Little Hope for Pay Parity in 2010, but the Fight Continues

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer said he intends to address pay parity in fiscal 2011.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer said he intends to address pay parity in fiscal 2011. (By Jens Dige -- Associated Press)
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By Joe Davidson
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Pay parity" is a mantra federal civilian employees have long chanted to bring about a desired state of income.

For most of the past 30 years, they have used the power of positive thinking, not to mention good, hard lobbying, to persuade Congress they should get the same pay raise as members of the military.

But at this point, for fiscal year 2010, Frankie and Flo Fed don't appear to have much more than a hope and prayer that Congress will give them the 3.4 percent increase that men and women in uniform are slated to receive.

Take it from Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader who also represents thousands of federal workers in his suburban Washington district. He said he was "very disappointed that parity was not achieved in either the House or the Senate. I intend to work with the administration to include pay parity in next year's [fiscal 2011] budget."

More likely for civilians in 2010 is the 2.9 percent cost-of-living increase the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last week. That's certainly better than the 2 percent raise President Obama proposed in his budget. And because the House appropriations bill is silent on civilian pay, there currently is no vehicle Frankie and Flo can ride to the land of 3.4.

That doesn't mean they won't keep trying.

"At this point we're still fighting for pay parity," said Beth Moten, legislative director for the American Federation of Government Employees. "I believe that the cause is far from lost. If you get to 2.9, it's only a half-point to 3.4."

And they aren't fighting alone.

Last month, two key House members on federal workforce issues urged the House Appropriations Committee to bump salaries to the higher level.

Democratic Reps. Edolphus Towns (N.Y.) and Stephen F. Lynch (Mass.) are chairmen of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia, respectively. They deal with a variety of topics affecting the federal workplace, but their panels don't set salaries.

So they urged the committee that does set salaries to maintain pay parity.

"Federal employees work side-by-side with military personnel both here and abroad, and deserve to be recognized for their extraordinary efforts," said their letter (pdf) to House Appropriations Committee leaders. "Civilian employees serving at DOD [Department of Defense], FBI, State, DHS [Department of Homeland Security], and at many other agencies support the men and women of the armed forces and work tirelessly to ensure the security of our nation.

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