Trump’s latest executive order targets thousands of federal employees. Nearly 20% of them are Black Americans.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that would strip protections for civil servants. The order could affect tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of government workers, according to the Washington Post. It also has the potential to disproportionately affect Black Americans.
The order would remove job security from government workers involved in policy making, which would open doors to fire civil servants without any cause or recourse. In other words, federal workers—who were once guaranteed civil service protections—will now be employed at-will.
Some workers impacted by this directive include public health experts, federal scientists, attorneys, and regulators among other public-sector occupations. In addition to losing their right to due process, affected workers at several agencies might also lose union representation.
The order is Trump’s latest effort to downsize—or privatize—elements of the government.
Any action taken on federal jobs has a disproportionate effect on Black Americans, who have benefited from expansions in the federal workforce since the mid 20th century. In addition to providing economic security—through better benefits as well as higher, stable pay—work inside of the the federal government has historically offered a reprieve from racial discrimination practices more notably prevalent and common in the private sector.
Black Americans make up nearly 20% of the federal workforce. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1 in 5 Black Americans are employed in the public sector as a whole. Generally, Black Americans who work in federal jobs earn higher median pay than those working in the private sector. In fact, according to the Berkeley Labor Center, Black Americans—regardless of gender—earn about a quarter more as a public-sector employee than in the private sector.
In addition to potentially harming Black Americans employed by the federal government, the order issued just two weeks ahead of Election Day could have effects on what is supposed to be a nonpartisan government workforce. The directive allows government agencies until Jan. 19—exactly one day before Inauguration Day—to review which jobs will lose its civil service protections. By targeting policy-oriented jobs, the order allows the Trump administration to fire employees that disagree or push-back on its policies.
In the final presidential debate, the president claimed that “nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump” with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln. However, his actions have consistently undermined his own narrative time and time again. The executive order this week could have direct impacts on a sector that employs a disproportionately high number of Black Americans.
Black Americans have been repeatedly undermined by the Trump administration—from his comments and actions on racial justice protests to high mortality rates in the Black community from his administration’s response to COVID-19 as well as high unemployment numbers and an increasing wealth and wage gap.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration offered far less support and forgivable loans to Black small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) than to white counterparts. The wage gap between Black and white workers has also expanded during Trump’s tenure, and has grown 33% from 2000 to 2019.
Trump also continues to dismantle policies implemented to help end housing segregation. His Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) repealed an Obama-era housing rule that prohibited racist and discriminatory practices to curb racial segregation and poverty. On Twitter this summer, Trump repeatedly suggested that this policy change would keep low-income housing out of the suburbs. At the same time, a campaign-linked Twitter account tweeted out mugshots of Black Americans with Trump’s announcement, dispelling any possible confusion about the administration’s motivations.