Is it time for federal and postal unions to rethink their long-time BFF relationship with Democrats in Congress and the White House? Just a thought!
Although they can’t bargain directly over wages or benefits and strikes are illegal, unions have managed to win major improvements in pay and working conditions for members and nonmembers alike. Without their influence, the government would be a much less attractive place to work. That said…
Over the past four decades, federal unions — at least at the leadership level — have become totally predictable when it comes to picking sides. Democrats now take their support for granted.
For good reason.
Republicans — who have done some incredibly stupid and sometimes cruel things playing whack-a-mole with federal bureaucrats — have all but conceded the federal family vote.
For good reason.
But is either stance a good thing? And if not, who is to blame? Could it be overly partisan union leaders or apathetic nonmember free-riders? Or both?
And will a second year of 1 percent pay raises — after a three- year freeze — inspire unions to get tougher and encourage nonmembers to join up?
Outside of the heavily-unionized Postal Service, the vast majority of civil servants in other federal agencies do not belong to any union or professional group. Some simply because they don’t want to pay dues which, compared to private sector unions, are extremely low. Although they happily accept what unions win for them, they don’t go so far as to help pay for them. In that respect, they are like the people who listen to listener-viewer-supported public radio or TV but turn down the sound during pledge week.
Federal unions staunchly supported the nomination and reelection of the President. He publicly and repeatedly pledged to make federal service “cool again.” And it worked. For a while. But the Great Recession and war costs (both inherited from the previous administration) made things tougher. Promises (real and perceived) and good intentions gave way to reality. The reality: A three-year pay freeze followed by a 1 percenter this year and a repeat budgeted for 2015.
When it comes to federal workers, many congressional Republicans (with the exception of about-to-retire Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia) seem to view federal workers as dirty laundry. Many are either unaware or indifferent to the fact that in some congressional districts (those with federal prisons, military bases or with big IRS and Interior Department facilities), feds have the tie- breaking vote.
A few congressional Democrats, like House House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), can and do go against Democratic presidents. In seven years during the 1990s, Hoyer managed to get bigger pay raises than President Clinton proposed. He and other Democrats persuaded the White House to drop (probably for this year only) support for the “chained CPI” yardstick, which would produce smaller cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.
So, if there is a problem, what’s the solution?
Here’s what one worker has to say:
“…The unions are a perfect of example of how voting simply along party lines makes no sense. The unions take money from people’s checks every two weeks with the promise and the reassurance that they have those people’s best interests at heart. I have worked here 25-plus years and I can honestly say this is the most anti-federal employee President I have ever had the displeasure to work for. I started under Reagan and some may say with the firing of the of the air traffic controllers, who went on strike, what I say makes no sense. However, Reagan increased federal hiring and the size of the federal workforce while he was president.
“As far as pay raises are concerned, (some of) the best raises we ever had were during the days of “W.” And W’s dad is who gave us locality pay (which this President has also blocked). I am not making a statement to vote Republican here. What I am saying is holding the party line does not prove out when you do the math as far as federal employees are concerned. “W” took a beating from our union every time he looked the wrong way at us. Now if this president comes up with yet another slap in the face for the feds, the unions’ answer is, “Well, that is very disheartening to us” and act outraged as they take another “training” trip to Vegas…” — Under the Bus
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