Washington, D.C.—The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) 2017 Legislative Conference opened today when more than 350 federal employees from around the country gathered to rally support for fair pay, secure pensions, a commitment to agency missions, affordable health insurance and workplace fairness.
Activities at the three-day conference include personal meetings with members of Congress, training workshops, and a rally Thursday on the west lawn of the Capitol with Congressional leaders. The theme of this year’s conference, “For a Stronger Union,” is a reference to both NTEU and the country as a whole.
“There is no better way to preserve and promote our democracy than by making sure that working Americans have the freedom to build and join strong unions and work together for dignity, respect, justice and fair treatment,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
Reardon spoke to the delegates at the opening session Wednesday morning, along with Rep. Joe Crowley, (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Quigley, (D-Ill.). Crowley is chair of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Quigley is the Democratic Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
Quigley encouraged the NTEU leaders to battle back against efforts to denigrate the value of the federal workforce.
"What you do matters. I need to make government as efficient as possible and I need to make what you do as meaningful as possible and have you treated appropriately and paid appropriately and treated with the respect your deserve," Quigley said.
Crowley said it is important for NTEU members to remind their members of Congress about the quiet service they perform every day as a way to combat plans to shrink the workforce.
"We the American people trust you in running the day-to-day operations of government so implicitly that we don't even think about it," Crowley said. "This is both a badge of honor but also a curse in that the work you do can be taken for granted because we just trust it will be there and you will be there when we need you."
NTEU, which represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments, is fighting various proposals on Capitol Hill that threaten federal employees’ jobs and couldhamper the government’s ability to provide necessary services to the American people.
“Today we fight for our agency missions and for the services we provide to the public,” Reardon said. “One strong union dedicated to the success of another strong union.”
NTEU’s legislative agenda was set earlier this year by the union’s Legislative Advisory Committee.It includes supporting a federal pay raise, opposing cuts in retirement and health care programs, protecting due process rights and fighting for adequate funding to help agencies accomplish their missions.
Reardon acknowledged the challenges when a new administration takes office, especially one that institutes a hiring freeze and threatens deep workforce reductions. And there are proposals in
Congress to wipe out entire agencies, cut employee retirement benefits and weaken collective bargaining.
“So we need to fight harder, to defend our work and our rights,” Reardon said.
He commended federal employees for maintaining their commitment to public service, even when their profession is under attack.
“Yet in the midst of all this uncertainty, Social Security checks are delivered, tax refunds are processed, new medicines are approved, Ponzi schemes are shut down and so much more,” Reardon said. “You don’t see these things on the nightly news or on your Facebook feed, but it is the people at this conference that have our backs and keep our country running smoothly day in and day out.”
Reardon encouraged the NTEU members to reach out to members of Congress in their districts and use personal stories about their work to gain support for federal employee issues and agency budgets.
“Federal employees do their best every day and in the process of doing just another day’s work, you make history, you change the world,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.