A coalition of 16 labor organizations representing federal employees sent a letter to Vice President Biden on Thursday, warning they “cannot be expected to stand idly by” in the face of proposals “to link an extension of the debt ceiling with draconian cuts, many again targeting public servants.”

Biden is leading talks with congressional leaders who are attempting to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Of particular concern to the unions are proposals to increase the pension contributions of federal workers. Aware of Republican insistence against any tax increase, the labor organizations have cast any employee pension contribution hike as a tax increase for the workers. Increased pension contributions also would be contrary to President Obama’s plan not to raise taxes on the non-rich, according to the unions.

“It represents a selective payroll tax increase that could exceed 5% of the entire income of federal workers, and would be a violation of the President’s campaign pledge not to raise any taxes on those earning less than $250,000,” the letter said.  “Make no mistake about it, the proposed increase in federal employee payments is a payroll tax increase as surely as any increase to social security payments would be; the new higher deductions are automatically removed from the paycheck, they are not linked to any increase in pension benefits.”

The unions reminded the vice president of the importance of the work federal employees do for the nation, and him personally:

Please do not forsake America’s hard working public servants who:

· Connected the faint intelligence dots and found Osama Bin Laden;

· Welded the gaping hole in the U.S.S. Cole after it was hit by terrorists;

· Keep our air and water clean and safe;

· Protect you and are prepared everyday to take a bullet for you and other elected officials;

· Diverted the mighty Mississippi and saved Baton Rouge and New Orleans from certain flooding…

The letter said the unions support shared sacrifice, but “will vigorously oppose any further selective benefit cuts or tax increases unfairly targeting federal workers. ... We respectfully ask you and the President to defend them in their time of need.”