Washington, D.C.—With the House of Representatives scheduled to vote later this week on legislation that would extend the more than two-year pay freeze for federal employees, the head of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) in a second letter to House members today underscored her strong opposition to the proposal and sharp criticism of it.
The proposal at issue, H.R. 273, is being advanced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). It would cancel a raise of 0.5 percent scheduled for late March under current law.
“A vote in favor of H.R. 273 is a vote to continue the freeze on pay for those who guard our borders, ensure that food supplies and medicines are safe, and provide services to your constituents every day,” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley wrote. “America’s workforce lives with constant threats of government shutdowns and furloughs and for agencies with fewer and fewer resources as a result of budget cuts. Nonetheless, they continue to provide the vital services your constituents depend on. It is past time to allow them the tiny pay increase this bill seeks to eliminate.”
She added: “Despite what supporters of this proposal may say about respecting the work of federal employees, blocking a modest pay raise of 0.5 percent for dedicated public servants who are working under a 27-month pay freeze sends quite the opposite message—that neither they nor their work are viewed as important to our nation.”
Further, Kelley called the bill “a particularly galling step in light of the fact that federal workers have contributed far more than any other group to economic recovery and deficit reduction.”
The contributions of the federal workforce, through the ongoing pay freeze and higher pension contributions from new hires, totals $103 billion over 10 years. Earlier, Kelley had written to all House members urging them to vote ‘no’ on the bill.
Among the critics of the legislation is Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who wrote to his Republican colleagues urging a ‘no’ vote on the measure. Rep. Wolf, a longtime supporter of the federal workforce, used his letter to outline in firm and direct language some of the multiple contributions to our nation made by federal employees—including, among others, those at Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Energy, all of whom are represented by NTEU.
The congressman took note of the $103 billion contribution by federal workers, and said “I know that these patriotic Americans are willing to do more, but they rightly expect all of us to fully join this effort.”
He added that the vote on the pay freeze bill is more than just a vote to cut a program. “It is a targeted vote to specifically freeze an individual’s pay from a marginal income—a personal affront to the employee and their entire family, including their spouses and children, and the retired parents who care about their children.”
As part of her argument against the DeSantis bill, President Kelley noted that average wages in the private sector have increased during the period that federal pay has been frozen, and emphasized that federal employees provide a vast array of vital services people not only want but depend upon.
NTEU is the nation’s largest independent union of federal employees, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.