How Remote Work Will Increase the Costs of Government
As the work-from-home revolution shows signs of creating a “two-tiered system” of public employment, government employees who can’t do their jobs remotely are going to expect to be paid a premium.
In January, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was so worried that remote work was driving her city into a death spiral — where fewer commuters mean less business, lower tax revenues and higher public service costs — that she daringly challenged President Biden to get federal employees back to in-person work.
Unfortunately for Bowser and other government leaders across the country, telework policies are fast becoming a common public-sector union demand in collective bargaining negotiations. Spurred by the COVID-19 lockdowns, the work-from-home (WFH) revolution not only depleted downtowns of the workers who bring vibrancy and safety in numbers but also stands to increase the costs of government.
Only 3.9 percent of union contracts had any work-from-home provisions prior to 2020, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis. Now, across the country public-sector unions representing workers who can do their jobs remotely are pushing to insert WFH provisions in contracts. In New Mexico, for example, CWA Local 2265 members rallied this January to enshrine telework rights in their contract. In Maryland, AFSCME Council 3 is currently pushing for similar rights to be enshrined in state law. And the union representing workers at the National Science Foundation and the National Archives recently signed a contract expanding remote work options.
Daniel DiSalvo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and professor of political science at the City College of New York-CUNY. Michael T. Hartney is a faculty member in the department of political science at Boston College and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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