USDA gives employees more time for move

The Department of Agriculture has agreed to give some employees more time to decide whether they will be relocated from Washington to Kansas City or lose their jobs, according to the union representing them.

Employees now have ‪until September 27‬ to reconsider their decisions and the end of the year to relocate if they choose to do so, the union said Friday. The department had originally directed employees to report to work in the new city by ‪September 30.‬

The agreement between the American Federation of Government Employees and the USDA follows the decision by about 70% of employees in the two affected offices to not relocate, according to the union’s figures.

To encourage employees to make the move, the union said, the USDA will provide “incentive payments equal to one month’s salary.”

The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.

The union said in a news release that it still opposes the move. National President J. David Cox Sr. described the concessions as a “positive development,” though he said they do “not make up for all the anxiety and anguish that employees have been going through since this relocation was first announced.”

The relocation decision has proved to be one of the most controversial in Secretary Sonny Perdue’s tenure. The inspector general recently ruled it may have violated federal law, a finding the department disputed.

And employees protested Perdue, some physically turning their backs on him, at an event earlier this year where he discussed the decision.

The secretary explained it as a way to cut costs and make the USDA more responsive to its constituents.

But the White House acting chief of staff recently offered a different rationale: It’s part of the administration’s plans to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

“More than half the people quit. Now, it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” Mick Mulvaney said. “What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”