Organized by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the rallies will be held outside federal agencies and the offices of members of Congress.
“Our message is very clear,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr., “sequestration has got to go.”
Cox and other federal labor leaders have literally — and repeatedly — shouted this message. With the across-the-board cuts, Cox said, “federal employees won’t be able to do the work that the American public expects them to do.”
Yet the budget cuts are being implemented and no one will feel the pain more than the federal workforce.
Among federal workers, perhaps none will feel the cuts more than Border Patrol agents, who stand to lose up to 40 percent of their pay, according to their union, because of unpaid furlough days and elimination of overtime this fiscal year, which ends September 30.
The Border Patrol situation is the “very worst overall plan” for federal workers, Cox said at a news conference with other labor leaders.
It is the recently hired agents who will suffer the most.
“Our newer guys are really going to take a hit because they are starting out at pretty low levels,” said Shawn P. Moran, vice president of AFGE’s National Border Patrol Council. “I’ve already had agents tell me they’re going to lose their homes because they are not going to be able to make their mortgage payments.”
In addition to unpaid days and loss of overtime, which can vary among agencies, federal employees now face a third year of a basic pay rate freeze.
The freeze has been a hot topic for federal employees since it was imposed for two years beginning January 2011, then extended through the end of this month. Now, with temporary budget measures advanced by both chambers of Congress, and, significantly, by Republicans and Democrats, a third full year of the freeze seems certain.
The Republican budget proposal, released Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), would not extend the pay freeze as previous GOP budget plans urged. It didn’t have to. But it did anger federal employees with a suggestion that they are not hurting during these tough economic times.
“Compensation for federal employees continues to outpace pay for their private-sector counterparts,” Ryan’s document says. “The non-partisan CBO [Congressional Budget Office] recently released a study saying that federal workers are, on average, compensated 16 percent higher than comparable private-sector employees. Immune from the effects of the recession, federal employees have received regular salary bumps regardless of productivity or economic realities.”
That kind of talk gets Moran going.
“Overpaid? Tell that to the Border Patrol agents who just spent 12 hours tracking drug smugglers on foot,” he said. “Tell that to the BORSTAR [Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue] team who just rescued the illegal aliens abandoned by a smuggler in the searing heat of the Sonoran desert. Tell Brian Terry’s family that their son [a Border Patrol agent killed in 2010] was paid too much as he battled a criminal rip crew and laid down his life to protect people he had never met. Tell that to the 119 families whose loved ones sacrifice has consecrated desolate shrines to freedom along this nation’s borders.”