Trump’s federal hiring freeze will make the swamp swampier

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

As one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump on Monday signed a presidential memorandum instituting a hiring freeze across the federal government, except for the military.

The move follows through on a pledge he made on the campaign trail, albeit a couple of days late, to halt federal hiring on his first day of office. This, he said, would “reduce federal workforce through attrition” and tie into his pledge to “drain the swamp” and address corruption. But past experience shows that across-the-board government hiring freezes don’t reduce the workforce or save money. On the contrary, they often increase costs while making the government’s work less accountable to the public.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office concluded as much in 1982. In a report released at that time that looked back at four previous freezes, it found, “Government-wide hiring freezes have not been an effective means of controlling Federal employment.”

Because freezes were doled out equally, regardless of each agency’s workload, agencies had to find other ways to get their work done — and many turned to contractors, which aren’t subject to the same transparency regulations as the government workforce. That includes disclosure laws like the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Register Act that make information on what employees do available to the public.

Contracting out of government work has continued in recent years, however; in the wake of hiring freeze imposed by President Obama, the number of contract workers has jumped, doubling between 1999 and 2010. There are now 3.7 million people contracted to do the government’s work, compared to 2.1 on its payrolls.

Freezes, the GAO found in 1982, also “caused decreased oversight of Federal programs by making it more difficult for the Inspector General offices to do their jobs.”

The report also couldn’t conclude that freezes save money. Contractors still have to be paid. Other agencies reacted to them by simply forcing existing employees to work more, which meant they had to be paid more through overtime, or by hiring part-time and temporary workers. And when agencies were forced to cut back on what they got done, it meant the government lost revenue and failed to collect debts. All of that ended up costing more money. “Any potential savings produced by these freezes would be partially or completely offset,” the GAO wrote.

Trump has also promised to be the “greatest jobs producer that God ever created.” But his action will mean thousands of people who would have otherwise been hired by the federal government must still wait for a job. The federal government had hired 42,000 people in October and another 41,000 in November, but now that process will come to a halt, even though it had another 81,000 jobs it wanted to fill as of November.

Although Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday afternoon that there has been a “dramatic expansion” of the federal workforce, it’s actually declined for some time outside of temporary spikes in Census years. By raw numbers it’s at a lower level than it was in 1967 and has shrunk dramatically as a share of the overall workforce.


Reposted from ThinkProgress.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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