WASHINTON - The government should raise pay for federal workers by 4 percent in the year beginning Oct. 1, not by the 1 percent President Obama has proposed, the president of the federal government's largest workers' union says.
A 4 percent hike, says J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, would start to make up for the three years of federal pay freezes and increased pension contributions-without increased future pension payouts-that Congress imposed on federal workers, he adds.
Cox called Obama's 1percent pay hike, which will be in the proposed budget the White House will unveil on March 4, "pitiful." The budget, which the GOP-run House will ignore, reveals an administration's priorities for the coming fiscal year.
"A 4 percent raise is a modest, affordable increase that will help employees keep up with rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare expenses," Cox said.
Since 2010, federal workers have gone through to the 3-year pay freeze, last year's 2-week GOP-mandated government shutdown, furloughs due to sequestration, and the hikes in pension contributions and health care costs, he noted. The result is that their expenses rose by 9 percent since 2010, but compensation rose only by 3 percent. And federal workers have contributed at least $120 billion to deficit reduction-far more than any other group in the U.S.
"The president must send a strong message that inflicting pain on federal employees was a miserable failure," Cox said. "The administration punished federal workers in order to endear itself to those who despise the federal workforce, and it didn't work. If the president truly wants to put an end to austerity and the decline of the middle class, there is no better place to start than with his own employees."
Treasury Employees President Colleen Kelley said federal workers actually lost even more -- $138 billion. And when you track private sector pay and benefits through the employment cost index, private sector workers saw their compensation rise by 6.5 percent in the last four years, while federal workers got the 1 percent increase, she added. Kelley, whose union is independent of the nation's two labor federations, advocated a 3.3 percent hike for federal workers in the year starting Oct. 1. NTEU attracted top House Democrats to a Capitol Hill rally in the last week of February for a higher pay hike.
Besides the raise for federal workers, other budget sections leaked so far include Obama's decision to scrap lower future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. The so-called "chained CPI," which would have cut the increases, was in his budget blueprint last year. Unionists, fellow Democrats and the labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans all campaigned against it - and all cheered when he dumped it.
Photo: AFGE march, February 12. AFGE Facebook page.