The National Treasury Employees Union is trying to push back against Republican efforts to convince the public to support policies that would cut back on federal employees and government services.
Central to NTEU’s plan is a new survey they commissioned and released today, which found the vast majority of respondents think the government should put more resources and manpower behind food, medical device and nuclear safety, as well as border security and veterans assistance.
“Some would have you believe the American people have this desire for austerity, but that’s not true,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a phone conference with reporters. “When the question [about cutting government spending and employees] is asked in a general way, the public may not think about what it means in their personal life. By putting a name to [the jobs that might be cut], they realize it would have a major negative impact.”
NTEU’s survey found more than three quarters of the 1,000 people surveyed think the wealthiest Americans “should pay their fair share towards deficit reduction and economic recovery,” and that two-thirds think the wealthy should be taxed more before cutting funding for public services like food and drug safety and border security.
NTEU also said most respondents had no idea that federal employees have already contributed $75 billion to deficit reduction over a decade through their two-year pay freeze and increased retirement contributions for future employees.
The union posted the survey results — conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs — on the They Work For U.S. site it launched to push back against misinformation about federal employees. Kelley said she is planning a series of radio and TV appearances to publicize the results of NTEU’s survey.
Now that Mitt Romney has all but locked up the GOP presidential nomination, he’s turning his focus to the general election against President Obama. And if his comments last night are any indication, your pay and benefits are going to be a hot topic between now and November:
I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. [...] This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next. [emphasis added]
This isn’t the first time Romney has taken aim at federal employees. Last August, he said the government has too many feds who are paid too much, and in November he proposed cutting 10 percent of the federal workforce through attrition to save $4 billion.
National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley blasted Romney’s comments:
Every day, federal workers — from law enforcement officers to food inspectors to doctors to scientists in virtually every discipline, and many others — perform a variety of tasks vital to ordinary people throughout our country. Every federal employee knows well there is a direct connection between the efforts he or she makes, day in and day out, and the quality of life for the public they serve.
Kelley also reiterated that federal employees are in the midst of a two-year pay scale freeze that is expected to save $60 billion over a decade. Also, Congress has also passed pension cuts for new and future feds that will cost them $15 billion.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a bill that would cut future federal employees’ pensions, and increase the amount current and future feds put toward their retirement.
HR 3813, the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act, would raise contributions for current Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System employees by 0.5 percentage points per year for three years, beginning in 2013. This would make FERS employees contribute 2.3 percent of each paycheck toward their pensions, and require an 8.5 percent contribution from CSRS employees. It would also eliminate the FERS supplemental payment that federal retirees who are not yet eligible for Social Security receive, except for employees facing mandatory retirement, such as air traffic controllers.
The bill would also crease a category of “secure annuity employees” — new employees hired beginning in 2013 with less than five years of previous federal service — who would receive much reduced pensions and contribute much more. By our calculations, it would cut future “secure annuity” feds’ pensions by anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent, and require them to contribute five times as much toward their pension plans.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., the bill’s sponsor, said federal pensions are expensive and unsustainable, and are rapidly disappearing from the private sector.
You can read more about the bill here, and more about Ross’ further plans for federal retirements here. Needless to say, federal employee unions and retiree groups are up in arms against this bill. The National Treasury Employees Union, for example, is holding a teleconference this afternoon to denounce Ross’ bill. Stay tuned.
Yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report on federal employee compensation is already renewing the debate over the federal-vs.-private sector pay gap. The report — which concluded federal employees are compensated 16 percent higher than private sector workers — prompted the conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute and the libertarian Cato Institute to take victory laps.
Heritage’s Jason Richwine and James Sherk quibbled with CBO’s methodology (CBO’s findings generally tracked with Heritage’s conclusions that feds receive higher pay and benefits than the private sector, though CBO said the difference was much slimmer). But overall, they view the report as vindication and used it to swipe at Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, federal unions, and other left-leaning organizations who criticized Heritage’s assertions. Said Richwine and Sherk:
Heritage’s prior critics, however, must now either redirect their same harsh invective at the CBO or — much better — acknowledge the validity of our conclusions.
The American Federation of Government Employees is choosing the former. In a statement released last night, AFGE National President John Gage blasted the study as “pointless,” “absurd,” “academic and irrelevant.” Gage said:
Twenty lawmakers will soon start negotiating over extending the current payroll tax holiday, and it’s likely that some Republicans will look to federal pay and benefits as a way to pay for them. After all, House Republicans last month passed a bill that would have done just that.
The National Treasury Employees Union is already trying to head off that effort. In a letter today, NTEU called on payroll tax conference committee members to oppose any pay and benefit cuts. Federal employees are already working under a two-year pay freeze that is projected to save $60 billion over a decade, NTEU said, and the union feels it’s not fair to take more from them.
And NTEU points out that roughly 400,000 Civil Service Retirement System employees wouldn’t even see any benefit from the payroll tax cut they ostensibly would help pay for. The payroll tax cut reduces the amount employees contribute to Social Security. But CSRS employees neither pay into Social Security, nor receive benefits from the program.
“Federal employees are working with severely limited resources,” Kelley wrote. “They have faced government shutdowns four times [last] year, yet they have worked diligently to deliver services to the public. To ask them to bear such a disproportionate additional burden is unfair and unacceptable.”
Colleen Kelley was elected to her fourth four-year term as president of the National Treasury Employees Union last night.
Delegates to NTEU’s national convention chose Kelley overwhelmingly over challenger Eddie Walker. About 86 percent of votes were cast for Kelley.
Kelley pledged to keep fighting political attacks on federal employees, and to get agencies to provide enough personnel, equipment and other resources so employees can do their jobs properly.
“I am honored by the privilege to continue my efforts to move NTEU forward, to help ensure the voices of federal employees are heard in Congress and in their agencies, and to work to see that the public recognizes the dedication, commitment and professionalism of the federal workforce,” Kelley said.
Walker criticized Kelley for losing the election to represent Transportation Security Administration employees, and said that under her leadership, NTEU has not pushed hard enough for employees.
The National Treasury Employees Union is sick and tired of federal employees being knocked, and today announced a major nationwide public relations campaign that seeks to get them the respect they deserve. Their “Federal Employees … They Work For U.S.” campaign has distributed public service announcements to 200 television stations and 600 radio stations nationwide that highlight what feds contribute to society.
It comes at a time when the government is scrambling to find ways to slash the deficit, and cuts to federal employees’ pay and benefits have popped up on every major debt reduction plan. This has federal employee advocates nervous, and eager to change the narrative that has taken hold — primarily among conservatives — that federal employees are overpaid, underworked drains on society. But Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has often said that while some people love to rail against “pasty-faced,” anonymous bureaucrats, their opinions change when you start talking about specific federal employees.
(Anyone who’s heard Berry’s usual stump speech has heard his incredibly animated impression of a grouchy, anti-fed citizen turning on a dime and enthusing about the National Park Service ranger who guided his family around Gettysburg, the federal firefighter who put out a forest fire and saved his home, and the Secret Service agent who exudes professionalism.)
This campaign aims to accomplish just that personalization. In a briefing with reporters announcing the campaign, NTEU President Colleen Kelley said:
Federal employees do very important work every day. They guard our borders, and they protect our air and our water supply, they provide school lunches to children around the country. They do important things that the public doesn’t really pay attention to because it happens, and so they expect it will happen.
Kelley said the PSAs could run anywhere from six months to a year, and NTEU plans to take the fight to social media as well, primarily through a Facebook page. Here are the two TV spots some stations are already running:
Today is the last day to vote in the runoff election to decide which union will represent some 43,000 Transportation Security Administration screeners. Voters can choose between the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union.
The first election, in which screeners could also choose “no union,” ended inconclusively when nobody received a clear majority. Voters do not have the option of choosing no union this time. AFGE had a slight advantage in the first election’s results, and received 274 more votes than NTEU.
Eligible voters can cast their ballots online or over the phone until 11:59 p.m. tonight. The votes will be tallied on Thursday. Speak now, or forever hold your peace.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority yesterday set the Transportation Security Administration’s runoff election to begin May 23. The voting period will end June 21, and the votes will be tallied June 23.
The election will decide whether the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union will represent some 43,000 TSA screeners. The first vote — a three-way campaign between AFGE, NTEU and “no union” — ended inconclusively when nobody received a clear majority.
The first election’s results were very close, with AFGE received 274 more votes than NTEU. Voters will not have the option of selecting “no union” in the runoff election. Like the first election, screeners voting in the runoff will cast their ballots over the phone or online. FLRA will mail election packages to screeners May 23, which will include instructions and identification numbers necessary to vote.
Both unions’ leaders say they expect to win the runoff. AFGE’s John Gage said:
AFGE won the first round of a fierce contest against a worthy opponent. We expect to win the runoff election as well and are pleased that FLRA has cleared the way for a swift resolution to this process. I’m asking TSOs to come out and vote for us one more time. We’re one step closer to bringing you a better workplace.
NTEU’s Colleen Kelley said:
NTEU looks forward to the runoff election. We are confident our record of accomplishments and our program for their future will lead TSA officers to elect NTEU to help them improve their work lives and their workplaces. We have got the momentum. It is a dead heat, and we are going to pull ahead.
The election to choose an official union for the Transportation Security Administration ends tonight. It’s been a long time coming, and the winner stands to gain a bargaining unit of roughly 43,000 screeners.
All you screeners out there, feel free to sound off below. Did you vote for the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union, and why? Was there one particularly important issue that swayed your vote? What do you hope the winning union does for TSA?