The Month in Media
"It is past time for a just pay increase for federal employees. Federal workers are critical to the effective functioning of our country and they have already given too much in the name of budget savings."
Senate companion bill for 5.3 percent pay raise gets union support', Federal News Radio, March 17
NTEU received a lot of media coverage as President Tony Reardon spoke up on federal pay and workforce issues, the 2016 tax season and higher funding for federal agencies. Reardon was invited to testify on Capitol Hill on the administration's fiscal year 2017 budget requests, particularly for the Internal Revenue Service and Customs and Border Protection.
March and April Headlines
• NTEU strongly supports legislation that would give federal employees the first meaningful pay raise in years. Read the clips»
• The media covers NTEU's fight for IRS staffing increases and to protect employee rights. Read the clips »
• During the 2016 tax filing season, NTEU spoke out for more IRS funding so that taxpayers can get the help they need. Read the clips »
• On Capitol Hill, National President Tony Reardon testified in support of a much-needed CBP staffing boost. Read the clips »
• A split Supreme Court decision provides a victory for federal employee unions and thee employees they represent. Read the clips »
Senate companion bill for 5.3 percent pay raise gets union support (Federal News Radio)
Support for a 5.3 percent pay raise for federal employees is now coming from both chambers of Congress. ...National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said in a March 17 statement that the bill would give members of the federal workforce their "first appropriate pay increase in years." "It is past time for a just pay increase for federal employees," Reardon said. "Federal workers are critical to the effective functioning of our country and they have already given too much in the name of budget savings."
Schatz among Senators to Introduce Fed Employee Wage Increase Bill (Maui Now)
U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is one of four legislators to introduce the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act, which would provide federal employees with a 5.3% pay increase next year. ..."Sen. Schatz's bill would give middle-class federal employees their first meaningful pay raise in years," said Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Federal workers are finding it harder and harder to keep up with rising costs, while at the same time, their pay has fallen steadily behind the private sector. We applaud Sen. Schatz for introducing this important piece of legislation and extend our appreciation for Sens. Mikulski, Cardin and Brown's long-term efforts to strengthen the federal workforce. We will work hard to see that Congress passes this pay fairness legislation."
Slow hiring can mean long overtime for Customs officers (Washington Post)
Some overtime now and then can be a good thing. But long hours of overtime, over and over, can be just too much. ...Here is Jorge LLanos, a veteran officer speaking as the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) chapter president in San Diego: "Our employees at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry work 16-hour shifts almost on a daily basis." Thinking about his two boys, LLanos recalled missing "the majority of their birthdays [and] one of their graduations." ...In a statement prepared for Tuesday's Senate hearing, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said, "Both involuntary overtime --resulting in 12 to 15 hour shifts, day after day, for months on end --and involuntary work assignments far from home disrupt CBP Officers' family life and destroys morale. Ongoing staff shortages contribute to CBP's ranking at the very bottom of the Partnership for Public Service's 'Best Places to Work' Survey --314 out of 320 agency subcomponents." ...Dan Barra, speaking in his role as a NTEU chapter president at New York's JFK airport, where he is an officer, said the overtime cap there was increased last year to $45,000. Making that much in overtime means lots of lost personal time. "When my kids were younger," Barra recalled, "I missed a lot of their games, the whole gamut." ...Barra and Llanos say they would recommend being a CBP officer to someone seeking a career, but offered a sad caveat. "You will be a footnote on your family's get-togethers," LLanos said, "because you can't show up."
One Agency Congress Actually Wants to Hire More People Is Failing in That Task (GovExec)
Lawmakers chided Customs and Border Protection officials at a congressional hearing Tuesday, saying the agency has failed to boost its staffing levels despite a specific mandate from Congress to do so. ...Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 25,000 CBP employees, said staffing shortages are contributing to poor morale. CBP placed 314 out of 320 federal agencies in the Partnership for Public Service's best places to work rankings. In addition to being overworked, forced temporary duty assignments are a major drag on employees, especially those with families. "People are beaten up, they're tired," Reardon said.
IRS workforce has dropped 15 percent since 2010 (Federal Times)
Numbers from the IRS's 2015 Data Book shows the agency appears to be doing more with less but is it actually? ...National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon said, in a statement, that the agency desperately needs more funding to carry out its mission. "Without an infusion of funding, the health of the IRS will continue to decline," he said. "The ongoing deterioration of the IRS workforce prevents the IRS from offering the level of service taxpayers deserve, from aggressively curbing tax fraud and from effectively enforcing tax laws authored by Congress." Reardon added that the White House's proposed 2017 budget would provide an extra $1 billion above the current IRS funding levels, which would help bolster services, but that it still needs more resources to handle continued challenges in its mission. "Our country depends on an efficient and effective tax collection system to fund our national defense, education and all of the other services our citizens expect from their government," he said. "That cannot be accomplished with far fewer employees than there were 20 years ago."
IRS Releases Data on Fiscal Year 2015 (Accounting Today)
The Internal Revenue Service released its 2015 IRS Data Book on Wednesday, providing a snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year. ...The union representing IRS employees pointed to the declines in staffing. "Without an infusion of funding, the health of the IRS will continue to decline," said National Treasury Employees Union national president Tony Reardon in a statement. "The ongoing deterioration of the IRS workforce prevents the IRS from offering the level of service taxpayers deserve, from aggressively curbing tax fraud and from effectively enforcing tax laws authored by Congress."
In Our Defense (Politico; eighth item)
The National Treasury Employees Union notes that the latest data from the IRS shows that the agency has lost some 17,600 employees over the past five years, amid a series of budget cuts. "Without an infusion of funding, the health of the IRS will continue to decline," said Tony Reardon, NTEU's president. "The ongoing deterioration of the IRS workforce prevents the IRS from offering the level of service taxpayers deserve, from aggressively curbing tax fraud and from effectively enforcing tax laws authored by Congress."
Fiscal 2015 a record-setting year for IRS online apps (Federal News Radio)
One agency accounted for more than $3.3 trillion in collected taxes; 119 million refunds given; 80,000 full-time-equivalent positions and 985 identity theft cases closed. ...National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said the Data Book highlights the losses that not only put the agency at risk, but taxpayers as well. "Our country depends on an efficient and effective tax collection system to fund our national defense, education and all of the other services our citizens expect from their government," Reardon said. "That cannot be accomplished with far fewer employees than there were 20 years ago."
Three years is too long for administrative leave (Washington Post)
The use and misuse of paid administrative leave in federal agencies is getting increased attention because of cases such as these at the Department of Homeland Security. ..."Putting an employee on administrative leave during a disciplinary process is a management decision, so the notion that the leave could be abused by the employee is misguided," said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "One thing we do not support is to provide incentives to management to drag out an investigation or limit due-process procedures by arbitrarily cutting off the time an employee can be on administrative leave. The burden to act more quickly must be on those who have control over the process, not on the employee who has no control."
Union chief: Staffing biggest challenge for IRS (Federal News Radio)
IRS service dramatically improves to mediocre (Washington Post)
If you're among the nearly one-third of U.S. taxpayers who can't get their calls answered by the nation's tax collector, reports of improved assistance by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won't mean much. ..."The IRS is continuing to struggle to deliver for the American taxpayer," Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), told reporters Thursday. "I think that there's no question but that the IRS needs more resources and they need more personnel to meet the demand for taxpayer services, to catch tax cheats and criminals, to effectively fight identity fraud, to enforce tax laws and to collect all the taxes that are owed." Reardon, who represents IRS employees, called the telephone news conference to continue the union's long fight for adequate agency funding. Budget cuts so devastated the ability of the IRS to help taxpayers that "service" didn't rightly fit in the agency's name.
The ongoing and "relatively smooth" 2016 tax filing season highlights the importance of funding for the Internal Revenue Service, according to government auditors and the union that represents Treasury Department employees. The agency has lost more than 22,000 full and part-time employees nationally in the past five years, and a total of $1.2 billion in funding, despite an increase in the number of tax returns filed, said National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon. "The president put forward in his budget increasing the IRS budget by $1 billion and we are supportive of that," Reardon said during an April 7 call with reporters. "Assuming if the IRS got that funding ...and put it into front-line employees, I think we would really start to see a real improvement in the ability of the agency to serve the needs of the taxpayers."
The Internal Revenue Service's extra $290 million in funding this year helped the IRS improve its level of responsiveness to taxpayer phone calls, according to a new report. ...Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS employees, told reporters during a conference call Thursday that the funding boost was not enough. "The takeaway message from the 2016 tax season is this," he said. "It is that the IRS is continuing to struggle to deliver for the American taxpayer. I think there is no question but that the IRS needs more resources and they need more personnel to meet the demand for taxpayer services, to catch tax cheats and criminals, to effectively fight identity fraud, to enforce the tax laws, and to collect all the taxes that are owed." According to data released Thursday by the NTEU, between 2011 and this year, the IRS lost 22,808 full- and part-time employees nationwideâ€”a 21 percent staffing cut. On a state-by-state basis, between 2011 and 2016, the IRS job-loss rate was the highest in Delaware and Alaskaâ€”41.4 percent. ...In raw numbers, California lost more IRS employees than any other state in that five-year period: 3,776 people.
IRS Employees May Be As Stressed As Taxpayers (Government Executive)
A walk-in taxpayer assistance center run by the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles experienced such long lines at the start of the 2016 tax filing season that it began requiring appointments. Only the elderly or those with disabilities were provided face-to-face help by the understaffed IRS center, which lacks even basic tax forms and publications to distribute, according to Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Many taxpayers are furious, and some so unruly they had to be escorted from the building," he said in a call to reporters on Thursday. "Employees are feeling extremely stressed out, sick days are up, and some have quit." The union is pressing Congress to fully fund President Obama's request for an additional $1 billion for the IRS in 2017.
IRS cuts mean fewer audits, less taxpayer help (Louisville Courier-Journal)
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--...IRS workers have felt the strain of watching their ranks thin and their workloads soar when budget cuts since 2010 have meant no replacement hires, said Sheri White, an IRS revenue agent in Louisville and president of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 25, which represents workers in this region. ..."There's just not enough people to provide service to the American taxpayers," White said. "I've lost almost 50 people in the last two years." That comes when taxpayers are dealing with increasing complex questions involving their returns, such when their identity is stolen. The problems that arise don't make for quick fix over the phone or during a walk-in visit, White said. "Identity theft problems are just exploding... and these situations get found out" when tax filing time arrives. "If you sent in correspondence, who knows when it's going to get answered," she added.
A day after the annual tax deadline passed, the Republican-led House will turn its attention to a series of bills targeting a range of Internal Revenue Service policies, some of them focusing on its workforce. ...The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents most IRS employees, made similar comments regarding each bill in a letter to Capitol Hill, saying that, together, they "would weaken the IRS's ability to carry out its customer service and enforcement mission, and undermine efforts to retain dedicated and experienced employees."
Blame Congress for tax complexity (USA Today)
As Americans scramble to finish their tax returns this weekend, it's safe to say that many are fuming at the IRS. On the presidential campaign trail, "abolish the IRS" is one of Ted Cruz's signature promises and applause lines. Yes, the agency richly deserves voters' anger for providing ghastly customer service, being a too easy mark for fraudsters and failing to prevent the theft of a mother lode of personal information from its website. But most of the reasons people hate the IRS are really the fault of Congress.
(April 14) (Note: Though the USA Today editorial didn't quote NTEU, it was based on information provided by NTEU)
NTEU urges Congress to boost CBP funding (Federal Soup)
NTEU Pushes for Higher IRS, CBP Funding (cyberFEDS; subscription required)
The National Treasury Employees Union this week urged a House panel to provide Customs and Border Protection with enough funding to address what it called "chronic staffing shortages" at the agency. ..."NTEU was disappointed that Congress, in last year's highway bill, diverted Customs User fees to serve as an offset for highway funding, rather than use this fee increase to hire additional CBP officers," NTEU President Tony Reardon said in the testimony.
Border Agencies Fall Short of Fulfilling Ambitious Hiring Plans (Government Executive)
How much the government should invest in border protection may depend on one's view of whether the current Border Patrol and related operations demonstrate progress in improving national security. ...In submitted testimony, the National Treasury Employees Union, while praising the administration's proposed 5.2 percent budget hike and plan to add 2,000 CBP employees, warned that current "employees are forced to work overtime and asked to take assignments far from home because their agency is chronically understaffed and is struggling to accomplish its mission." NTEU National President Tony Reardon said CBP Officers in particular are "demoralized by having to work 12-15 hour shifts for months and work far from home."
The National Treasury Employees Union testified before a Senate appropriations subcommittee on the need to boost funding for Customs and Border Patrol and the Internal Revenue Service. NTEU President Tony Reardon said CBP needs additional resources to adequately staff the agency to protect the country and maintain commerce at the nation's entry points. Reardon said staffing problems are also having an impact on morale, saying that "ongoing staff shortages contribute to CBP's ranking at the very bottom of the Partnership for Public Service's 'Best Places to Work' Survey." Reardon also reiterated NTEU's position that continued cuts in IRS funding have hurt the ability of the agency to provide needed customer service, and has led to more identity theft while making it harder to collect unpaid tax debts.
IRS Budget Request 'Unrealistic,' Crenshaw Says (Tax Notes Today; subscription required)
The Obama administration's request to increase funding for the IRS by $1 billion is "unrealistic," according to Republicans on a House Appropriations subcommittee, who received a letter signed by 44 House Democrats asking them to support that very same budget request. ...In a statement, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon echoed the Democrats' concerns. "The peak of tax season is upon us, and taxpayers are bearing the brunt of insufficient [IRS] funding," he said. "These members of Congress understand the IRS is struggling to provide assistance and deter tax-related identity theft. I ask other members of Congress to heed their call. Only additional funding can help."
Union says CBP needs more funding to bolster staff (Federal Soup)
The president of the National Treasury Employees Union on April 19 urged Congress to provide Customs and Border Protection with additional funding to hire staff and strengthen border security. In testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said that an ongoing CBP staffing shortage is one of key reasons behind the agency's perennially low ranking in federal employee surveys. "Many CBP employees are forced to put in long hours of overtime and accept assignments far from home, which damages morale," Reardon said. The union maintains that Congress needs to fund the hiring of another 2,107 CBP officers and 631 agriculture specialists identified in CBP's 2016 Workload Staffing Model. Moreover, NTEU said, CBP needs to improve a hiring process the union claims has delayed the hiring of 2,000 CBP officers funded in 2014. The union also supports a CBP budget proposal that calls for Congress to authorize a $2 hike in customs user fees to cover the hiring of 2,100 additional CBP officers.
CBP stretched thin due to workforce, infrastructure issues (Federal News Radio)
With low morale, high attrition, significant barriers to hiring and facilities at ports-of-entry lawmakers say are restricting commerce and tourism, Customs and Border Protection is struggling to do more with less. ...The House Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee questioned executives from CBP, the General Services Administration and the National Treasury Employees Union about challenges to CBP's hiring, retention and infrastructure. ...(Arizona GOP Rep. Martha) McSally's other major concern regarding hiring was the polygraph process, an obstacle that she said disqualified a great deal of otherwise qualified candidates. She shared anecdotes that included improper questions and problematic behavior on the parts of polygraph operators, although she did not go into specifics. "I've heard some of the same kinds of horror stories I suspect you are probably referring to," Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said. "The stories I've heard clearly go beyond what I think is acceptable to be asking someone." ...Reardon acknowledged hearing many of the same opinions expressed. He said that the CBP also received low scores on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. "From my perspective, the staffing shortage is certainly a large part of the problem when you start looking at the morale. You have people who are working 12-15 hour days. After a while, it begins to wear on people. People are beaten up. They're tired," Reardon said. "I think, probably at the core for them, is that they don't feel valued."
How a Deadlocked Supreme Court Provided a Major Boost to Federal Employee Unions (Government Executive)
Federal employees may have scored an unforeseen victory in a split Supreme Court decision announced Tuesday, which on its face only impacted public sector groups at the state and local level. ...Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, acknowledged a prohibition on fair-share fees would have "diminished the ability" of public sector unions to "implement the contract on behalf of all covered employees and represent them in workplace matters," as federal groups are required to do.