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Qualified state employees, not political cronies, should be the ones helping people find work

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Qualified state employees, not political cronies, should be the ones helping people find work
By AFSCME Staff ·
Tags: Momentum

For nearly a century, federal law has required state workers who help people find work to be nonpartisan career employees, not political cronies and buddies of whoever is president at the time. But the Trump administration did away with that requirement three years ago.

Now, the Biden-Harris administration is reinstating that requirement for nonpartisan professionalism, a move AFSCME strongly supports.

“As the past few years have clearly demonstrated, we need well-trained and unbiased individuals to work in employment services. With this final rule, the Biden-Harris administration will ensure those carrying out this critical function are there solely because of their abilities — not because of whom they know or whom they voted for,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement.

“The rule restores the state merit staffing requirement that had stood for nearly 90 years, until it was overturned in 2020 by the previous administration to open up federally funded jobs to patronage hires or outsource them to private corporations,” Saunders added.

In 1933, Congress enacted the Wagner-Peyser Act, which required states to create and provide Employment Service programs using nonpartisan professionals to help job seekers and employers. Job matching and placements, connections to training and assistance in applying for unemployment insurance benefits are among the services these workers provide.

Many of the state workers who provide these services are AFSCME members who “helped countless laid-off workers find new jobs, get through the crisis and keep food on the table for their families” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Saunders noted. Examples are here and here.

The final rule that the Department of Labor published the day after Thanksgiving will soon be the law of the land. It says states should use only “merit staff” to provide “politically neutral” employment services.

“Qualified, nonpartisan public service workers are the lifeblood of strong communities, and recent history proves it,” Saunders said. “AFSCME was founded on the belief that political cronyism has no place in public service. These essential jobs should be performed by qualified, civic-minded people who believe their work is a calling. The new Biden-Harris rule reaffirms that principle.”

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