This may be a government town, but not everybody in it is sympathetic to government workers. Lots of letters to the Monday Morning Quarterback came from nonfederal workers, who are upset about the campaign to defend the federal retirement program.
One reader says federal workers should be aware that many private sector workers are on the job today taking care of federal shoppers. This is what people are saying:
*"I hope you will see fit to print this comment about the Columbus Day 'holiday' from someone in the private sector. My question is what holiday? Government workers are off and the banks are closed because federal law says they must close , but who else gets the holiday? I daresay The Washington Post will be open for business as usual. The radio and TV stations are operating. All those local stores that government workers 'on holiday' will shop at are open.
"You have reported that federal workers will get Monday, Jan. 21, off as a holiday for Inauguration Day. Does anybody in the private sector get that day off? Not many, I suspect. When your federal friends demand 'equal treatment' with private industry, advise them please that equal treatment is a two-way street. As they are shopping today in stores and markets that are open for business as usual on this so-called holiday, ask them to consider there are some advantages to working for the federal government." Three Holidays a Year Man in Rockville.
*The next letter is from an employe of the W.R. Grace Co. in Dallas. He disputes the congressional report carried here Sept. 25 that said many private firms, including W.R. Grace, have better pension plans than the government. J. Peter Grace headed the so-called Grace Commission. It has recommended that the government trim "excessively" high civil service retirement benefits. The congressional report, worked up in part to rebut many of the claims and recommendations of the Grace Commission, said that many private companies -- including Grace's -- give employes better pension packages. It said that Grace Co. workers can retire on pensions equal to 90 percent of their salary. This is what an employe of that company writes:
"I've been working for Grace nearly 21 years, and will be 55 in a year or so. I can retire then at less than 25 percent of my average compensation these last 5 years with no Social Security until age 62 at the earliest. Furthermore, my pension would not be indexed for inflation.
"If I stay at Grace to age 65 (31 years serice) my pension will be about 45 percent of average compensation including Social Security, to which contributions are made by me and by the company equal to about 15 percent on my first $35,000 of salary. Again, my retirement pay from Grace would not be indexed. That is a fact. After 31 years of service, a government employe would get a pension equal to just over 58 percent of the high-three-year salary average.
"Don't you think that as a responsible journalist you should check facts? I don't believe that quoting a government study is an excuse. Surely you could at least check your own retirement plan versus, say, a government employe making your same salary.
"I recognize that the 90 percent number you quoted from the report may have been a typographical error in your column it was not; that is what the report said , but you should know why so many people don't hold the press to be a very credible source of facts, especially columnists." J.H. in Dallas.
*A Silver Spring businessman also took issue with the federal task force report on grounds that it included Social Security benefits in figuring pensions of private sector workers but did not include those benefits in figuring government pensions. He said:
"I happen to have a fairly high opinion of federal workers. . . . But if you wish to know some of the reasons why the public looks with suspicion on their wailings about retirement look at your story on the congressional report.
"In it you state that Grace Co. employes get a pension which includes Social Security . . . but that federal workers get only 50 percent of their salary for pension excluding any Social Security benefit they may get. I believe if you investigated, you would find that millions of former federal workers get Social Security benefits too." L.O.