If sequestration goes into effect next month, many Defense Department employees are likely to be furloughed one day per week for the rest of the fiscal year — in effect, a 20 percent pay cut.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other political appointees can’t be furloughed. But according to the Washington Times, Carter told lawmakers today that he is going to give back one-fifth of his salary if Defense civilian employees are furloughed. The Times called it “a show of solidarity.”
Federal employees are, of course, not happy about the prospect of mass furloughs, and many observers fear it could deal a devastating blow to morale. While Carter returning some of his pay won’t do anything to lessen the pressure on furloughed feds’ checkbooks, it may keep some of their anger from turning against their bosses.
Five Democratic representatives on Tuesday reintroduced a bill that would guarantee at least four weeks of paid leave for federal employees who become new parents, whether through the birth or adoption of a child.
HR 517 — sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., George Miller, D-Calif., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. — would grant all feds who become parents four weeks of paid parental leave, apart from their stored sick or annual leave. They would then be able to use up to eight additional weeks of sick or annual leave to be at home with their new children.
This leave would be in lieu of, and not in addition to, the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act. It would be available to both fathers and mothers.
The National Treasury Employees Union issued a statement Thursday strongly supporting the bill, and said some federal employees do not have 12 weeks of leave stored to care for their newborn or newly-adopted children. Said NTEU National President Colleen Kelley:
This paid parental leave act will make a significant difference in the lives of both parent and child. It is time for the federal government, as the largest employer in this country, to step up and make parental leave benefits a reality — not a mirage that few can afford to use. While the FMLA has been a terrific first step in helping employees balance family and work needs, no federal employee with a new child should be forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for the newest member of the family.
Maloney last introduced her paid parental leave bill in February 2011, but it died in committee. The House passed a previous version in 2009, but it died in the Senate.
There are also at least two petitions on the White House’s petition site urging the government to require paid maternity leave, although they are not specific to the federal government.
Tags: parental leave
The House of Representatives voted today to extend the current pay freeze — which has already lasted two years — through the rest of 2013.
The American Federation of Government Employees denounced the bill, proposed by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., as a “cheap political ploy.” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also blasted the bill and said it has no chance of passing the Senate.
But Fitzpatrick said approving a raise at a time when the government is teetering on the edge of the “fiscal cliff” is inappropriate.
“At a time when American families are tightening their belts and businesses are reducing salaries to make ends meet, I believe that the federal government must lead by example,” Fitzpatrick said.
The current Congress ends on Thursday, at which point any legislation still pending will be scrapped, and must be reintroduced in the 113th Congress. It is likely that Republicans will try again to freeze federal pay later this year, before the current freeze expires March 27.
President Obama on Friday issued a memo officially freezing federal pay scales for the first three months of 2013.
Obama’s freeze — which extends a pay scale freeze that has already stretched for two years — is no surprise. In August, he proposed freezing pay until Congress passes an actual budget and stops funding the government through a series of continuing resolutions, or CRs. One month later, Congress passed a six-month CR that freezes pay and partially funds the government until March 27.
The pay freeze memo came a few hours after President Obama granted feds a day off on Christmas Eve. Which once again shows, you win some, you lose some.
A coalition of 20 federal unions is encouraging its members to pressure lawmakers Tuesday against cutting their jobs, pay and benefits as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.
The Federal Workers Alliance — which includes unions such as the National Federation of Federal Employees, International Federation of Technical and Professional Engineers and Professional Aviation and Safety Specialists — wants its members to visit lawmakers in person, call their offices, e-mail them and spread the word via social media that when it comes to federal employee cuts, “Enough is enough.”
“Federal workers have already seen $103 billion in cuts to their pay and benefits, but many in Congress still don’t get the message,” said NFFE National President Bill Dougan, who is also the chairman of the union coalition. “We’re encouraging our members to contact their elected officials in any way they can and tell them, ‘The bank is closed.’”
Reports surfaced over the weekend that House Speaker John Boehner had proposed limiting federal retirees’ pension cost of living adjustments by adopting a new measure of inflation called the chained Consumer Price Index.
Multiple news organizations are reporting that House Speaker John Boehner included the so-called chained Consumer Price Index in his latest proposal to President Obama seeking to avert the fiscal cliff.
This would put a big dent in the deficit — perhaps raising more than $290 billion over a decade — but it would hit federal and military retirees right in their pensions. Economists say the chained CPI is a more accurate method of determining inflation that is usually 0.25 to 0.30 percentage points lower than the current method. Adopting it for pensions, Social Security benefits and other indexed portions of the government’s budget would, over time, dramatically lower cost-of-living adjustments. The change would mean only a few hundred dollars at first for federal retirees. But its effect would compound over time, until eventually federal retirees would likely earn tens of thousands of dollars less than they would under the current system.
As Federal Times reported last week, several federal employee groups had been fearing momentum was building on Capitol Hill to adopt the chained CPI. They oppose such a change, and say federal employees have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction over the next decade.
It’s no secret that printing on dead trees is a dying art — hello, declining newspaper industry! — but today’s Federal Register contained another reminder at how much the industry has changed. Blue-collar federal printers and lithographers in the Washington area have officially lost their special wage scale.
The Office of Personnel Management says the number of Washington-area printers and lithographers has plummeted in recent years — from 235 in 2004 to 24 this summer, spread across 10 agencies — and it no longer makes sense to offer them different wage rates. (Also, none of those 24 remaining printers or lithographers even benefit from the special wage scale anymore, further making it moot.) OPM said it expects the number of wage-scale printing and lithographic employees in the Washington area to continue to decline until there are none left. The wage scales being discontinued are the XS supervisory schedule printing employee, the XP nonsupervisory special schedule printing employee, and the XL leader special schedule printing employee.
It’s another sign of how the federal government has dramatically scaled back its once-massive printing operations over the last decade. As PDFs and iPads replaced paper Federal Register notices and reports, agencies such as the Government Printing Office have slashed their staffs and shifted much of their resources towards digital publishing.
Have you signed up for your health, dental and vision insurance for next year? If not, better act fast — today is the final day of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program’s open season. The open season — your only window of opportunity to choose your health coverage — began Nov. 12 and ends Dec. 10.
So speak now or forever hold your … health care coverage that may not meet your needs in 2013.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan today ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the Associated Press said, becoming the second federal appeals court to do so this year.
DOMA requires the federal government to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and as a result blocks federal spousal benefits — such as health and retirement benefits — from going to the legally-married same-sex spouses of federal employees. The case in today’s ruling — Windsor v. United States — is not related to federal employee benefits.
But other cases challenging DOMA have centered around federal benefits. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in May also declared DOMA unconstitutional when it said Dean Hara, the legally-married husband of late Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., had been improperly denied health coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
And in February, a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco handed lesbian federal employee Karen Golinski a major victory when he also declared DOMA unconstitutional, and ordered the Office of Personnel Management to extend FEHBP coverage to Golinski’s wife, Amy Cunninghis. OPM did so in May, but stressed that it was a legally-mandated one-person exemption that would apply only to Cunninghis and no other same-sex spouses. OPM Director John Berry, who is gay, has repeatedly said he supports extending health care coverage to gay feds’ spouses and partners, but said he is handcuffed by DOMA.
Despite the growing legal consensus against DOMA, it isn’t dead yet. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to start considering one of several cases challenging DOMA soon — perhaps this year, if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is correct.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yesterday said the path to saving a half-trillion each year lies with slashing federal jobs and pay, merging agencies, and cracking down on improper payments.
Romney’s proposals largely reiterated planks in the platform the GOP adopted last month, and other proposals Romney and other Republicans have made in recent years. Romney, speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, said he wants to save $500 billion a year by:
- Cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition;
- Combining agencies and departments to reduce overhead;
- Stopping roughly $115 billion in improper payments made annually by government programs;
- And bringing government compensation in line with the private sector.
The issue of government compensation and whether feds are overcompensated when compared to private sector workers is a tricky one, and largely depends on which study you look at. The government’s own studies find federal employees are greatly underpaid, but other studies (including one by the Congressional Budget Office) have found that feds receive more, especially when benefits are factored in.