Op-Ed: Many federal public union employees remain AWOL



“Some government workers are dedicated and work hard, but most of them are just waiting to retire.” – Wanda Sykes

The differences between pre- and post-pandemic Washington D.C. are day and night. Downtown is more quiet and vacant like a western ghost town since many people went hybrid or remote. Gone are many high-end shopping districts that went out of business when people went out of town. Now, almost everything you find in the malls is far less sophisticated than four years ago. Washington D.C. feels and looks deserted since people went remote or hybrid since businesses had few to cater to.

When federal employees saw the opportunity to telecast their work from their home offices, people watching greatly diminished since there were significantly fewer people to watch. This has resulted in many businesses either downsizing or closing down because there are fewer people to patronize them. The cost of living has gone up dramatically, which is also driving up the crime rate. D.C. which use to be a thriving hub of commerce, politics, and social amenities, is a shadow of its former self.

Strolling through downtown these days, the city’s grand avenues and stately facades feel like they are only a movie set, a shell of the lively epicenter it was prior to the pandemic. The for-lease signs abound empty glass towers largely because federal employees account for about one-third of all jobs in downtown Washington, D.C. The less-busy streets reflect a city where many won’t work.

President Joe Biden officially ended the national COVID-19 public health emergency over a year ago, but federal agencies are struggling to get employees back in their offices. Agencies claim they are being short changed since those working remote can’t be monitored and this hurts their production.

When the White House federal workforce saw the opportunity to leave Washington for the friendly confines of the suburbs during COVID, many jumped on the first train out of town. This has hurt D.C. so badly Mayor Muriel Bowser told Biden to “bring federal workers back to work immediately.”

“Nothing gets accomplished here unless you complain loudly to the right people.” – Muriel Bowser

Department and agency heads are getting scolded by lawmakers as they parade through hearing rooms on Capitol Hill to defend their 2025 budgets. The Public Buildings Reform Board used cell phone location data to gauge the occupancy rates of agency headquarters in Washington from January through September 2023. They found them at just under 30% of the pre-pandemic levels.

During his recent State of the Union address, Biden promised the nation that federal workers will return to working in their D.C. offices within days. This is a taxpayer-funded federal workforce with over 2 million people that has been waiting for the other shoe to drop on their in-home comfort work stations.

“I’ll get these people back to work if I have to send in troops to get them.” – Joe Biden

In response to Biden’s plans to end “federal work at home offices” last week, the White House Office of Management issued a time sensitive guidance for agencies to “substantially increase productive in-person work at Federal offices, particularly at headquarters and their equivalents.”

Biden’s mandate went over like a lead balloon with federal unionized employees who were told that Biden’s harsh decree to return to work possibly violated their union contract. The largest federal union, the American Federation of Government Employees said “the voices and concerns of the employees directly affected deserve to be heard as this guidance manifests into all agencies.”

In a statement to reporters, Randy Erwin, of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said, “Customer service and mission-delivery challenges, are not the result of maximum telework. They are a result of staffing shortages and insufficient funding by Congress, which should never happen.”

Since this is an election year, concerned Washington residents are watching their tax dollars spent paying rent on empty federal offices. The Public Buildings Reform Board found that the Agriculture Department had office space for 7,500 workers last year but averaged just 456. The Department of Veterans Affairs had space for over 2,400 workers but averaged just 172. The Energy Department said it had space for over 4,800 workers, yet it averaged just “eight on-site employees each day.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, impassioned, “lives are on the line.” He said the pharmaceutical industry is struggling to get innovative new medications approved because of telework issues at the Food and Drug Administration. He reiterated this is critical. “Some of these people are dying!”

A new Federal News Network survey shows that approximately 30 percent of the 6,338 federal workers surveyed were fully remote. A mere 6 percent were entirely in-office, leaving a significant majority navigating a hybrid work setup. And their efficiency can’t be tracked by anyone so we must rely on word of mouth.

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” – Mark Twain

Other departments are struggling with evaluations. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told lawmakers that his employees are following the standard 50-50, with five days in the office and five days teleworking every 10-day work period. But he admitted that his department does not have any idea on levels of productivity for employees at home compared to the office.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R- Iowa, questioned why the department was pushing for spending on energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings when it was wasting energy keeping its building closed?

“If the administration is serious about energy conservation, instead of spending more money, you could instead stop paying to heat, cool, light, and operate this ghost town of vacant DC buildings.”

Organized labor is coming back to bite the hand that feeds them. U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Virginia, said he couldn’t believe the scene at a Boston Labor Department office when federal union employees showed up to protest having to return to work in person. “ He said, “Do you see the irony in that?”

John Swift wrote, “Union work is also close enough for government work.” When Ronald Reagan was president, he fired the air traffic controllers because their union told them not to return to work. We’ve not had problems since then. Since the unions and big government are best friends, Biden is stuck between a rock and hard place. They won’t let him bully employees into returning to their D.C. offices and there’s nothing Biden can do since they pay for so many of the Democrats’ elections through campaign contributions.

When government paid less in wages, they gave away the farm in benefits to attract good people. But today, their salaries are equal to those in private industry and employees have great benefits and job security that are the best in the nation.

“Unions have the power to control anything in the nation that they wish. They can even choose who they want to elect as president.” – Jimmy Hoffa

Read the Black Chronicle Black History Edition for Free! Click Below

Read the Black Chronicle Black History Edition for Free! Click Below



Share post:


More like this

Everyday Economics: The countdown to rate cuts has begun, for real this time

After a blockbuster jobs report cast doubt over Federal...

Trump, Biden faceoff heats up

This 2024 election cycle has seen several major developments...