The war by federal workers and their friends on Capitol Hill against President Reagan's planned wage freeze started yesterday as union lobbyists met to map strategy, top union leaders asked for a meeting with Reagan and one local Republican congressman wrote the White House protesting the proposal.
Hundreds of calls poured into the offices of area congressmen from federal workers outraged by reports that Reagan had decided to ask Congress to deny federal civilian and military employes any fiscal 1984 pay raise. That news came one day after reports that the administration had targeted federal retiree benefits for other budgetary cuts.
Federal workers feel that the administration "is going to give it to them with both barrels," said an aide to Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), whose office logged more than 75 calls on the subject by mid-day.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) immediately sent a letter of protest to the White House. "The essence of good legislation is fairness, and I believe these reported proposals would be unfair to a group of individuals who have been the constant target of budget cuts during the past seven years," Wolf said in his letter.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Blaylock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the nation's largest federal worker union, asked Reagan in a telegram to meet with him and other union leaders to discuss the proposals.
A White House spokesman said yesterday the telegram was being "reviewed, but there's no response yet."
Union leaders, who had been prepared for bad news as Reagan molded his budget and struggled to cut huge projected deficits, were angered that they learned of the specific proposals from news reports rather than administration officials.
"No matter what problems we've had with previous administrations, they'd always given us the courtesy of a phone call," said Loretta Ucelli, a spokesman for AFGE. "But the Reagan administration ignores even that courtesy."
Federal workers received a 4 percent pay increase last October, although a government study found that they would need to get 18.4 percent to match comparable pay levels in the private sector. Last year, the government raised the premiums on federal worker health benefits and for the first time imposed a 1.3 percent tax on workers for Medicare.
Preparing to wage the new battle against the latest proposals, AFGE sent out the word in about 20,000 newsletters to members all over the country to call their representatives in Congress, many of whom are back home on a recess.
Meanwhile, lobbyists for the various unions mapped strategy for the new session.
They hope to get some help from two new members of the House Budget Committee--Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.)--who have supported federal workers in the past.
Steve Pruitt, congressional affairs director of the AFL-CIO's public employes department, said the unions may ask the House leadership and these two members to set up a special Budget Committee task force to concentrate on federal worker issues as the budget goes through that crucial committee.