New NTEU president scolds GOP over telework, anti-worker rhetoric
The recently elected union leader said labor groups need to do more to educate the public on how federal workers benefit their lives.
New National Treasury Employees Union National President Doreen Greenwald took Republican lawmakers to task Monday over their “false” rhetoric toward the federal workforce and workplace flexibilities like telework.
“They have an interest in making it look as if the government doesn’t work for the American people, but the fact is, federal employees are just doing the work that Congress asks us to do,” Greenwald said. “If you want the work done, you have to expect people to do it, and you want them to be skilled and knowledgeable so that it’s done efficiently. People will print whatever they want to make their positions known, but many times it’s not based in fact.”
Greenwald hosted her first discussion with reporters Monday following her election to succeed Tony Reardon at the helm of the federal government’s second-largest labor union following Reardon's retirement last month. She is a longtime IRS employee and has been a dues-paying NTEU member for 38 years, eventually serving as president of NTEU Chapter 1, which represents IRS workers in Wisconsin, for 14 years.
Much of Monday’s discussion was focused on the prevalence of “false information” in debates concerning the federal workforce and agencies’ workplace policies, whether it be on telework, the civil service or the appropriations process, and the union’s efforts to “educate” Americans about the reality of public service.
Earlier this month, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, accused teleworking federal workers of “fraud” for purportedly moving away from Washington, D.C., but still receiving that region’s locality pay, despite a lack of evidence to support her claims. Human capital leaders from four agencies last week told lawmakers that federal employees who relocated during the pandemic saw their locality pay adjusted when appropriate.
“One of the things NTEU is working very hard now is to educate the public and break through some of the false info that’s out there,” Greenwald said. “Statements like, ‘Bring people back to work,’ ignores the fact that people have been working throughout the pandemic, and thankfully they were able to do that. Imagine if the government had to shut down this whole time? People get hung up on whether people are getting back into the office, when telework can be ad hoc or as much as five days a week, depending on the regulations and travel, but most people telework two or three days per pay period or per week. If you look at the productivity of agencies meeting their missions, all their numbers are due to people both in the office and teleworking, people who are working regardless of where they are.”
Similarly, she called out conservatives advocating for the return of Schedule F, a controversial but ultimately abortive Trump-era initiative to convert tens of thousands of career civil servants in “policy-related” positions into a new job category, stripping them of their civil service protections and effectively making them at-will employees. OPM on Monday proposed new regulations aimed at making it more difficult for a future Republican administration to revive the plan.
“I don’t think people fully understand what Schedule F is really all about,” she said. “Too often there’s a lot of false information out there—people have said it’s necessary to be able to fire federal workers, but again, that is so far from the truth. Anyone who’s covered the federal government understands that federal workers are held accountable and that there are processes in place to discipline and remove them. What’s very concerning is what this means to the Civil Service Reform Act in general, and how this could impact it.”
And she called arguments by some politicians that there exists a so-called “deep state” of leftist bureaucrats who work to undermine Republican presidents a “myth.”
“My experience in government is that when you come to work, you leave your politics at the door and you do the work that you were hired to do,” she said. “Changing that would be dangerous. People [seeking services from federal agencies] need to know who they’re working with and that they’ll be treated in a fair and equitable manner. That’s the point of a nonpartisan civil service—that continuity, that consistency administration from administration to administration to deliver for the American people.”