Priority Issues

NTEU's legislative agenda was established during a meeting in Washington, D.C., of the Legislative Advisory Committee. This group of NTEU members from various federal agencies and NTEU chapters spent hours reviewing the legislative landscape for federal employees and then recommended five priority issues to National President Tony Reardon.

Retired couple on the beachProtecting Federal Retirement

The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is fully funded and in good financial shape. Since 2010, Congress has used FERS as a piggy bank. Federal employees have contributed $21 billion to deficit reduction just through higher retirement contributions. Employees hired after Dec. 31, 2012, saw their retirement contributions increase by 2.3 percent of their salaries. Those hired after Dec. 31, 2013, were forced to pay an additional 1.3 percent. New employees are required to contribute 3.6 percent more for the same modest benefit. In recent years, Congress has made a number of proposals to change the federal retirement system, such as significantly increasing employee pension contributions, eliminating the annuity portion of FERS and changing the interest rate of the G Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). NTEU opposes any further reductions in the value of federal retirement benefits and will push Congress to eliminate the requirement for federal hires to make higher pension contributions than longtime federal employees.

NumbersFederal Employee Pay

Federal employees have suffered significant erosion in compensation since 2011. Federal workers had their pay frozen in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and then got belowmarket raises of 1 percent each in 2014 and 2015. For this year, they received a meager 1.3 percent raise, which included a locality pay increase for the first time in six years. In contrast, private-sector wages have risen by an average 10.6 percent in the past six years, according to the Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index. The administration is proposing a 1.6 percent pay raise for federal employees in calendar year 2017. That’s simply not enough. The federal workforce has already contributed $182 billion toward deficit reduction over the past 10 years due to pay freezes, the inadequate raises and higher retirement contributions for new employees. NTEU will work with Congress to provide a fair and adequate pay raise for calendar year 2017, including a locality pay adjustment. NTEU also supports a bill soon to be introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) to provide a 5.3 percent federal pay raise next year.

Fever thermometerSafeguarding Health Care Benefits

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) covers 8.2 million federal employees, retirees, and their family members. For 2016, premiums increased by an average of 6.4 percent, which is putting FEHBP out of reach for many middle-class federal employees. All federal workers and retirees are grappling with higher out-ofpocket costs. NTEU believes that allowing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)to contract directly for pharmacy services will reduce FEHBP costs and make the program more affordable for federal employees. Currently, FEHBP plans contract with Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) that negotiate prices with drug companies and pharmacies. PBMs and the health plans keep the rebates and discounts they get from drug manufacturers instead of returning them to the FEHBP. Since about 30 percent of all FEHBP costs are for prescription drugs, NTEU believes that having OPM contract directly for pharmacy services will result in significant savings for FEHBP and its enrollees. NTEU will push Congress to adopt commonsense prescription drug contracting and cost-saving reforms. NTEU supports H.R. 2175, a bill introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) to ensure fair prescription drug contracting and pricing practices in the FEHBP. NTEU opposes any efforts to further shift costs to FEHBP participants or to change the existing benefit structure and current formulas.

Office chairEmployee Workplace Fairness

Collective bargaining rights for federal employees are much narrower than those in the private sector. No federal employee is forced to join a union or pay dues, but federal unions are required by law to represent every employee in the bargaining unit regardless of membership status. Federal union members are also legally barred from striking. NTEU opposes H.R. 4461 that would prevent federal employees from deducting labor organization dues from their paychecks, undermining federal unions and their efforts to provide effective representation to federal workers. S. 2245 and S. 2246 and H.R. 4083 would prevent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees from receiving union representation. Ensuring that personnel actions are free from inappropriate political motivation is critically important to maintaining a civil service free of the spoils system. Eroding collective bargaining rights and due process rights would discourage whistleblowers from reporting waste and abuse due to fear of retaliation. NTEU will work to defeat H.R. 4461, S. 2245, S. 2246 and H.R. 4083 and to maintain the modest due process and collective bargaining rights currently in place for the federal workforce.

Appropriate Agency Funding

The Budget Control Act of 2011 imposed caps on federal spending and put in place sequestration, or automatic budget cuts, which had a crippling effect on the government’s ability to deliver services to the public. In 2013 sequestration required lengthy federal employee furloughs, hiring freezes and training cuts and prevented agencies from being able to perform all of their functions. The slight relaxation of the sequestration caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 isn’t enough to provide agencies with the funding they need to fulfill their missions. Taxpayers cannot get timely assistance, food and drug safety initiatives are underfunded, staffing shortages at the border hamper the economy and investors and consumers suffer as victims of financial fraud. NTEU opposes efforts to reduce the spending caps currently in place and will work to ensure that Congress provides federal agencies with sufficient funding for fiscal year 2017 to meet their missions.