Top Carter aides were so concerned about "rock bottom" morale in the bureaucracy two years ago that they warned the president he might trigger a "general strike" if he made feds pay to park. Despite the gloomy advice, Carter ordered pay parking over the objections of his two top civil service advisers, Stuart Eizenstat and Office of Personnel Management chief Alan K. Campbell.
Acknowledgment that the government's 2.8 million workers felt unloved and mistreated by their boss is revealed in a four-page memo on the touchy parking issue that the White House tried to keep secret.
The memo from White House aides Eizenstat and Kitty Schirmer outlined the environmental pros and political cons of forcing 350,000 bureaucrats to start paying for office parking spaces. The document was obtained by the American Federation of Government Employees union. It has led the fight to return to free parking. AFGE went to U.S. District Court arguing that pay parking is unfair and workers -- who pay monthly average fees of about $15 -- should get rebates.
The memo's emphasis on sagging federal morale is interesting because Carter aides were publicly saying that the bureaucracy supported reorganization and reform plans for civil service personnel and pay procedures, and that talk of widespread unrest was mostly in the media, not in U.S. offices.
Under the pay parking order that went into effect in late 1979, most federal parkers had to pay half the commercial rate. Full fees, which will range up to $90 per month in some downtown buildings, are scheduled to go into effect next year.
Pay parking, which hit 35,000 drivers here, did not trigger a strike. But the White House was picketed by several U.S. workers groups. Isolated slowdowns and sickouts were reported.
Last fall Judge Harold Greene quashed a government motion to dismiss the AFGE case. In an aside, Greene said the White House may have acted improperly if it ordered pay parking without congressional consent solely for energy conservation. Carter attorneys said there were "other reasons" in addition to energy conservation. Greene told the attorneys to produce the pay parking memo. Four days before Carter left office the White House sent the judge the memo -- with all four pages blank. Greene said he wanted the blank spaces filled in! The Reagan administration recently supplied the memo to the court.
The memo argues that charging feds to park would encourage carpools and bring in between $31 million and $47 million a year. Arguments against pay parking included that it would come "at a time when federal workers feel they are being unfairly singled out (e.g. civil service reform, salary ceilings, pay comparability below the inflation rate) and employment freezes. . ." It said that the pay parking order would damage morale further, and warned that "a general strike is possible."
The pay-parking issue will be decided by Judge Greene. If he rules against the government, Uncle Sam could be forced to give refunds worth millions of dollars to federal parkers. Hold on to your parking stubs!