The Washington Post

Federal-worker union begins final stand against sequester

(Courtesy NTEU) (Courtesy NTEU)

One of the nation’s largest federal-worker unions will gather an expected 350 members in the District of Columbia on Tuesday to rally against proposed spending cuts that would affect government employees and services.

The National Treasury Employees Union plans to dedicate at least the first afternoon of its three-day legislative conference and most of Wednesday toward lobbying members of Congress to support its causes.

The group will focus primarily on the preventing — or at least limiting — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, according to President Colleen M. Kelley.

The reductions are scheduled to take effect in just three days, and many agency leaders have said they would have to use furloughs to meet the cost-saving targets.

With congressional leaders expressing little hope that they can reach an agreement to avoid the cuts, the union is hoping it can at least blunt the impacts.

“I think the odds are against it being settled by Friday, but I think as these agencies move forward, there will be time to come to a resolution before employees are harmed with furlough days,” Kelley said.

The NTEU hopes to meet with agency managers next week to discuss the issue of unpaid leave, with the goal of negotiating as much flexibility as possible for workers, according to Kelley.

On Tuesday, the NTEU plans to release the results of a survey it conducted to show how the sequester would impact the union’s members. According to Kelley, 82 percent of respondents said they would have difficulty paying for rent, utilities and food expenses, while 63 percent said they would need to take money out of savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet.

“There’s a lot of fear,” Kelley said. “Employees think this is going to happen based on what has happend to date, with there being no resolution. They feel like they’re caught in the middle, just doing their jobs and serving the American people.”

Aside from sequestration, the union plans to pressure lawmakers to oppose proposals that House Republicans have put forward this year and during the last session of Congress to freeze federal pay rates and require government employees to contribute more toward their retirement benefits.

Keynote speakers at the legislative conference will include Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Tuesday, as well as Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C) on Wednesday.

The NETU program mirrors a similar set of events the American Federation of Government Employees held in the nation’s capital earlier this month.


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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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