When the government shut down for 16 days last fall and thousands of federal workers were temporarily forced to stay home, the American public saw what life would be like without federal employees on the job.
Now, one of the largest federal-employee unions is launching a year-long multimedia public-awareness campaign to once again jog Americans’ memories about the services provided by the federal workforce.
The National Treasury Employees Union has distributed copies of a new public- service announcement featuring NTEU members to 300 TV stations and 1,000 radio stations nationwide.
“Without us, you couldn’t be sure grandma’s medicine is safe,” a woman in one of the ads says. “Without us, tax cheats would never pay their fair share,” a man says.
The theme of NTEU’s campaign is “They Work for US.” In addition to the radio and TV ads, the effort includes a website (TheyWorkForUS.org), a Facebook page and a social media push.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday announcing the campaign, NTEU President Colleen Kelley said the union’s goal is to change the conversation about federal employees.
“Whether it’s on the floor of Congress or, very often, in the media we hear about the size of the federal workforce or about their compensation or their benefits,” Kelley said. “But we very rarely hear discussion about how they continue to serve the public even in these very austere times.”
The campaign hopes to highlight the important work done by federal employees “so that the conversation changes, and the conversation is one of support for federal employees and what they do for our country rather than the nonstop attacks, which we have seen over the last few years,” Kelley said.
Last year, budget battles in Congress bruised the federal workforce. The onset of mandatory budget cuts in the spring led to furloughs at many agencies. Lawmakers extended the freeze on federal worker pay into a third year and mandated that new federal hires contribute more of their paychecks toward the pensions.
Still, the silver lining during the government shutdown, Kelley said, was a greater awareness of the impact federal employees have in everyday people’s lives.
“I think when the government shutdown happened, we saw a glimpse — just a small glimpse — that the country recognized what life would be like without federal employees when so many of them were not available to do the work for 16 days,” Kelley said. “But, of course, the shutdown ended … and now, we think it’s time to put this front and center and to make sure that there is a clear recognition of the importance that federal employees play in the life of everyone in this country.”
It’s not the first time NTEU has undertaken a PR campaign spotlighting the work of federal employees. The union also distributed PSAs in 2008 and most recently in 2011. In the last campaign, NTEU’s ad was aired more than 25,000 times and received some 292 million audience impressions, according to the union.
This year’s campaign cost the union about $40,000 in distribution costs.