POLITICS

The GOP War With The Federal Workforce Will Hurt Black Workers The Most

African Americans are disproportionately employed in federal jobs.

01/05/2017 05:46 pm ET
KENA BETANCUR via Getty Images
President-elect Donald Trump and the new Republican-controlled Congress have major plans for reforming the federal workforce.

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump and the new GOP Congress are gearing up for battle with federal employees and their unions. With control of both the legislative and executive branches, Republicans want to institute a hiring freeze in the federal government, bring a halt to standardized raises, and make it easier to get rid of underperformers ― all with the stated purpose of eliminating waste and bureaucracy.

When it comes to sticking it to the federal workforce, GOP lawmakers are leaving no tools in the shed. As the Washington Post reported Thursday, members of Congress even want to breathe new life into an ancient procedural rule that would allow them to target individual federal workers for salary cuts ― down to as little as $1 a year. Trump adviser New Gingrich has urged the president-elect to wage a “straight-out war” with the civil service.

If Trump and his fellow Republicans achieve all these austerity goals, there’s one group that will pay a higher price for it than others: black workers.

That’s because the federal government disproportionately employs African-Americans. In fiscal year 2014, 18.1 percent of federal employees ― or nearly one in every five ― were black, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That’s a significantly higher rate than in the civilian workforce at large, where 10.4 percent of workers were black during the same period.

Of that 18.1 percent of federal employees who were black, the majority of them ― 10.6 percent of the whole ― were women. As OPM’s data shows, the share of workers who are black women is roughly twice as high in the federal workforce as it is among the greater civilian workforce.

So when cuts come down, black workers ― and black women in particular ― bear a higher cost simply because of the government’s workforce demographics. The same holds true of government shutdowns forced by Congress, when federal employees are forced to go without their paychecks until lawmakers can hash out a spending deal. And the same is true of austerity in state and local government, as well as cutbacks in the U.S. Postal Service, where around 20 percent of workers are black.

Federal government work has long provided a stepping stone to the middle class for many black families. That’s partly due to the fact that the federal government led the private sector in curbing hiring discrimination, after Franklin Roosevelt outlawed it through executive order. Federal agencies have had minority recruitment programs for years.

The feds have nonetheless struggled to improve employment among Hispanics, whose share of jobs still lags behind Hispanics in the civilian workforce as a whole.

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