Biden’s 2023 State of the Union Leaves Out Federal Workers’ Return to Office

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President Joseph Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address leaned heavily on the worker, but mentioned little about where the ones who report to offices will work.

Unlike the president’s 2022 speech, in which he said federal workers would return to office to lead the country by example and “fill our great downtowns again with people,” Biden’s remarks on Tuesday night had no mention of a return-to-work emphasis. Instead, the speech revolved around health care for the working class and better pay.

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“For example, 30 million workers had to sign non-compete agreements when they took a job,  so a cashier at a burger place can’t cross the street to take the same job at another burger place to make a couple bucks more,” Biden said. “We’re banning those agreements so companies have to compete for workers and pay them what they’re worth.”

Job creation was another emphasis in the address, with Biden stating that 800,000 manufacturing jobs had been created to the benefit of Black and Hispanic workers, which has resulted in an unemployment rate at 3.4 percent. Up to 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations installed could also be created nationally through Biden administration policies aided by “tens of thousands of [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] workers.”

But no mention of a return to offices, despite calls from many for Biden to push federal workers back.

The majority of the federal government’s 200,000 employees in D.C. have been allowed to work remotely for parts of the week, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a stronger return to the office to help the city’s struggling downtown during her swearing in last month, Axios reported.

The Washington Post’s editorial board called for the same, and last month Republicans in the House of Representatives announced plans to pass a bill requiring federal workers to go back to the office, Fox News reported.

While Class B and C office leasing in the nation’s capital was not good, occupancy in Washington D.C.’s Class A and trophy buildings grew by 756,000 square feet over the course of 2022, according to a JLL report. Less premium office assets saw an occcupancy loss of 1.7 million square feet in 2022, though.

Even with increasing office occupancy, D.C. still falls behind cities such as New York, Chicago and Dallas, and the value of its office buildings have decreased as a result, the Post reported.

In 2021, the assessed value of large office buildings in D.C. fell 13 percent from $69 billion to $60 billion after growing for multiple years, leading to property tax liability for them to drop by $150 million last year, according to the Post

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.