The Carter administration is pushing a you-never-had-it-so-good theme aimed at keeping the government's 2.7 million workers from pulling the wrong (Ronald Reagan/Republican) lever this November. It is a challenging assignment, things being the way they are.
So far this year there have been several "job actions" (government code for strikes) in government. They ranged from the much-publicized situation with District government employes, to the air traffic controllers' "work to rule" in Chicago in August. There was a one-day sick-out of some Interior Department workers at the Grand Coulee Dam, and a mid-summer "virus" that kept a couple of hundred Corps of Engineers workers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho home for three days. The entire D.C. government is sizzling now because the mayor plans to deny them all or part of a 9.1 percent raise due comparable federal white-collar workers in a few weeks.
Locally, the president's imposition of paid parking in govenment agencies has infuriated thousands of U.S. employes, and many workers and retirees are upset over congressional/White House attempts to cut back the number of cost-of-living (COL) raises that federal, postal and military retirees get.
Although the 9.1 percent pay raise President Carter has ordered this October for white-collar U.S. workers is a near-record amount, many public servants complain it leaves them far behind industry rates.
To counter unrest within the bureaucracy, federal officials have been ordered to accentuate the positive in talks before groups of government employes, retirees and organizations that represent them.
Today, for example, Carter will interrupt his busy schedule as chief executive and political candidate for a special White House ceremony honoring selected career government officials. Along with kind words for the officials -- and their subordinates -- the winners will get substantial first-time cash awards for excellence.
Carter aides hope the ceremony will be a media event that will convince regular voters that he is running a tight, efficient ship here in Washington and let government workers know that the president knows what they are doing, and appreciate it.
Yesterday at the National Federation of Federal Employes convention in Tulsa, one of the government's top labor-management experts told the independent union's delegates that the past two years "may well have been most significant for federal employes . . . in the past century."
Tony Ingrassia, assistant director for labor-management relations at the Office of Personnel Management, told the union leaders that federal workers have had two very good, back-to-back years.
Ingrassia cited a 7 percent pay raise last year for white-collar workers, and the 9.1 percent raise coming up in October. Those are the biggest consecutive raises since the government shifted over to its catch-up-with-industry pay system, Ingrassia said.
He also told NFFE types that actions of the president resulted in legislation that has guaranteed the grade and pay level of employes hit by almost any kind of "no fault" demotion. Ingrassia said union leaders have been given more "official time" to conduct union business, and now can get government-paid travel and per diem when traveling on certain kinds of union business. He said the president has also approved strong new safety programs for federal agencies.
In addition, Ingrassia said that thousands of federal employes are now working under set-your-own hours shifts, or four-day week plans thanks to flexitime experiments introduced by Congress and the White House.
Cabinet officers are contacting federal union leaders they deal with to advise them that, all things considered, the Carter years have been good ones for their members.
"I think when federal workers look at the record, and consider the alternatives, they will stick with the president," a presidential advisor said. a"That 9.1 percent pay raise is very, very generous. I think most people who get it will realize that. Besides," he said, "who are they going to vote for? Ronald Reagan? I doubt it."