Biden takes key steps to restore America’s federal government in first 100 days
As we mark the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, the Americans who have dedicated their lives to public service in the federal government have a lot to celebrate.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who care for our veterans, keep our communities safe, conduct basic research, and have put their lives on the line during this pandemic to keep essential government services running. Unfortunately, in the previous administration, instead of being honored for their selfless service, these fellow Americans were the subject of baseless conspiracy theories and vicious, unwarranted attacks.
While running for office, President Biden pledged to reverse course, restore the integrity of the civil service, and repair the damage done by the previous administration to workers’ rights, to the merit system principles that safeguard against politicization of our government, to the missions of our federal agencies, and to our democracy overall.
In just over two months in office, I’m proud to report that President Biden has not only worked with my union, AFGE, to fulfill those promises, but has exceeded them — setting the stage for a revitalized federal workforce that will be able to partner with the administration to improve on the services we deliver to the American people.
First, President Biden took several actions to safeguard workers’ rights and get rid of union-busters who had been appointed to key posts by the former president.
In his first days in office, President Biden took swift action to rescind the anti-union May 2018 executive orders that were designed to eliminate federal employees’ collective bargaining, due process, and workplace representation rights. He also rescinded the Schedule F executive order, issued in October 2020, that attempted to politicize a large portion of the career civil service and strip employees of due process rights and protections.
Likewise, President Biden ousted all 10 union-busting members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel and appointed a new chair to the Federal Labor Relations Authority, who is a long-time labor attorney and former legislative counsel to the AFL-CIO. President Biden also named a new chair and vice chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to replace leadership that had forced through a contentious anti-union rule on a party-line vote.
These important actions will help end the adversarial relationship between workers and management in the federal government and make it possible for us to partner together to work in the best interests of the American people.
One of the biggest areas of conflict between workers and the previous administration was around the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, officials from the previous administration often tried to deny serious health and safety issues existed before being forced to own up to the problems.
In contrast, President Biden took immediate steps to control the COVID-19 pandemic in federal workplaces by mandating masks on federal property and prioritizing vaccinations for federal workers. He also issued an executive order calling on OSHA to review current COVID-19 safety standards and revise them according to science.
Furthermore, President Biden signed legislation that provides all federal workers with 15 weeks of emergency paid leave to address COVID-19 issues and establishes an automatic presumption of workplace illness for employees who have contracted the virus. These actions help prevent the spread of disease in the workplace and ensure if a worker does catch COVID-19, they can get the care they need.
Finally, President Biden eliminated the disgraceful and wrongheaded ban on diversity and inclusion training imposed by the previous administration, reopening the doorway for employees to learn from one another’s perspectives and treat each other with dignity and respect.
As the head of the largest union representing federal workers, I’m thrilled by all the actions the Biden administration has taken thus far to restore employees’ trust and Americans’ faith in their government. And I have no doubt that this is just the beginning.
The Biden-Harris administration is well on the path to becoming the most pro-worker administration in generations — one that sees labor unions as partners, not pariahs, and treats employees as a precious resource to develop, not demonize.
It’s this philosophy that will bring out the best in each and every worker, which will in turn mean better programs and services being delivered to each and every American.
Everett Kelley is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, which is the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees.