WASHINGTON – Amid the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to freeze pay for federal workers in 2019.
The move is consistent with Trump's budget proposal and a notice to Congress in August, when he cited "serious economic conditions" in cutting pay to civilian workers. “We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” he said at the time.
Trump signed the executive order late Friday afternoon. The military would not be affected.
Trump and federal lawmakers are still collecting paychecks during the partial shutdown, but many federal workers are not. Congress generally votes to pay federal employees retroactively after shutdowns, but this one is expected to drag on into the new year as Trump pushes for funding for a wall across the southern border.
“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”
The Senate passed a 1.9 percent increase for federal workers, but the House did not act.
The new Congress could vote to give federal employees a raise. If Trump's decision is allowed to stand, the pay freeze would affect about 2.1 million federal employees, including most of the executive branch, according to the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union.
“We fully expect the new Congress to enact the modest 1.9 percent adjustment for all of 2019 which passed the Senate and received substantial bipartisan support in the last Congress,” J. David Cox, AFGE’s president, said in a statement. “There is no economic or budgetary justification for the President’s freeze and lawmakers agree that federal pay must rise not only as a matter of decency, but also in order to help agencies attract and retain the federal workforce that America deserves.”
Most federal employees work outside the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, according to the latest numbers published by Governing magazine. Topping the list of states with largest share of federal employees: California (250,000), Texas (200,000), Virginia (178,000) and Maryland (147,000).
Contributing: Gregory Korte