Raises sought for bilingual federal workers

By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

If you're a federal employee who is fluent in more than one language, one member of Congress wants Uncle Sam to put his money where your mouth is.

The "One America, Many Voices Act," also called the Bilingual Pay Bill and introduced by Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.), would provide a 5 percent raise for federal workers whose job requires more than one language but who are paid the same as colleagues who are not bilingual or multilingual.

Honda, who is chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, argues that national security demands a corps of professionals who are proficient in such critical languages as Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, Russian and Hindi.

Citing census figures, Honda said his legislation also would help the government serve the one-fifth of the nation's population who speak something other than English at home.

"To improve both our nation's ability to provide language-appropriate intelligence and security, and America's capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver government services, we must be able to retain a federal workforce that is capable of communicating with an increasingly diverse constituency, both within our borders and without," Honda said.

Top 10 list

The union representing employees at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wasted no time telling the new boss what needs to be done at the agency.

Just two days after President Obama named Jacqueline A. Berrien to a recess appointment as EEOC chair, Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals, took a page from the David Letterman script and released "the Union's top ten challenges facing the new EEOC Chair":

1. Budget -- The new Chair must be an outspoken advocate for fully funding EEOC. Her first priority must be to secure the [fiscal year 2011] budget request to increase EEOC's funding to $385 million.

2. Backlog/Staffing -- The new Chair must restore frontline staffing to 3,000 employees to reduce the anticipated [fiscal 2010] backlog of almost 100,000 cases, causing the public to wait nine months for help.

3. Overtime -- The new Chair must pay damages to resolve willful overtime violations committed nationwide by the EEOC, according to a Federal arbitrator.

4. Model Employer -- Rather than a "laughingstock," the new Chair should make EEOC the model employer by repairing relations with the Union, improving morale and implementing [labor-management] partnership.

5. Overhaul Intake -- The new Chair should implement the Union's Full Service Intake Plan, submitted six months ago, to provide real help to the public and address 5,000 unanswered e-mails.

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