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USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency
The Hill ^ | 08/09/19 | Rebecca Beitsch

Posted on 08/09/2019 4:21:22 PM PDT by yesthatjallen

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reversed course late Friday, agreeing to key union demands as nearly two-thirds of its research staff will leave the agency rather than move to new headquarters in the Kansas City area.

The announcement follows a tumultuous few weeks at the USDA where employees were given a month to decide if they would uproot from D.C. by Sept. 30 or lose their jobs that same day.

Employees at both the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — two of the major research wings within USDA — unionized in the wake of the agency’s relocation plans and the USDA has been heavily criticized by lawmakers for the short timeline and chaos surrounding the decision.

The Friday contract will allow employees who agreed to relocate to telework through the end of the year, including the option to extend the time period.

Employees who make the move will also be given a bonus equal to one month’s pay “to help compensate for the loss of income incurred by employees moving from the higher wage D.C. area,” according to a press release from the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing the USDA employees.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was one of several senators pushing for more flexibility for ERS and NIFA staffers, particularly as on-the-ground preparations in Kansas City appeared to be lagging.

“Will you also commit to utilizing available office space and teleworking capabilities to keep your employees in the National Capital Region unless and until a final office space is completed and ready for occupancy in Kansas City?” Van Hollen wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in July.

Two-thirds of the staff at the two agencies told USDA they would forfeit their job rather than move to Kansas City in a plan many say is politically motivated and poorly organized.

“Moving these researchers out of Washington puts them out of earshot from policymakers. A lot of the research that scientists and economists do at [the USDA] has policy implications, and members of Congress need this information and need to have face-to-face meetings with these researchers,” Rebecca Boehm, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Hill when the move was first announced.

“It keeps science out of the policymaking process. And we’ve seen many times that this administration doesn’t like facts or research that isn’t convenient or [is] an impediment to their agenda, so I think moving them away helps accomplish that,” she added.

Democrats have repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the move.

“It is still unclear to me what problem the USDA is trying to solve with this move. ... We do know what problems it is creating,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said at a July hearing, going on to call it “a thinly veiled, ideological attempt to drive away key USDA employees.”

Those outside of political circles have also questioned the planned relocation and whether it’s entirely legal. A Tuesday report from USDA’s Office of Inspector General said the decision may have violated the law.

The USDA’s general counsel, Stephen Vaden, has argued that the department is not bound by laws requiring it to secure congressional approval to spend the money to relocate, claiming the law in question is unconstitutional.

The inspector general’s report counters that Vaden's claim is “not consistent with prior positions taken by the Department.”

“To reach management decision on this recommendation and to ensure consistent treatment going forward, the Department needs to communicate, in writing, this change of interpretation to USDA leaders at the Sub-Cabinet and Agency levels,” the report states.

The USDA did not respond to a request for comment.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Kansas
KEYWORDS: kansas; union; usda; winning
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1 posted on 08/09/2019 4:21:22 PM PDT by yesthatjallen
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To: yesthatjallen

Good, stretch it out so more of them have a chance to leave. Keep them motivated and looking.


2 posted on 08/09/2019 4:24:41 PM PDT by DannyTN
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To: yesthatjallen
"For Pete's sake, they're fleeing the agency!"


3 posted on 08/09/2019 4:26:59 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: yesthatjallen

They unionized to force the USDA to stay?

Fire their asses and just hire new people at the new locations


4 posted on 08/09/2019 4:28:49 PM PDT by Skywise
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To: yesthatjallen

Just close it down.


5 posted on 08/09/2019 4:29:50 PM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is EVIL and needs to be eradicated)
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To: yesthatjallen

This is a case study in how to effect a major reduction in force in the government sector. And the Federal government needs it badly. Transfer these agencies out to the lower cost states in flyover country. If this could cause a 20% reduction in force it would show a path for finally getting some control over the Swamp.


6 posted on 08/09/2019 4:30:07 PM PDT by ReleaseTheHounds ("The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." M. Thatcher)
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To: yesthatjallen

Democrats are upset. Overpaid government workers are upset.

What’s the downside? The taxpayers are going to save a lot of money.

This should be done with every agency.


7 posted on 08/09/2019 4:30:17 PM PDT by Moonman62 (Charity comes from wealth.)
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To: yesthatjallen

“Moving these researchers out of Washington puts them out of earshot from policymakers. A lot of the research that scientists and economists do at [the USDA] has policy implications, and members of Congress need this information and need to have face-to-face meetings with these researchers,” Rebecca Boehm, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Hill when the move was first announced.

...

Baloney.

They just got permission to telework. They know how to use telephones and emails.


8 posted on 08/09/2019 4:32:24 PM PDT by Moonman62 (Charity comes from wealth.)
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To: yesthatjallen

Looks like a great way to down size the feds. Next move should be the State Department. Move them to some far north town in Alaska.


9 posted on 08/09/2019 4:35:11 PM PDT by Nateman (If the left is not screaming, you are doing it wrong.)
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To: yesthatjallen
Re: nearly two-thirds of its research staff will leave the agency rather than move to new headquarters in the Kansas...

LOL - right, because there are SO many other agriculture research jobs they can get in Washington D.C.

Moving is a great idea - we can painlessly cut a big chunk of the dead wood “lifers” out of the research budget.

10 posted on 08/09/2019 4:37:07 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: Skywise

Why?


11 posted on 08/09/2019 4:38:32 PM PDT by Cobra64 (Common sense isn’t common anymore.)
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To: Nateman

Seemed obvious to me until this latest announce,ent.


12 posted on 08/09/2019 4:39:26 PM PDT by Cobra64 (Common sense isn’t common anymore.)
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To: yesthatjallen

Why should government employees have unions?

Why should government employee unions make demands?


13 posted on 08/09/2019 4:40:34 PM PDT by ladyjane
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To: ReleaseTheHounds

If you ask me all of DC should be relocated to the center of the country. Ask each of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska to cede a little land to create a new federal district. Give DC back to Maryland and Virginia. Start over.


14 posted on 08/09/2019 4:42:10 PM PDT by monkeyshine (live and let live is dead)
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To: yesthatjallen

Kansas City does suck. I would find another job if I were faced with similar circumstances. Why did the agency choose such a crappy place for relocation?


15 posted on 08/09/2019 4:43:18 PM PDT by GingisK
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To: yesthatjallen

IIRC Federal unions were allowed by JFK in an E.O.

I’m correct, here it is:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_10988

Trump should rescind that order and march forward with the agency move out of Washington. Public sector unions are a disaster on a number of levels in any case.


16 posted on 08/09/2019 4:43:36 PM PDT by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: GingisK

Who could expect the USDA to be located near where lots of agriculture happens? Clearly they MUST stay in DC!


17 posted on 08/09/2019 4:44:36 PM PDT by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: yesthatjallen

Tells alot regarding their priorities.


18 posted on 08/09/2019 4:45:44 PM PDT by JPJones (More Tariffs, less income tax.)
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To: yesthatjallen

“””agreeing to key union demands as nearly two-thirds of its research staff will leave the agency rather than move to new headquarters in the Kansas City area.”””


And exactly how difficult will it be to higher some new folks who want to move to Kansas City and actually do some work?

Another question that needs to be asked is this. “What are these people working on and is any of it necessary?”


19 posted on 08/09/2019 4:48:22 PM PDT by Presbyterian Reporter
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To: yesthatjallen

If the job is important, they’ll follow it. If it’s not a calling and just a lucrative Cash cow for them, then they won’t.

This tells you how much they care about their work.


20 posted on 08/09/2019 4:51:30 PM PDT by Bogey78O (So far so good.)
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