Washington D.C. – Nearly 400 federal employees from around the country gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to open the National Treasury Employees Union’s 2019 Legislative Conference and encourage members of Congress to protect federal pay and benefits, support agency missions and ensure fairness in the government workplace.
NTEU National President Tony Reardon welcomed the union members to Washington and saluted their activism.
“Today, we go on the offensive. We storm Capitol Hill and we fight for every employee, for every job, for every mission. We fight for the tools and resources you need, we fight for fair pay, affordable health care, paid parental leave, and we fight for your retirement system,” Reardon said. “The country, our country, deserves a government that is firing on all cylinders. One that can tackle the problems, big and small, that confront our nation; and that is the government we pledge to deliver.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., also addressed the union members during the opening session. Lewis is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.
Last year, Lewis had a 100 percent voting record on NTEU’s legislative scorecard and he has sponsored NTEU-endorsed legislation to stop the use of private contractors to collect federal tax debts.
"We live in a difficult time. Thank you for all your hard work and thank you for never giving up," Lewis said.
Reardon said, "Congressman Lewis is an inspiration and lifelong friend of labor, and NTEU members are honored to have him kick off this incredibly important event."
NTEU’s 2019 legislative agenda was crafted in February by the union’s Legislative Advisory Committee, made up of federal employees from various agencies. The group decided to focus NTEU’s efforts this year on achieving pay equity; securing agency funding; protecting retirement; ensuring affordable health and family benefits; and guaranteeing workplace fairness.
The agenda has already identified specific proposals to support, including a 3.6 percent pay raise in 2020, paid family leave for federal employees and the restoration of the National Council of Federal Labor Management Relations. It also lists proposals that NTEU will strongly oppose, including reductions to federal retirement benefits, shifting more of the costs of health insurance
to employees and weakening the rights of federal workers to bargain collectively.
“This is our job this week: To educate, enlighten and engage legislators. To have open and honest conversations about you, your work and what the federal workforce needs,” Reardon told the NTEU members.
Reardon also thanked NTEU members for their courage during the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended Jan. 25.
“Washington has a black eye caused by the five-week government shutdown that locked tens of thousands of NTEU members out of their offices while tens of thousands of others were forced to work for no pay,” Reardon said. “We cannot and will not accept that this is our new reality. Government shutdowns that use federal employees as leverage in some larger political struggle should never be normal.”
Reardon called the shutdown a travesty that hurt federal employees, the public and the nation’s economy.
“But if there was one silver lining from the shutdown debacle it is this: the American people have a newfound understanding of who federal employees are and a growing appreciation for the incredibly important and necessary work done by our federal workers,” he said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 33 federal agencies and departments.