The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Federal workers launch White House petition for a ‘meaningful pay raise’ above 1.3 percent Obama is giving

“Give hard-working federal employees a meaningful pay raise this year,” reads the headline of the petition posted Tuesday to the White House’s “We the People” online platform, which launched in 2011 as an open-government effort to make the First Amendment right more accessible.

[Federal workers on track to get 1.3 percent pay hike in January]

The petition’s justification is laid out this way: In recent years, federal employees have sustained furloughs, a government shutdown, budget cuts and three years without a raise, not to mention sagging morale. But they still work hard. So the president owes them a more substantial raise than he’s giving them.

Here’s the text of the petition, which had 14 votes as of 1:24 p.m. Tuesday. It won’t become publicly searchable until it reaches 150:

The federal workforce has borne a disproportionate burden of austerity: furloughs, pay freezes, benefit erosion, and demoralizing rhetoric from Congress. According the Washington Post and others, federal salaries lag those of the private sector by as much as 35%. OPM reports declining morale and difficulty in recruitment. Yet, feds continue to serve with dignity and distinction. Pres. Obama has pledged to support the middle class, of which feds are members, yet he continues to suggest raises that erode purchasing power. A meaningful raise would help lift workforce morale, retention, and recruitment. It would prove that Pres. Obama leads by example in supporting fair wages and the strengthening of the middle class. It would thank feds for keeping our country strong and our countrymen safe.

The president announced the raise late Friday, a default he has resorted to before, when Congress continued a strategy of action by inaction on the raise. Obama, in a letter to Congress, said he was taking a routine step that is required when Congress has not set a raise for the upcoming year by the end of August. It prevents what would be a much higher raise from being paid under the complex laws governing federal pay raises should no raise number be enacted into law by the end of the year.

Federal employee unions are balking at the raise and pushing for a 3.8 percent increase.

[Obama makes Dec. 26 a holiday]

For now, the link to is being passed from person to person. The petition was started by a Navy employee who said he came up with the idea with colleagues.

But at this point, now that the president has acted, a larger raise would have to pass through an appropriations bill from Congress that would override his action. A larger increase would likely require federal agencies to spend less money on other programs.

There’s precedent, though, for successful White House petitions by federal employees. Obama gave them a paid vacation day last Dec. 26, a Friday, creating a four-day weekend. The White House received tens of thousands of online signatures in a petition for the day off, although there’s plenty of precedent for full days off immediately for or after Christmas.

[Will President Obama give feds a Christmas present on Dec. 26?]