Washington lingo loves acronyms and abbreviations. Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, has a new one that seems appropriate for the past few years:
FBATT — fed bashing all the time.
That describes how federal workers feel after a three-year freeze on their basic pay rates, unpaid furlough days for many staffers and various proposals to cut their retirement or otherwise hit their wallets.
Stier said this week is the antidote to FBATT, though Public Service Recognition Week, organized by the Public Employees Roundtable, won’t make up pay lost to the freeze and furloughs.
“Seriously, we will never get the government we want if all we do is tear it down,” Stier said. “Amazing things are going on by public servants and we need to recognize them if we want them to be replicated by other public servants.”
The week started with a 5K run/walk Sunday in Anacostia Park with proceeds benefiting the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund.
“PER was started in the 1980s to combat the idea that government was the problem and continues to push back anti-public employee rhetoric today” said Bill Bransford, the Roundtable’s chairman. “The race is one way to highlight public employees and say thank you to the men and women who serve our country.”
There was a Public Service Town Hall with members of President Obama’s Cabinet on Monday and on Tuesday a congressional breakfast is scheduled to announce finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, better known as the Sammies.
Obama kicked off the week with a letter honoring local, state and federal workers who “tirelessly carry out the work of our government. Diligently serving without the expectation of fanfare, they enforce our laws, teach our children, and lay a strong foundation for our nation’s progress.”
Fifteen members of his Cabinet signed a letter inviting everyone to join them “in saying thank you to the public servants you meet and reflect on the many benefits we all enjoy as a result of their dedicated and tireless work.”
Cabinet members were among those at the Town Hall showing their appreciation for public employees, particularly feds. Secretaries Shaun Donovan,of Housing and Urban Development; Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security; acting administrators Bob Perciasepe of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Dan Tangherlini of the General Services Administration were on the Town Hall panel at the Partnership.
Among a range of topics, they couldn’t ignore sequestration, the widespread federal budget cuts that Napolitano called “the worst possible way to manage government.” The flexibility to surge or increase airport screener staffing during the summer travel season, Napolitano said, “now is denied us. It has made it very, very difficult to manage in as effective a way as I think all of us would like to.”
In addition to the Cabinet officials, federal employees have been thanked by their organization leaders:
Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition, which says it represents 5 million federal and postal workers and retirees covered by 30 national organizations: “America’s federal and postal employees and retirees have made a difference in the lives of every American every day. These dedicated workers are the reason we don’t think twice about boarding an airplane, using a cellphone, visiting a national park, checking our mailbox or cooking burgers for dinner. On behalf of every American community they serve, we thank federal and postal workers for all they do to uphold the centuries-old legacy of the nation’s workforce.”
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union: “Each and every day, NTEU members are hard at work protecting our borders, ensuring the safety of our natural resources, health, food supply and financial systems. They make sure that nuclear plants and materials are safe and secure, promote a healthier America, collect the taxes that make all of this possible, and much more. Despite their commitment and hard work for the country, federal employees have been consistently targeted for cuts to their pay and benefits, as well as unpaid furlough days under the sequester. This is a critical time to promote awareness of the importance of federal employees, and NTEU is committed to achieving this goal during Public Service Recognition Week and year-round.”
American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr.: “This is a tough time to be a federal employee. During the past few years, federal employees have been targeted repeatedly for sacrifices to deficit reduction that no other group has been forced to make. Despite these challenges, federal employees continue to go to work each and every day. They know that the work they do makes an important and positive difference in people’s lives. Federal employees keep our country and its citizens safe, secure and sound. They deserve our admiration and gratitude — not just during Public Service Recognition Week, but every day of the year. I hope that lawmakers think about the federal employees back home in their districts when they confront the terrible proposals that would further cut federal employee benefits and take-home pay.”
To close the Town Hall discussion, moderator Cokie Roberts, a journalist and Partnership board member, asked the officials why they serve.
“If you’re somebody who has the passion to serve,” Donovan said, “if you’re somebody who frankly can put up . . . with being the butt of jokes at times. . . . It really is a calling . . . government is the best place to serve.”
The Partnership has a content-sharing relationship with The Washington Post. Staff writer Josh Hicks contributed to this column. Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.