The Biden administration took a critical step Friday in reversing the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on the federal workforce by giving agencies specific directions on rejecting directives from the former president.

In a memorandum to government agencies, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) acting director Kathleen M. McGettigan told officials how to implement President Biden’s Jan. 22 order revoking actions by President Donald Trump that undermined federal unions, facilitated firing federal employees faster and disrupted the workforce.

Her memo repeatedly tells agency officials that they “shall immediately cease,” or words to that effect, implementation of Trump’s executive orders. That includes rescinding collective bargaining provisions and regulations meant to implement his policies.

President Joe Biden issued 19 executive orders in his first week, far more than previous presidents in that period. (Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Furthermore, McGettigan told agency officials to “take a hard look” at how a particular Trump order might have “influenced bargaining-table strategy and decision making.”

Union leaders had complained that agencies weren’t moving fast enough to enforce Biden’s order.

The memo further establishes Biden’s more open and cooperative approach to labor organizations, in contrast to Trump, who successfully weakened their ability to represent federal employees, including those who are not union members.

Biden’s order “was a really important and critical first step to repairing the damage” that Trump did to the federal workforce, said one administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly.

McGettigan’s memo bolsters the thrust of Biden’s approach by noting his executive order said, “Career civil servants are the backbone of the Federal workforce” and that “it is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.”

Biden’s order, and the guidance implementing it, cover Trump’s three May 2018 executive orders on the federal workforce and another one from October. Here are Trump’s directives:

“Developing Efficient, Effective, and Cost-Reducing Approaches To Federal Sector Collective Bargaining” claimed collective bargaining agreements made “it harder for agencies to reward high performers, hold low-performers accountable, or flexibly respond to operational needs.”

The order provided a pathway for an agency to unilaterally impose a contract on a union if it did not accept an administration offer and did not submit a counterproposal in what agency officials considered “a timely manner.”

Trump’s order also created an Interagency Labor Relations Working Group, led by the OPM director. It was charged with developing ground rules restricting agency labor negotiations. The group also was directed to analyze contracts to determine the consequences of those agreements on agency “effectiveness, efficiency, cost of operations, and employee accountability and performance.”

“Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Use” sharply reduced union use of “official time.” Official time allows union representatives to perform certain activities on behalf of the workforce while being paid by the government. Those activities include filing grievances and discussions on topics such as workplace productivity and safety that involve all staffers. Under official time, union officials must represent all employees and not just union members.

Although “official time” is statutory language, Trump’s order and his officials scorned it as “taxpayer-funded union time.”

This order also took away union offices within federal buildings. Before this, labor representatives in some buildings had rent-free workplaces they used to represent employees. That included office and meeting space, computers, phones and reserved parking spaces.

“Promoting Accountability and Streamlining Removal Procedures Consistent With Merit System Principles” said implementation of civil service laws had failed to ensure that federal employees are “retained based on the adequacy of their performance” and that poor performers who can’t or won’t improve should be fired.

The order facilitated firing by discouraging the use of progressive or steadily increasing disciplinary measures and suspensions before terminations. Furthermore, the order expedited and restricted grievance procedures and limited the amount of time an employee should be allowed to improve performance before dismissal.

●Trump’s October order creating a new classification of federal employees — called Schedule F — would have removed full civil service protections for certain employees, speeding the disciplinary and termination procedures against them.

One little-known section in Biden’s order told the OPM to provide recommendations for promoting a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal employees.

Only about 10,000 federal employees, out of 2.1 million, earn below that amount, based on calculations using OPM data. While boosting their pay would affect relatively few — but undoubtedly grateful — workers, Biden’s plan supports the drive by Democrats for a national $15 minimum wage.

One item not covered by Biden’s executive order or its implementation guidance is Trump’s revocation of labor-management forums that were implement by the Obama-Biden administration. These panels at the government-wide and agency levels facilitated discussions within the workplace on a variety of issues.

An OPM statement did not say whether the forums would be reinstated but said “rest assured that the Biden Administration is engaging with Federal labor unions to discuss a broad range of issues.” The statement added that his Jan. 22 executive order “is just the first step in resetting Federal labor-management relations.”

Eric Yoder contributed to this report.

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