Federal Workers Alliance: No More Workforce Cuts

By on November 27, 2012 in Current Events, Pay & Benefits with 26 Comments

Following on the heels of the letter sent recently by the Federal-Postal Coalition, the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA) has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking federal workers to be excluded from any solutions discussed to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff.”

The FWA letter largely mirrored the one sent by the Federal-Postal Coalition in terms of its statistics about sacrifices the federal workforce has made to date. The letter says, for instance, that a total of $50,000 per employee has already been cut in ten year compensation via the pay freeze and increased retirement contributions.

The reason federal employee unions have been so loudly decrying potential cuts to the federal workforce is because of the large number of various cuts aimed at the federal workforce that have been proposed over the last several years. Ideas ranging from cutting the size of the workforce through attrition to extending the pay freeze or increasing pension contributions have been heard from various political figures on both sides, so it represents a very real and potential threat. For more analysis on this, see A Perfect Storm for Federal Employee Pay and Benefits.

One of the latest proposals came from Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) who put forth a plan to avert the fiscal cliff. His proposals impacting the federal workforce largely came from suggestions put forth by the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and included things such as extending the pay freeze through 2015 and cutting the federal workforce through attrition.

Given the number of ideas that have been put onto the table, union groups have gone on the offensive by putting out letters to Congressional leaders in advance of situations that have the potential for members of Congress to call on cuts to the workforce as a means of reducing spending (such as the fiscal cliff negotiations).

The full text of the FWA letter follows below.

Hon. Harry Reid, Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Hon. John Boehner, Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Hon. Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader
United States Senate
S-208 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

November 26, 2012

Dear House and Senate Leaders:

As you work through this lame duck session to complete the important matters before Congress, the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA), comprised of 20 unions representing over 300,000 federal employees, would like to weigh-in with you regarding the issue of sequestration and how it impacts our nation’s civil servants. While the FWA is in agreement that Congress must act to defuse the doomsday device of sequestration, we urge you to do so without any further impact on federal employees.

To date the federal workforce has given $103 billion back to the US treasury. That equates to an average of $50,000 in compensation per federal employee over ten years – a huge sacrifice for any worker to have to incur. This is as a result of the two-year pay freeze, which equated to $60 billion in deficit reduction, along with another $28 billion because of a yet to be realized 0.5% pay increase that was recommended in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget proposal. The federal workforce also contributed an additional $15 billion through a 2.3 percent increase in newly-hired federal employees’ retirement contributions. That give back was used to offset the cost of an additional nine months of unemployment insurance spending. When you consider that federal workers may end up incurring a third year of frozen pay due to the possibility of a full FY 13 continuing resolution (CR), total federal employee contributions could be in excess of $103 billion.

Considering that no other group has yet to give anything toward reducing our debt we believe that federal workers have already more than done their part. Federal workers have not only answered the call to public service, but their individual sacrifices have been significant. For example, under the current two-year federal pay freeze a federal worker earning an annual salary of $40k will experience a $16,500 cumulative pay cut over the next decade, and a $37k pay cut over 20 years. If this pay freeze were extended 3 years, through 2013, the 20 year loss would increase to $54,8401. These numbers more than reflect the fact that federal workers have stepped up to the plate.

It is also important to address the false notion that federal workers are somehow the beneficiaries of extravagant pensions compared to their private sector counterparts. Such claims could not be further from the truth. In reality the overwhelming majority of federal workers receive very modest defined pensions under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which is a combination of a 401(k) like defined contribution along with a small defined benefit. This was not something that labor created. Rather it was the result of bipartisan work between President Reagan, Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole that was intended to create a federal retirement system that looked more like those in the private sector.

Every day federal employees provide essential services to the American people, including ensuring the safety of air travel and our food, curing diseases, caring for our soldiers and veterans, protecting our borders, and bringing criminals to justice. The ability to recruit and retain the talented employees necessary to fulfill these critical missions will be further threatened by more reductions in federal employee pay and pension compensation.

As you work to reach an agreement to avoid sequestration the undersigned unions of the FWA urge you to stand against any and all proposals that aim to take more from our dedicated federal workers. During this difficult economic time it would be an unconscionable outrage to consider implementing more policies that would further destroy the quality of life that these Americans have worked so hard to try to maintain.

Thank you for your consideration.


American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT)
International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P)
Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO (MTD)
National Association of Government Employees (NAGE)
National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE)
Seafarers International Union (SIU)
Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)
SPORT Air Traffic Controllers Organization (SATCO)
United Power Trades Organization (UPTO)

cc: President Barack Obama

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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  1. sandiegoret says:

    Once again the focus is on the wrong thing when it comes to the federal workforce.  The politicians should really address what services are needed and useful for the people of the United States and should staff and pay accordingly.  That means some agencies may be immune from downsizing and other agencies may need to be downsized or disbanded.  We should be driven by what services and oversight the government should be providing and not how big the workforce is.

    The letter from the FWA is a classic case of making a bad argument.  They start out with pounding their chests about how important they are and then move on to cuts that have already been made–something no politician cares about.  Only in the fifth paragraph do they make any important point when they talk about the important work federal employees perform.  

    I do think that if they evaluate the programs and agencies in terms of providing services and oversight that we all need we’ll find that we really want or need most of these agencies and employees.  However, if they really look at the agencies rather than just cut from the top they could find significant savings.  Every agency I worked for had a very important and vital mission and the employees did really good work within the constraints of the agency policies and federal regulations but they also all had glaring inefficiencies that if anyone took the trouble to look at and follow through on would have saved a lot of taxpayer money.  Agency policies and federal regulations need to be reviewed and modified–they do not need to be tossed out.

    No matter what the meat-axe politicians do they have done it before and before and before and every time they have simply made life for federal employees worse and as soon as the axe fell the agencies started rebuilding the same structure they had before so they could provide the services and oversight they needed to perform.

  2. CoTapper says:


    • CoTapper says:

      What happened?  One minute I’m reading an article about getting rid of the dollar bill and going with coins only and the next minute, my comment is being posted on an entirely different article…   what a joke!!

  3. HDandIT says:

    Everybody seems to point somewhere else.  We need to look for cuts everywhere.  We need to operate within our means.  Republicans want to cut entitlements and leave taxes alone.  Democrats want to raise taxes and give away more.  The each have half of it, but their other half negates the good part.  Raise taxes, cut spending. 

  4. PL says:

    Everybody has to sacrifice right? We the feds have done our share already.  I believe the churches need to make sacrifices to and contribute as any other citizen.  Let’s see how patriotic they are.

  5. Glenn-Wilson-1950 says:

    Nothing has “been given back” by federal employees! We never received it so we never gave it back. That is government double talk – like “cutting the budget” when in reality those “cuts” in reality are only slowing the growth of government.

    Am I bothered by my pay being frozen? Heck yes! But don’t lie – you don’t give back something you never received!



  6. Manage This! says:

    Here’s a thought for the day – if congress is so interested in cutting our salaries – considering the immense differential between their typical salary and ours, why don’t we advance the idea that “THEY” should be an all volunteer force.  Make it a law that serving the people in a political office is a privilege, not an opportunity.  Then we would not see so many obese fat cats sitting in office sucking off mother USA’s tit.  That of course would never be considered fair – their idea of fair is more along the lines of how much can I bleed out of the system before I end up out on the streets.

    Stinking GREED is all this is about.  The really sad part is, they would rather take us all down the drain than be responsible and make things work the way they should.  Fixing the budget and managing it cleanly is not hard.  Change our tax system to a flat tax for all and everyone would be able to see in moments exactly what their obligation is and pay it without any stipulations on which loopholes they should be using  to avoid the tax man.  Get rid of our antiquated crap for a tax code and define everything equally in the perspective of money received from any source.  Take the stinking guess work out of the taxes and you will have no place for these jerks to try and hide their manipulation of the masses for their own personal gains.

  7. DB says:

    It is amazing how the ignorant public is led to believe the gov’t worker is overpaid and have unfair benefits on the backs of taxpayers. Like I said, the ignorant public. How can someone make such a comment without truly knowing what fed workers deal with on a daily basis! Granted there are fatcatters but they are everywhere! Stereotyping is a really bad thing folks! Everyone wants smaller gov’t until there is something they want from it then its Why does it take sooo long to get anything done! Really!

  8. John says:

    Everybody keeps talking about pay freeze for federal employees but nobody talks about stop sending American money overseas to other countries who don’t even like the United States. Not all federal employees make $100,000 or more. I don’t even make
    $80,000 and I am having a hard time making the house payment. I can’t get it refinanced because all lenders refuse to help.
    I do my share of the work and I work hard everyday but nobody really cares except to send dollars overseas instead of putting the money to work in the United States.

    • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

      Sending foreign aid is either smart or dumb, depending on whether or not it’s effective.  For example, spending $10B in foreign aid that lets us avoid a $500B war is a good investment.  Same thing if it makes people like us so they don’t try their darndest to blow up our buildings.

      Spending $10B to just help people thrive because we’re nice guys is also a nice thing to do, but arguably not the proper role of our federal government.

      Spending $10B to arm rebels to overthrow a regime in the middle-east, only to have them turn on us later…. priceless.

      • grannybunny says:

        And, yet, as we speak, there are those clamoring for us to do just that in Syria — “arm rebels to overthrow a regime” — with inadequate assurances that they will not “turn on us later.”

    • The Master says:

      That’s right, let’s cut all foreign aid. And since it’s so generous, let’s move the military to FERS as well. Yes, I am serious. Those two together will save a big chunk of what we need. And let’s stop the duoble dipping. Working at VBA we had requests daily for Veterans to stop their Disability payments so they could return to active duty. How is that possible? If they are getting disability from the VA, they shouldn’t be eligible to return to active duty. Lot’s of waste by paying people for disabilities that are not true disabilities.

  9. Soonershooter says:

    if the vast majority of US citizens don’t feel pain after these sequestration deals, then Congress and POTUS didn’t do their jobs correctly…we all share in the pain together or we all sink together.

    fed & non-fed unions included! union employess and management are no more special then anyone else…

  10. Soonershooter says:

    And there are those that will not be staisfied until management (and the taxpayers) are fleeced and drained dry by union thugs and spend-happy politicians on useless programs designed to make our lives so much easier… 

    • reality is here and now says:

        It is time to freeze Federal hiring , no more IRS agents to enforce Obama care upon us all( those of us who are not Federal employees or exempted by Unions or special arraignments by the Administration.
       Whether you like it or not we can not continue to spend money that we do not have.
       Sooner or later interest rates will climb and the country will not be able to continue to employ so many Federal , state and local workers.
      If you think that as a federal employee that you have a lifetime job , please realize that this is no longer the case since the tax payer both rich and poor can not afford to keep such a massive bureaucracy.
       Expect logic to come to into play sooner or later ,just as it is happening with Greece.
       Quit whining about pay freezes, realize that you jusy might be the lucky one that still keeps their job.

  11. Fed_Peasant says:

    There are those who will not be satisfied, until all government workers are either eliminated or converted to volunteer (non-paid) positions.  A few of then biew the US military the same way.  The USA should be defended by volunteer militias.