Washington, D.C. – More than 350 federal employees from around the country gathered today to open the National Treasury Employees Union 2018 Legislative Conference where they will urge lawmakers to protect their workplaces, preserve their benefits, safeguard their agency missions and provide adequate agency funding.
“We are here this week to stand up for federal employees, to make our case—and it is a compelling case—that the federal workforce is important, that your work is important, and that our civil service is a national treasure. It is still the marvel of the world,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
Reardon was joined at the conference’s opening session by Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a veteran civil servant who joined the local law enforcement union on her first day as a sworn police officer in Orlando 28 years ago.
“I knew it was the union that would be my best advocate to have a decent wage with decent benefits and I knew quickly it was the union that was going to fight for me,” Demings said.
Demings said she supports a 3 percent pay raise for federal employees for 2019 and would oppose efforts to cut federal retirement and health benefits.
“I also believe we should work hard to ensure our federal employees and their families… have quality health care coverage that’s affordable and addresses the rising costs of premiums, copays and prescription drugs,” Demings said.
Demings is an original cosponsor of HR 4940, which would authorize the hiring of 500 new Customs and Border Protection Officers and 100 Agriculture Specialists every year until the agency’s staffing shortage is alleviated.
NTEU’s 2018 legislative agenda is a mix of defense and offense: fighting proposals that would harm civil servants and supporting government spending levels that ensure agencies can adequately serve taxpayers.
NTEU members work in all 50 states and U.S. territories protecting our ports, pursuing financial fraud, inspecting food and medicine, helping taxpayers follow the tax code, researching scientific advancements in energy production, cleaning up pollution, maintaining our national parks and providing many other public services.
“You are what drives this country forward and delivers the services the American people expect and need,” Reardon told the attendees. “You do it every day without fanfare and without glory. And you keep at it even as you navigate repeated continuing resolutions and government shutdowns.”
The union’s agenda was set earlier this year by a Legislative Advisory Committee made up of federal employees from various agencies. The committee outlined four main goals: securing agency missions; preserving and enhancing employee benefits such as retirement, health insurance, paid parental leave and telework; improving federal employee pay; and ensuring workplace fairness and maintaining civil service protections.
Reardon warned them about the challenges that lie ahead.
“Despite your many accomplishments, despite your commitment to the missions of your agencies and despite your underlying belief in public service, there are elected leaders who don’t want to take the time to truly understand how government works or who simply want to tear our civil service down,” he said. “Remember that you are not the swamp, you are not the deep state. What you are is the backbone of this country. You are patriotic Americans dedicating your knowledge, skills and talents to this country.”
Finally, Reardon announced that Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., has introduced a resolution (S. Res. 378) commending NTEU on its 80th anniversary.
“We have been in tough places before and we are still standing, stronger and more unified than ever,” Reardon said. “Our strength is our tenacity, our willingness to stand up for what we believe in and our commitment to protect each other. That’s what unions are all about; that is what NTEU is all about.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.