Unless they do it strictly for the exercise and fresh air, your typical federal workers, would be unwise just now to picket the White House for a bigger 1980 pay raise.
Get mad about OPEC. Cuss the weather. Hold your own Olympics. But don't change your job or tradedown cars worrying about a 6.2 percent pay raise.
Civil servants are due an increase in October. President Carter's budget forecast a 6.2 percent amount. So what?
The 6.2 percent figure has drawn flack from unions and employees. Such a raise, they believe, is absurb. And insulting with double-digit inflation, and after two years being denied full catch-up-with-industry raises. i
People suffering high-blood pressure over the low projected raise should be advised that it is a dubious figure -- a political year budget projection that is about as permanent as a Popsicle in midsummer. Odds are that white-collar government workers will get more, perhaps 8 percent or 9 percent. That won't be until late August, which is sometime off, but only three months before the presidential election.
Although Carter aides are not counting on the bureaucratic vote -- a magic figure put at somewhere around 8 million persons -- to put him over the top, neither are they anxious to lose it.
Budget experts caution that projections on federal pay matters rarely mean much, and they mean even less in election years.
Last year Carter anticipated a 5.5 percent federal-military raise for October 1979. He kept with that figure through the winter, spring and summer of 1979. It caused all sorts of heartache here and in other big federal centers. Then, guess what happened?
Carter "relented" in August. It was under pressure from federal groups and the AFL-CIO. The final raise approved for most civil servants was 7 percent.
The percent and a half sweetener didn't cost Carter a penny, although it did add about $800 million to the final pay figure. Like the U.S. Cavalry in John Wayne movies, the dough arrived late -- but in time to make everybody concerned feel good. It was the perfect raise because everybody involved got a victory.
Unions said they had shown the president who is boss! People who had written letters felt they had done some good! And Carter, labeled Mr. Nogoodnick by his bureaucracy all summer, came off as not such a bad fellow after all. Seven percent is better than 5.5 percent.
Look for a rerun this summer. But pour a little more sugar on it.
Carter's 6.2 percent pay projection is based on the assumption Congress will clear his complicated, controversial pay "reform" bill by midsummer. It probably won't, this being an election year dominated by war-and-peace issues that make civil service stuff seem not so important.
Can you imagine Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) spending a lot of time debating regional pay for Boise when there are known communists in Cuba? Would Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) let revival of the B-1 bomber await an adjustment of the federal GS pay scales?
Is it in the cards for House members(preocupied by FBI stings, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or Pakistan, India, Iran or Saudi Arabia failing, like dominos) to spend all summer droning on about "total compensation comparability" for civil servants?
The major federal unions will have their conventions this summer. By that time the White House will have talked to union leaders to see what they would like if it can deliver. If Carter is still in the Democratic party driver's seat chances are he will sweeten up August with news of one of the largest federal pay raises in recent years.