Washington, D.C.—Hundreds of members of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) today kicked off the start of a three-day lobbying effort to discuss with their members of Congress issues of concern to federal employees.
“There are major challenges facing the federal workforce,” President Colleen M. Kelley told the NTEU members at the opening session of the union’s annual Legislative Conference. She likened the federal government to a structure with a weakening foundation and warned that ongoing budget cuts and a workforce under fire have shaken the country’s foundation.
“As a result, the very essence of our government is at risk,” Kelley warned.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) joined President Kelley in addressing the conference opening session. “We all know it’s not easy to be a federal employee these days,” he said, pointing to recent federal employee furloughs and the harmful effects of sequestration. As a consequence, low employee morale has become a serious issue in federal workplaces and one that Tester said he intends to address in Congress. “Federal employees should feel valued at their jobs,” he said.
In addition, Sen. Tester vowed to persist in fighting against proposed cuts to federal workers’ compensation benefits, telling NTEU members “I will continue to have your backs.”
The budget deal and omnibus funding bill eliminated the constant government funding crises the country experienced last year but the deep and ongoing budget cuts continue to devastate federal agencies and federal employees.
“We see agencies trying to do far more with far less and that is taking a tremendous toll on employees,” President Kelley said. “We see hiring freezes, employees who leave are not replaced, buyouts, reductions in force, work not getting done, taxpayers not being served, and revenue not being collected. It is irresponsible and disingenuous to complain about federal spending while failing to provide the resources to collect all the revenue that the government is entitled under the law to collect.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects 93 percent of the government’s revenue yet its budget has been slashed by nearly $1 billion in the last four years and it has lost 10,000 front-line service and enforcement personnel. Inadequate funding is forcing the IRS to limit the amount of live assistance taxpayers can receive on the phone and in person.
“This week we are here to ask Congress to support federal workers,” Kelley said, by stopping sequestration, building up agency funding and halting the attacks on federal employee pay and benefits.
“We will fight for a fair pay raise. Federal workers are in danger of slipping from the middle class. That is a disgrace and we cannot let it happen,” President Kelley said. NTEU is calling for a 3.3 percent pay raise.
The NTEU members gathered in Washington, D.C., this week are from across the country and from agencies throughout the government. They will meet with their elected representatives on these priority issues:
· Ending sequestration and providing adequate agency funding;
· Securing an adequate federal employee pay raise in 2015;
· Protecting the current employer-sponsored Federal Employees Health Benefits Program;
· Opposing efforts to reduce the value of federal employee retirement; and
· Eliminating unnecessary federal contracting and lowering the contractor reimbursement cap to the salary of the Vice President.
“Since we last met, we have engaged in endless battles to protect the federal workforce and save our agencies from decimation,” President Kelley said. “NTEU has been around for more than 75 years. We know how to fight. We know what it takes to win. And one of the ways we do that is by putting all our effort, all our energy and all our focus on a key set of issues that directly affect the lives of our members.”
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.