“Paranoia is knowing all the facts.” — Woody Allen.
Federal employees can be excused if they’ve been feeling a bit paranoid lately. Given the facts, it does seem some folks, mostly congressional Republicans, are out to get the workers.
“Every time we turn around, this Congress is proposing to reach into your pockets to pay for yet another fiscal problem,” National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Colleen M. Kelley said at the labor organization’s legislative conference Tuesday. “It seems like every week there is something new.”
The union plans to fight back by backing Democrats who are seeking Senate seats this year.
The NTEU provided delegates meeting at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel with a fact sheet listing about two dozen “legislative proposals harmful to the federal workforce,” all of which are sponsored by Republicans. Some of the bills overlap.
●H.R. 270 would impose a mandatory two-week unpaid furlough for federal employees.
●H.R. 3835 would extend the pay freeze for another year.
●H.R. 3844 would prohibit within-grade “step” increases.
●H.R. 235 proposes cuts to the federal workforce and a three-year pay freeze.
●S. 2079 would extend the pay freeze for another year.
●S. 2065 would cut the workforce and extend the freeze through June 30, 2014.
●S. 1476 would extend the freeze through 2014 and prohibit employee bonuses.
●S. 178 and H.R. 408 would extend the freeze through 2015 and limit the number of workers.
●S. 1936 would extend the pay freeze from two years to five years and limit the number of staffers.
●S. 644 would eliminate the defined benefit portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity.
●H.R. 3813 would sharply increase pension contributions, eliminate the FERS supplement and raise pension contributions for new hires.
●H.R. 2114 would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015.
●H.R. 657 says all agencies other than Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security — which account for 60 percent of the workforce — would be able to hire only one employee for every two who leave federal service.
●H.R. 3029, H.R. 3487 and S. 1476 would reduce staffing through attrition by permitting the hiring of only one employee for every three who leave government service.
●H.R. 1779 would prohibit the head of any executive branch agency from hiring in any year in which the Office of Management and Budget projects a federal budget deficit.
●S. 1611 would allow the hiring of one employee for every three who leave federal service.
●H.R. 3494 would reduce the size of the federal workforce to no more than that of October 2007.
●H.R. 3662 would allow the hiring of one employee for every three who leave federal service.
●S. 178 would, among many other actions, limit the size of the federal workforce and extend the pay freeze through 2015.
●S. 261 would cut workers’ compensation payments for older federal employees.
●H.R. 87 and S. 712 would repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law. Doing so would endanger some federal employee rights, according to NTEU.
Details about each bill can be found at www.thomas.gov .
“I cannot remember any time when there was such a nonstop onslaught,” Kelley said. “It’s relentless.”
To help stop the onslaught, Kelley urged delegates to contribute to the union’s political action committee. Maureen Gilman, the NTEU’s legislative director, said the money would be used primarily to help Democratic Senate candidates, such as Timothy M. Kaine in Virginia, Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in Maryland, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for the Senate in Wisconsin, and Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, who also wants to move to the more exclusive chamber.
Brown told the conference that proposals such as those listed by the NTEU go beyond the unionized workforce. “It is an assault on the middle class,” he said.
In a brief interview afterward, he said federal employees didn’t cause the government’s financial problems and should not have to pay to fix them any more than workers already have. Federal employees are now in the midst of a two-year freeze on basic pay rates, initially proposed by President Obama, that will cost them $60 billion over 10 years. Beginning next year, new federal workers will pay more than current employees for retirement benefits, saving the government an additional $15 billion. Federal employees also aren’t happy about a separate Obama proposal that would have them pay 0.4 percent more for retirement in each of the next three years.
Despite all the bills targeting federal employees, Brown sounded confident that the workforce will not take any more hits.
“I think they [Republicans] will try,” he said. “But I think the line is drawn.”
Others at the conference aren’t so sure.