By John Hugh DeMastri
The largest union of federal employees is arguing against a return to the office because it would be harmful for the environment, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
President Joe Biden has been under increasing pressure from Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., to send federal employees back to the office, the Post reported. In response, representatives from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) told the Post that a return to the office would have negative environmental impacts.
“We all know that personal automobiles are responsible for a tremendous amount of pollution through the burning of fossil fuels,” Jacque Simon, public policy director at the AFGE, told the Post. “So every car trip not taken has an environmental benefit.”
This sentiment was echoed by AFGE Local 1236 President Bethany Dreyfus, who represents employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Hawaii, California, Nevada and Arizona, according to the Post. The calls to return to the office have “unsettled” EPA employees in that region who tout the environmental and work-life balance benefits of remote work.
“So many of us work on reducing emissions in our daily jobs at the EPA,” Dreyfus told the Post. “So to be able to do that not only through our work, but how we get to work, is really important.”
The U.S. federal government owns or leases roughly one-third of properties in D.C., and accounted for approximately one-fourth of the city’s pre-pandemic jobs, ABC News reported. D.C. is the U.S. city with the highest work-from-home rate, putting pressure on businesses, who are seeing less foot traffic, and city officials are concerned that tax revenue may take a permanent hit.
“We need decisive action by the White House to either get most federal workers back to the office, most of the time, or to realign their vast property holdings for use by the local government, by nonprofits, by businesses and by any user willing to revitalize it,” Bowser said in her inaugural address Jan. 2, ABC News reported.
Comer recently introduced legislation that would end COVID-19 remote work policies for federal employees and call for employees to return to the office. Although the bill passed the Republican-controlled House, it is unlikely to proceed through the Democrat-controlled Senate, the Post reported.
The AFGE and the offices of Rep. Comer and Mayor Bowser did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.