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U.S. Capitol Building at night
Two years of frozen pay for federal workers is about to turn into three years of frozen pay. Senate Democrats are caving on the extended pay freeze House Republicans included in their continuing resolution, saying it's necessary to avert a government shutdown:

"I want to say to the federal employees, thank you for your work. I wanted to do it with a modest pay raise, but right now the duty and the situation that I find myself reluctantly in is that the way I serve you best is to make sure there is no government shutdown," said Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, whose state of Maryland is home to 130,000 federal workers, on the floor of the Senate. "This bill will continue the existing pay freeze. It's necessary to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. Shutting down the government would make a tough situation even worse for federal employees."  

The proposed raise for federal workers, who have not had a cost of living adjustment for two years, was 0.5 percent.

Federal workers have already sacrificed $103 billion toward deficit reduction through pay freezes and changes to their retirement system. In addition to this continuation of the current pay freeze, many will lose up to 20 percent of their pay through furloughs over the next several months. Speaking to the Senate, Mikulski explained who these workers are:

"They're people who work at the National Institutes of Health finding cures or ways to contain disease—the next vaccine to help either the flu endemic or protect us against a pandemic. They're the civilian employees at the National Security Agency.  

"We employ the largest number of mathematicians in the world. And what do they do? They invent the kinds of technology that breaks the codes and protects us in the new cyber domain. They're the people who run the weather satellites. The European model might have done a better job predicting the storm last week, but you know why? Because we haven't had the resources to fund the weather service the way the Europeans have."

That's work Republicans don't want to pay for. And once again they've taken these workers hostage, using the threat of a government shutdown to get Democrats to make big concessions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 08:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, South Dakota Kos, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Let us not forget: (5+ / 0-)

    It was President Obama who first proposed, and subsequently enacted by Executive Order, the initial pay freeze.  Congressional Democrats and Republicans are simply doing as Obama asked.

  •  fozen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snoopydawg, Noddy

    While everyone else's wages are declining...  thus providing less revenue for government operations...  and the race to the bottom continues...

    •  It's a real damned pickle, too. (0+ / 0-)

      Federal workers are losing real purchasing power as prices rise while their wages do not, but...

      in today's world, how do they avoid looking like a bunch of greedy whiners?

      So many people are out of work in the private sector.
      So many people are underemployed.
      So many have lost benefits.

      And the kicker is this:  

      The only way to pay those federal employees more is to take money away from others who are suffering.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 04:20:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Public employment is not public welfare (0+ / 0-)

        I spent half my career in public employment - local and federal and half in the private sector.  

        Most federal employees have college degrees and most of the ones I worked with had one or more advanced degree.  

        Many were leaving for better opportunities in the private sector, yes even in the recession.   They earn the money they make.  It is not charity.  

        Perhaps in DC where government or government contracts are the only game in town, they have fewer alternatives now when everyone is cutting back.  They escaped the early years of recession and it is hitting them now.  But the economy is not struggling that badly in many areas for highly educated professionals.  

        My recommendation to the federal workers would be to look for a better job.  You are not going to be more appreciated in the future and if you are working there for the benefits both parties want to cut them.    

        My guess is it will be easier for you to find another job than it will be for the federal government to replace you.  And as I assume they are furloughing all the folks who hire or contract for people, pretty soon they will get what they deserve.  

        •  Which means what, exactly? (0+ / 0-)

          Do you presume that private sector jobs are welfare?
          That all of those millions who are out of work are slackers who deserve to have their lives implode?

          Your advice is right on.  If federal workers can do better for themselves in the private sector, they should make the jump -- and open up federal jobs for others who need them more.

          Will the replacements be as good as the current jobholders?
          Probably not, but that's nearly always the case when jobs change hands.  Time and experience tends to take care of that.

          LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

          by dinotrac on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 01:08:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  it has been frozen since January 2010 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy

    isn't it already 3 years, going on 4 if they freeze it again?

    •  No -- we're talking "fiscal years" (0+ / 0-)

      The freeze the President announced in 2010 was for the 2011 fiscal year which began on October 1, 2010.

      So pay was frozen for FY 2011 and FY 2012. The President wanted to give federal employees a .05 percent raise for FY 2013 (which is already 6 months old).

      Please note that costs did not stop rising for those working for the Federal government -- food, medicine, insurance, taxes, all rose while our pay didn't.

      This is one of the reasons I retired at the end of 2011. I was long past the point of getting step increases and being close to retirement I knew there would be no promotion that might help my income (which would have left me trying to decide which bills I could afford to pay each month had I stayed).

      At least in retirement I can give myself a raise out of my Thrift Savings Plan* account when I need to... which is more than the folks I left behind can do.

      *Federal 401(k) equivalent

  •  Is there any good data on private sector (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    raises, over that past three years, that we might use as a comparison?

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 08:38:25 AM PDT

  •  COLA raises (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    ceased, at least in my experiences, in the private sector a decade or more ago.  Step raises, raises of any kind as well.  The only way to achieve a higher income was to change jobs.  That's been real difficult as well over the past decade.  

    Sometimes, being employed is a reward in itself.

    "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

    by EdMass on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 08:46:31 AM PDT

  •  Seems Dumb (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob

    The size of the raise per worker was negligible, but in aggregate would have helped support the very weak economy recovery.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 09:08:09 AM PDT

  •  "Everyone else is screwed, why not you too" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, chimene

    Seems to be the motto, when the real point is that neither government nor private sector employees should be left holding the bag because a few thousand bankers tore the economy apart.

    If you find that a certain group of people is faring less poorly than you are, the proper question to ask is not "Why are they getting those perks?" but instead "Why am I NOT getting them?"

    Nobody becomes wealthy by taking public sector employment. There is a trade-off involved (I can speak of this with some authority having been in the public sector virtually my entire working life): In exchange for not receiving really high compensation, you receive job security, predictability of pay and the assurance that you won't starve when you retire. Which is why, when you're denied the things you thought you were making a bargain for, you're bound to be a bit peeved.

    Were I to be laid off at the end of March, not only do I not get paid; because I'm still employed (but not compensated) I have to obey the rules of that employment which, in my case, involve not taking any work related in any way to the sorts of things I've been trained for. This has been interpreted by our counsel as meaning that in general, I can't take ANY outside work at all.

    •  that's not what i heard when i was canvassing (0+ / 0-)

      people who got laid off. from the private sector.
      here in NJ anyway?
      their local property keep skyrocketing up and up, and they can't afford it anymore due to a lack of income.
      the property taxes in NJ pay for our entire school system, pensions of part time and full time state workers, etc. etc. etc.
      people need to stop actling like people hurting for a paycheck are Koch Brothers like trying to make everyone else suffer.

      We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear. Robert Louis Stevenson

      by Christin on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:26:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No freeze on Congressional pay though. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, chimene

    Or the million other perks and grey-market payoffs they enjoy.

    Without a strong safety net and living wage, all labor is forced labor.

    by Troubadour on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 10:30:53 AM PDT

  •  Wouldn't want a (0+ / 0-)

    recovery for government workers.

    One of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have the moral imagination to see the moral dimension of financial affairs, while the latter do not. Some pragmatists are exceptions.

    by Words In Action on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 10:53:38 AM PDT

  •  yet GOP congressional staffers getting bonus pay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene

    http://www.govexec.com/...

    Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said his staff is doing more work with fewer employees.

    “I believe performance-based pay is an important incentive in the workplace,” he said. “Also, in the past year we’ve reduced our staff. The bonuses are to reward those remaining for taking on additional duties.”

    So what about the rest of the Federal workforce that is dealing with the same issues?
  •  It is going to be a 4th year not a 3rd year (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell

    Please change your headline. Federal workers are working on Jan 2010 salary levels as of today. That means federal workers are now 3 years into the freeze, and by Jan 2014 it will be 4 years. Federal workers can thank the BHO administration for starting the freeze. Now, Rethugs can point to the BHO precedent for doing. Thanks a lot BHO.

  •  State and local employees are in the same boat. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unionblue, captainlaser, OldJackPine

    As a teacher in the DC suburbs, we have had our pay frozen for 4 years.  This happened for 4 years in the 90's as well.  Someone did the math regarding how much income was lost over one's career and it was staggering!

    “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

    by musiclady on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:17:06 PM PDT

  •  Those wascally wepublicans!!! (0+ / 0-)

    next time we have a Dem majority in the senate, while we'll stand up for sure.

    That is we will (per Obama) "force them to do their jobs", now that we have elected them by voting. Next time.

    Democrats are like the "good kid" in the family, y'know they always come in and tell mommy that one of the other kids stole money from mommy's purse and brought bubble gum... with a wad of gum in their mouth.

  •  My pay's been frozen longer than that. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unionblue, dinotrac

    I work for the state of California, and I haven't seen a COLA in years.  Plus, I'm furloughed one day of every month, and that's been going on for at least three years.  It amounts to a 5% reduction in my gross pay.

    And here in California, we can't even blame the Republicans.  The Democrats are in complete control in Sacramento.  But our "Democratic" governor, Jerry Brown, loves to hate on public employees.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:19:21 PM PDT

  •  As we all measure the shrinking length of our (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldJackPine

    ....feet.....

    The theme here is that workers are getting compressed with salaries falling behind the cost-of-living.   And the money class keeps getting richer and richer.

    We've been here before people.  At the end of the 19th Century, workers rose up and formed what?

    Unions.

    Why?   Because in solidarity and union there is strength.  What we have with white collar workers denying that they are wage slaves is a split in the working class.  If you aspire to be a manager or a capitalist, then stop bitching when you don't get a salary increase.

    In Maryland, we are finally getting COLA's and next year, merit increases.  And it is because the public sector unions negotiated them.  I'm not a member of those unions but I benefit from that raise, and I thank my union brothers for fighting for the working class.

    We will never be free from fear as long as we fear the NRA.

    by captainlaser on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:30:28 PM PDT

    •  Lack of class consciousness is part of the problem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      captainlaser, BusyinCA

      Another problem is that many white collar workers don't so much aspire to being a manager or capitalist as to just avoid falling into the underclass.  Unions can only win when the threat of strike is a real threat.  Going on strike is a calculated risk for the workers.  Workers in the US today have watched companies move operations with an ease that would have amazed workers before the 1970s.  There's a reason even established unions have felt a need to concede to two tiered wage rates.  It was either that or watch the jobs go away entirely. The reason government unions have been more resilient than other unions is because governments aren't going anyplace.  Most of us, no matter what color our collar, don't have employers who can't pick up and move. The American labor movement needs a new strategy if it is to be relevant in the modern workplace.  What that is I don't know, but depending on organizing workplaces based on a century old unionization model isn't going to work in today's social, economic, and political environment.  

      •  I could not agree more. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BusyinCA
        The American labor movement needs a new strategy if it is to be relevant in the modern workplace.
        The strike has pretty much outstripped its usefulness.  

        I think that labor needs to use buying power and investment as their next strategy.  Labor needs to own the means of production and not be dependent on owners of industry who have no loyalty to their firms.   Labor's pensions should be used to buy up the companies that American workers work for.

        We will never be free from fear as long as we fear the NRA.

        by captainlaser on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 08:57:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ha HA HA (0+ / 0-)

    I have zero wages now... freeze that.

    And I have zero taxes... I should be in galt heaven. Where is my pony?

    Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length. -- Natalie Grant

    by BusyinCA on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 05:21:08 PM PDT

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