White House proposes merging Education and Labor departments

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PRESIDENT TRUMP, flanked by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, answers questions in August 2017 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. The White House announced plans recently to merge the two departments as part of a broader reorganization of the federal government. – Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Part of a reorganization of the federal government

Washington – The White House unveiled plans recently to merge the departments of Education and Labor as part of an overall reorganization of the federal government.

The proposed merger, if approved by Congress, would mark a significant step toward the Trump administration’s goal of decreasing the federal workforce.

The Education Department, which has already shrunk under the Trump administration, employs around 3,900 people, making it one of the smallest federal agencies. The Labor Department employs roughly 15,000 workers.

The reorganization proposal also includes:

• Privatizing the U.S. Postal Service and the federal air traffic control system;

• Removing the food stamp and school meal programs from USDA – Moving those programs into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and renaming the department to include “welfare” in its name; and

• Dismantling the Office of Personnel Management, and allowing the Executive Office of the President to take over federal personnel policy, in what J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said is “a straightforward attempt to politicize the civil service.”

“There’s little reason to believe this reorganization plan is anything more than a scheme to eliminate essential programs and public-service jobs, reward or punish political appointees ––depending on their allegiance to the White House –– and privatize government programs to reward political donors,” Cox said.

“These proposals are out of touch and demonstrative of a president who not only does not respect the hard work of federal employees, but does not understand their expertise, service, or value,” he said.

STRIPPING FEDERAL WORKERS OF THEIR BARGAINING RIGHTS

President Trump issued three executive orders last month that strip all agencies of their ability to bargain terms and conditions of employment and enforce a political scheme to fire employees without due process.

“Left unchallenged, these directives will deprive two million workers of their rights to work with agency management to address and resolve workplace issues such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, improving workplace health and safety, enforcing reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, and so much more,” Cox said.

“Taken together with his directives targeting federal workers, the reorganization plans being pushed through by President Trump are an unprecedented power grab and have nothing to do with improving the efficiency or effectiveness of government.”

‘CONGRESS SHOULD REJECT IT’

“In any normal administration, combining some of the core functions of the Education and Labor Departments might make sense in terms of bringing together programs that educate children and prepare Americans for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) said. “Having workforce development — also known as adult education — in one department, and K-12, career and technical education, and college education in another, may not have made sense.
“But there is nothing normal about this administration,” Weingarten said. “So we’re extremely skeptical of the motivations here, given how hostile (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos and President Trump have been to public education, workers and unions.

“It seems like this move is just cover for continuing their agenda to go after public schools, gut civil rights and equity protections, provide support for predatory student loan companies and prey on workers. We strongly oppose this move, and Congress should reject it.”

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