Several organizations representing federal employees say they consider Tuesday’s election results to be a rejection of budgetary proposals targeting federal jobs, pay and benefits, but they also say that such threats continue.
“We’re very excited, we’re very happy,” American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox said in a Wednesday morning conference call with reporters.
National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley said her union “supported the reelection of President Obama as being in the best interests of our country and of the dedicated men and women of the federal workforce. NTEU is also pleased that so many of our candidates for Senate seats and our staunchest supporters in the House won their races,” she said in a statement.
Both unions said that one of their top priorities will be to end the freeze on federal salary rates that has been in place since the last general raise was paid in January 2010. Individual employees have remained eligible for raises on promotion, for performance or on successfully completing waiting periods.
Under a temporary budget extension already enacted, basic pay rates won’t be increased at least until April. Unions are pushing for Congress to approve the 0.5 percent raise that President Obama has recommended after that, and to make it retroactive to January.
However, employee organizations are focused on the threat of automatic cuts in many federal budget accounts starting in January unless political leaders find revenue and savings to prevent that “sequestration.” Such cuts could translate into unpaid furloughs or job losses of an unknown scale, although pay rates and benefits would not be reduced.
A bill the House passed in May that was designed to produce some offsetting savings called for raising employee contributions toward retirement, extending the salary rate freeze through 2015 and cutting the workforce 10 percent by attrition. That bill, echoing an earlier House-passed budget outline, was crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.); he later became the Republican vice-presidential nominee, and similar proposals became part of the Republican campaign theme.
Such proposals could arise in the post-election session of Congress, Cox said, but “yesterday was an election on the Ryan budget and it lost.”
“We will certainly call to the attention of President Obama and our friends in Congress the fact that federal employees are good employees and that they have taken their share of the hits,” he said. “Federal employees have given and given and given. . . . We’re going to fight every attempt to cut employee pensions or benefits.”
Said Kelley, “It would be harmful to our nation if federal employees and their agencies are looked to for further cuts, including higher contributions to employee pensions and severe budget cuts, in light of the significant contributions they already are making.”
Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, which is not a union and which doesn’t make endorsements, said in a statement that “as we come to the edge of the fiscal cliff and the start of the lame-duck session of Congress, the stakes are higher than ever for federal workers and retirees.
“Both President Obama and members of Congress talked about shared sacrifice while on the campaign trail, and that’s what we at NARFE are asking for now,” he said. “Federal employees have contributed more than $75 billion toward getting our country’s fiscal standing back on track. We hope the president will defend federal workers and retirees from the waves of unfair attacks that incorrectly paint civil servants as the cause of our nation’s fiscal problems.”