Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., wrote an open letter Wednesday seeking candidates' plans.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., wrote an open letter Wednesday seeking candidates' plans. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmaker Asks Democratic Presidential Candidates How They Would Rebuild the Federal Workforce

The Trump administration has done “lasting damage to the integrity, morale and retention of our federal workforce,” Virginia congresswoman writes.

Ahead of Super Tuesday voting, a Virginia congresswoman is asking the Democratic presidential candidates to explain their plans for rebuilding the federal workforce after President Trump leaves office.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va.—who represents the most federal workers of any congressional freshman—wrote an open letter Wednesday to the 10 Democratic candidates to learn how they would fix the “lasting damage to the integrity, morale, and retention of our federal workforce” if elected. She noted that the next president will be the “CEO of the largest employer in our country,” as there are over 2 million federal employees, 85% of whom live outside the Washington, D.C., region.

“This administration has launched attack after attack on the nonpartisan civil service—severely undercutting workers’ rights, deliberately leaving agencies understaffed and key positions unfilled and using employees as bargaining chips in budget negotiations,” Wexton wrote. “Federal workers make America work. What will you do to reinstill faith in our nation’s best and brightest that a career in public service is one worth pursuing?” 

Wexton cited data showing that about 60% of federal offices saw a drop in job satisfaction in 2018 after three years of improvement, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group's annual rankings. 

The Virginia Democrat gave a few examples of how she believes the administration has “undermined our federal agencies through executive order, [and] appointed agency heads who are overtly hostile to the missions of the agencies they serve.” For instance Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s relocation of two agency offices has resulted in a staffing drop of 75% at each office, Wexton said, and employees’ scientific research reports were delayed or not published. She also cited Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ implementation of a collective bargaining agreement that limited workers’ rights and the administration's “purging federal employees it considers disloyal.”

Wexton represents over 35,000 federal workers in her district and has been an advocate for federal employees on issues such as paid parental leave and a pay raise. In a press release, Wexton said that she has not decided how she will vote in her state’s primary on Tuesday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has unveiled a specific plan related to reforming the government. One of the priorities in that plan is to ensure that agencies are fully staffed. “To implement the kind of big, structural changes I have proposed, we will need to address the substantial vacancies in career civil service positions left behind by the Trump administration,” Warren said, adding, “If our government doesn’t have good people, it can’t perform for the American people.”

Other candidates have more broadly promised to protect federal workers' rights. Sens. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has said he would give federal employees the right to strike, for instance. Similarly, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has said that in her first 100 days, she would “immediately rescind executive orders signed by President Trump that severely restrict federal workers’ rights,” which includes the right to collectively bargain.