Trump’s Re-Organization Plan Disrupts / Eliminates Bargaining Units in Federal Government
seen as a scheme to eliminate essential programs and public-service jobs, reward or punish political appointees depending on their allegiance to the White House, and privatize government

FedSmith, June 24, 2018

As noted in Proposal to Revamp OPM, Labor and Education Department, the Trump administration is proposing a significant revamping of the federal government. As noted in the introduction to the document: “while some of the proposals are ready for agency implementation, others establish a vision for the Executive Branch that will require further exploration and partnership with the Congress.” This earlier article briefly discusses changes proposed for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Department of Labor and the Department of Education.

In other words, some of these proposals can be implemented by the administration. Other portions will require Congressional action.
While any significant change in government creates controversy and legal challenges, the proposal is worth reading and considering. Some of the programs placed in agencies created years ago made sense at the time. Subsequent changes may have resulted in the existing structure making little sense and creating confusion, chaos and conflicting policies emanating from government.

Purpose of the Proposal

The report seeks to create a more efficient organizational structure for the Federal Government. Numerous programs with many similarities have been created over time but may be administered by different agencies. With different agencies regulating similar issues, there is often (usually?) little or no coordination. The proposal seeks to create a structure that will lead to more efficiency in government and more uniform policies by putting similar functions in the same organization.

No doubt, if these proposals are enacted they will impact most of the federal workforce. Many employees would move to different organizations. There would be some agencies performing the same or similar duties that could be consolidated. There would also likely be a chance of promotions for some employees as some organizations would expand.

Union Reaction

Unions often fear and fight changes and this proposal is no exception. According to an AFGE press release:

There’s little reason to believe this reorganization plan is anything more than a scheme to eliminate essential programs and public-service jobs, reward or punish political appointees depending on their allegiance to the White House, and privatize government programs to reward political donors. We are particularly alarmed over proposals to privatize both the U.S. Postal Service and our federal air traffic control system.

There are varying reasons for the reaction of this and other federal unions. Among the most important, but not often cited, is that the structure of bargaining units would change. New units could be larger while others would become smaller or disappear. This would lead to new union elections where employees would determine which union, if any, would represent the new organizations. Changes such as this can lead to reduced income from dues paid by employees, increases the possibility of some unions losing (and others gaining) the right to represent employees they currently represent, and election of new employees representatives at the bargaining unit level.

Once a union is elected, there is seldom any change. Once elected, the union is likely to remain as the representative for many years. The reorganization plan would upend some of these long term arrangements.

Of course, assigning current government functions to private companies would eliminate representation of these employees by their current union(s). While that may benefit others, the financial impact on federal employee unions currently representing the employees would be significant and very costly.

So, even if the plan could result in a more efficient and effective government, change is often scary and threatening to existing interests. Consolidation of some of the functions as outlined in the plan appear to make sense and would restructure some systems that are not very rational. Whether any changes will actually occur, and whether the proposals would benefit government operations, is still unknown.

In all likelihood, the administration views the proposal as a significant part of “draining the swamp” and trying to create a better federal government operation.
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