The news comes as no surprise following the Trump administration’s concerted efforts to diminish the role of labor groups at federal agencies and cut benefits and protections for frontline federal workers.
The two largest federal employee unions on Monday both endorsed former vice president Joe Biden for president.
Although the news may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, the decisions by the American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union to wait until July—after the presidential primary process had effectively ended—marked a shift from the previous election cycle. AFGE endorsed Hillary Clinton in December 2015 and NTEU, in January 2016.
Officials at both unions said that between presumptive Democratic nominee Biden and President Trump, it was a simple choice. They cited the Trump administration’s hostility toward organized labor and perennial efforts to institute pay freezes for federal workers and to cut their retirement benefits as big factors behind their decisions.
“For AFGE members who are concerned about providing for themselves and their families, protecting their rights at work, being able to perform their job without undue political influence, and ensuring the security of their pay, benefits and retirement, Joe Biden is the clear choice,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.
Both unions cited Trump’s three controversial workforce executive orders that made it easier to fire federal workers, shortened the collective bargaining process and placed severe limits on union employees’ access to official time as examples of the administration’s hostility toward federal workers. Biden has indicated he would undo much of the current White House’s workforce policy.
“Vice President Biden told me personally that he would rescind the federal workforce executive orders, which is the clearest possible example of how a Biden presidency would immediately improve the professional lives of federal employees,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “[Throughout] his career, Joe Biden has been an advocate of fair pay and benefits and giving front line employees a meaningful voice in the federal workplace.”
AFGE officials reported that through an internal union survey, a clear majority of members—58.4%—encouraged leadership to endorse Biden, compared to 28% voting in favor of a Trump endorsement. Only 10.4% of respondents said the union should not endorse a candidate, with the remaining 3.2% suggesting a write-in candidate. Labor officials also noted that while Biden provided a detailed answer to the union’s candidate questionnaire, the Trump campaign failed to respond at all.
“Over the course of his campaign, Vice President Biden’s team has proactively reached out to AFGE to solicit policy proposals, and they have incorporated a number of AFGE priorities into the vice president’s various policy plans,” Kelley said. “President Trump declined to respond to AFGE members’ questions through our presidential questionnaire, continuing his total disrespect for federal and D.C. government workers. His record speaks for itself.”
The National Federation of Federal Employees and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which is made up of a mix of federal and private sector employees, have yet to announce their own endorsements in this year’s presidential race.