Federal employee pay and benefits have been a target of Republicans for a long time and to be fair, to a much lesser degree, even Democrats (remember the Obama federal pay freeze). However, this time it appears a perfect storm has developed that may tangibly lead to the largest rollback of pay and benefits in the history of federal service. This effort is entirely Republican led and they control the White House, The Senate, and The House and have recklessly spent money they do not have, nor will they have. The effects of this perfect storm will negatively impact both current and future employees and should not be casually dismissed as many federal employees typically react. In other words, there is no expected or planned “grandfathering” that would protect existing employees. The only practical hope for federal employees is a midterm sweep by Democrats. That is not an opinion. That is now a fact.
Central to the role of any labor union, particularly federal labor unions, is the protection of federal employee pay and benefits. This is particularly important in the federal sector as federal employee pay typically lags private sector pay, especially in professional occupations at the GS-11 level and higher; and some agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs go further by artificially classifying positions lower than they should be when compared to competing agencies. There has also been self-inflicted injury caused by some federal labor unions that contravene the entire philosophy and mission of a labor organization thus harming its members financially. This negligence has directly resulted in the loss of pay affecting federal employees.
Perhaps the most notable of these anomalies has been the intentionally negligent efforts by the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in which the President of the NBPC, Brandon Judd, personally lobbied Congress for a pay-cut for all U.S. Border Patrol Agents and even testified in support of pay-cuts, claiming his members were asking for the pay-cut when in fact they were not. Judd wrote,
Finally, I would like to address the cost savings. On average, Agents will see a $6,200 pay reduction per year over what they have traditionally earned under AUO. CBP estimates that the annual costs saving should be in the $80 million range. We are probably the first labor organization to come before this Committee asking for a pay cut. My Agents are asking you to do this because ensuring proper manpower, stability, and safety, are worth the trade.
-Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council. Submitted Written Testimony to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, June 9, 2014.
Of course, Judd’s misplaced request was granted. This resulted in an estimated average loss in annual pay in excess of $6,200 for each agent . This union was able to cause its members to work more and actually earn less. Not only did the National Border Patrol Council actively lobby and spend union member dues to lobby for a pay-cut, it applauded the passage of the Senate Bill effecting the pay cuts (labeled as “pay reform”). By the way, if you are a member of the NBPC and pay dues, you are crazy.
The Proposed Cuts
Rather than tell you of all the proposed pay-cuts, we thought it would be better to list a number of recent reputable primary source articles we encourage all federal employees to read. You can form your own opinion.
- Federal Employees Face Cuts to Retirement Benefits And Pay Freezes (NPR)
- Retirement Cuts, pay freeze: ‘A Realistic Menace?’ (Federal News Radio)
- RSC Budget Echoes Proposals to Cut Federal Employees’ Pay, Benefits (Fedsmith)
- House Revives Rule Making it Easier to Cut Federal Employees’ Pay, Slash Workforce (GovExec)
- Trump Thanks Federal Employees with 143.5 Billion in Retirement Cuts (The Washington Post)
- Trump Budget Will Cost Federal Employees in Pay and Benefits (Federal Times)
- Trump Looks to Cut Federal Pensions (Market Watch)
- OPM Pushes Cuts to federal Retirement Benefits (FCW)
- Federal Employee Sacrifice Fact Sheet (AFGE)
- Trump Administration Proposes $143.5 Billion in Federal Employee Retirement Cuts (The Fiscal Times)
- These Retirement Cut Proposals Threaten Millions of Federal Workers (USA Today)
- 2.6 Percent Raise for Military, Pay Freeze for Federal Workers in 2019 Trump Budget (AL.com)
- Trump Agenda Reiterates Pay Freeze, Benefit Cuts (Fedsmith)
- Democrats Propose 2019 Federal Pay Raise of 3% (My Federal Retirement)
- Democrat Senators Tell OPM to Drop Federal Retirement Cuts (Federal Times)
As so well exemplified in the case negatively affecting the pay of U.S. Border Patrol Agents, federal employees cannot passively rely on the American Federation of Government Employees, or any union for that matter, to protect their pay & benefits. At the moment, AFGE appears far more concerned with the potential loss of official time caused by President Trump’s recent Executive Orders. And remember, AFGE is the largest union representing federal employees and it has done nothing to address the massive potential federal pay & benefit losses on the table for 2019. This means that any meaningful effort to prevent federal employee pay and benefit cuts will need to happen at the ballot box in the November 2018 mid-term elections. You can choose to vote Democrat. Or, you can choose to eat less. The answer is now that simple. Vote Republican? Just eat less.
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