Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a gun safety forum on Wednesday.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a gun safety forum on Wednesday. John Locher / AP

Warren Promises to Pay Federal Employees During Shutdowns If She Becomes President

Democratic candidate's plan also calls for reversing President Trump’s executive orders "attacking" the federal workforce.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Thursday called for federal employees to continue receiving pay during government shutdowns and pledged to repeal President Trump’s executive orders that weakened federal unions and made it easier to fire workers. 

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, who has been rising in the polls in recent weeks, said she would empower federal employee unions by “immediately” rescinding Trump’s orders.  Warren also promised to “ensure the right of federal workers to strike,” something that is currently prohibited by federal law. That echoes a pledge made by one of her primary opponents, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. She also said she would reverse the “widespread use” of temporary workers. 

The senator released the proposals as part of a larger plan to “empower American workers,” with just a small portion on the federal workforce. In rescinding Trump’s orders, Warren said, she will restore “the ability to grieve personnel actions,” preserve official time for “unions to represent workers fully” and “overturn the limited version of collective bargaining” currently in place.

Trump’s workforce orders went back into effect on Wednesday after a prolonged legal battle. Federal employee unions that have sued the administration over the orders have pledged to continuing fighting “through whatever means available.” After an initial victory in federal court, an appeals court reversed that decision and ruled the labor groups must take their challenge to the Federal Labor Relations Authority. 

Congress passed a law during the most recent shutdown to ensure all federal employees, even those sent home on furlough, automatically receive back pay whenever agencies close. Warren would go a step further by ensuring no paychecks are delayed. 

“I will also fight to ensure that federal workers are paid continuously during government shutdowns rather than facing furloughs and no-pay status,” she said. Many of the hundreds of thousands of feds throughout government impacted by the record-setting shutdown earlier this year said they could not afford groceries, missed mortgage or rent payments, and encountered other financial troubles as they went more than a month without pay

Warren also made several promises related to federal contracting. She vowed to “crack down” on the outsourcing of government work to the private sector, and to require any vendor that does receive a federal contract to pay employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour. She also pledged to use “every legal tool” available through the federal procurement process to promote companies with a unionized workforce. 

The presidential candidate has previously pledged to double the number of career diplomats at the State Department and to boost funding and employment for management of federal lands.