions.

The PAGE Act would politicize the civil service, taking us back to the 19th century before enactment of the Pendleton Act in 1883. Prior to the Pendleton Act, all Executive Branch employees were "at will," and appointed on the basis of patronage— "to the victor went the spoils." This resulted in a partisan civil service, which changed when a new Presidential administration took office and jeopardized the mission readiness of federal agencies. The services that federal employees provide are too important to the American public to allow this to happen again.
At-Will Employment, From Congress’ First Week
By Eric Katz 
Government Executive anuary 6, 2017

Lawmakers have wasted no time introducing measures to overhaul the civil service and adjust the size of the federal workforce, putting forward several pieces of legislation in the first week of the 115th Congress to make wide-ranging reforms.

Perhaps most notably, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., laid out his plan to reintroduce the Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act to turn all new federal workers into at-will employees. First presented in October during the last session of Congress, the measure would strip new federal hires from due process protections, instead allowing supervisors to fire them without notice or the opportunity to appeal. It would also allow agencies to immediately suspend current feds without warning and would prohibit any employees not receiving top marks on their performance reviews from getting a pay raise. 

The at-will portion of the measure would only apply to new employees hired one year after its enactment, and allow agency heads to fire workers “without notice or right to appeal.” Employees fired under certain circumstances would retain appeal rights, but only to one agency. An excepted employee could, for example, appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but not both. Agencies would be required to notify new hires they are at-will employees upon onboarding them.

Other provisions of the bill would prevent feds found guilty of a work-related felony from collecting a retirement pension and allow agency heads to cut Senior Executive Service employees’ pay by downgrading them to a General Schedule position. It also would end the practice of official time, which allows employees to conduct mediation-type union activity while receiving a federal salary and working in a federal workspace.

The bill earned immediate rebuke from federal employee advocates, who said it would effectively end the apolitical civil service.
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Chicago, IL

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A resurrected House rule lets Congress go open season on civil servants