American Federation of Government Employees turned their backs on Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday while he spoke after the USDA announced its plan to relocate workers from Washington D.C. to the Kansas City region.
Perdue announced the same day the reason for moving the Department of Agriculture’s research agencies – the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture – was to be closer to prominent farming areas, according to Politico.
“Following a rigorous site selection process, the Kansas City Region provides a win-win: maximizing our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes, and extraordinary living for our employees,” Perdue said.
American Federation of Government Employees members from NIFA snd ERS turn backs on Agriculture Secretary Perdue at session on their unwanted relocation from DC to Kansas City area. #USDA pic.twitter.com/40JlVtuXFl
— Jerry Hagstrom (@hagstromreport) June 13, 2019
The USDA believes Kansas City is the “hub” of the agricultural industry, and the move will save taxpayers money. The government agency believes it can save “nearly $300 million nominally over a 15-year lease term on employment costs.”
These predicted savings will allow for funding of critical agricultural areas, according to the press release.
But employees affected by the decision don’t feel the same way.
ERS workers believe the decision has more to do with trying to shrink the agency and abate its ability to do research that doesn’t align with the president’s policies, according to The Hill.
After the relocation announcement, workers at both agencies said they plan to unionize. Kevin Hunt, the acting vice president of the ERS union, told Politico that Thursday’s announcement highlights Trump’s “disregard for the rights and well-being of employees,” according to Hunt.
Employees will be given thirty days to decide whether they want to relocate, union leaders said.
Missouri elected officials released a joint statement after the USDA announced its decision:
This is outstanding news for the Kansas City region. We’re home to some of the hardest working farmers in the country, so this is a fantastic decision by the USDA. As the new home of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Missouri and Kansas will continue to lead in the research and development of American agricultural policy for the 21st century. We are grateful for the job opportunities and renewed partnership this move creates for our state.
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