Despite the fact that government hiring was frozen for months, that some workers are being laid off, that a conservative Congress and White House want to trim future pay raises and current fringes, more than 500,000 Americans each month try to climb on the federal payroll, seeking one of Uncle Sam's 2 million white collar or blue collar jobs.
Work applications for the semi-independent U.S. Postal Service are running so high (for clerk-carrier jobs that start at about $9 per hour) that a handful of New York City openings brought in more than 100,000 applications. hBaltimore police recently had to be called in to handle a crowd, estimated at about 7,000, that formed after word got out that some postal jobs were being filled.
Many civil servants are bitter over antibureaucrat statements from the Carter and Reagan administrations. They are upset with attempts -- by the last two presidents -- to cut back the frequency of inflation-related pension raises, the imposition of pay parking at the office and budget cuts that may cost thousands of them jobs.
The president of the largest of their unions, the American Federation of Government Employees, has warned of sickouts, mass vacation requests and work-to-rule actions that could slow Social Security Checks, tax refunds, veterans payments and other services.
Outside of the government work force itself, federal employment with its relative tenure, its average $21,000 white-collar salary and its benefits looks very, very good to a lot of people.
As of March 14, 4,055,800 people were drawing unemployment compensation. Of that number, 700 were former U.S. workers.
Despite recent roadblocks to federal employment, applications are high, and increasing daily. Between October 1979 and March 1980, 3,592,000 people made inquiries -- telephone, walkin or written -- for federal employment and 470,000 actually put in applications. During the October 1980 to March 1981 period, when federal hiring was partially frozen by Carter and then totally frozen by Reagan, job inquiries remained high -- just over 3 million.Even after being told of the no-hiring situation, 372,000 people applied to get on waiting lists for federal jobs. Federal officials say applications are increasing now that some agencies have resumed limited hiring with the national unemployment rate at 7.3 percent.
To counteract the bad image of bureaucrats, help save federal jobs and keep up services to the public, AFL-CIO's Public Employees Department will beef up its public relations efforts and begin in a new grass-roots political campaign aimed at punishing labor-elected Democrats who now are joining the budget-cut bandwagon. PED's new president is Kenneth T. Blaylock, who also is head of the 300,000-member American Federation of Government Employees. Albert Shanker of the powerful American Federation of Teachers, is treasurer of PED, a coalition of 34 AFL-CIO unions representing several million federal, state and local government employes.
PED plans to throw money, people and time into local and national political fights hoping to come up with prolabor candidates. At a meeting with reporters yesterday, Blaylock said the 1980 election between Carter and Reagan gave public employes little choice. While most leaders supported Carter with varying degrees of enthusiam, Blaylock said, the unions' memberships obviously preferred Reagan.
PED has hired Stan Gordon, formerly an official of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers and the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees federal guild here, to run a special federal-postal department of PED. Gordon will work for John Leyden, one-time president of PATCO. PATCO is pushing legislation in Congress that would grant controllers a 32-hour week and a $10,000 pay raise, with a pay ceiling of $73,000.
PED also is making overtures to the giant American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to join up.
Federal groups seeking sympathy from politicians and citizens have their work cut out for them. While people inside the bureaucracy know it is not a tax-free rest home for drones, many people outside government (and that includes most people) think government employment looks a lot better than a coal mine, eight hours on a Chrysler assembly line or a shaky corporation.