What Politicians are Promising Federal Employees If Elected

By on February 7, 2016 in Current Events, Pay & Benefits with 106 Comments
Image of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

It’s the presidential election season so time for the candidates to go around the country speaking to different groups and telling the audiences why they should be elected.

What are the candidates for president promising federal employees to encourage them to vote for them in the primaries and general election?

Here is as quick summary of what the two Democratic candidates are promising federal employees.

Nothing in this article is intended as support for or against a particular candidate. Also, we have not forgotten or ignored the leading Republican candidates. They will be featured in the next article on this topic.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Mrs. Clinton has been around the federal government in various capacities for more than two decades. Unlike her main opponent, the Independent and self-declared socialist Senator from Vermont who is now running as a Democrat, Bernie Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s name was already well known in the federal community.

The last time around, federal employee unions opted to throw their support to her opponent, Barack Obama. They were later critical of their first choice for president when he supported a three-year pay freeze in the underlying GS pay rates for federal workers, but this time around they wasted no time in coming out in support of the former First Lady and Secretary of State for the United States. According to AFGE president J. David Cox Sr., she is a “a powerful ally in the ongoing fight to raise wages, create good jobs, expand benefits, and preserve workplace rights.”

NTEU’s president Tony Reardon noted that “Secretary Clinton recognizes the importance of the work done by federal employees and the need to recruit and retain a skilled federal workforce.”

Apparently union support for Mrs. Clinton is not universal and led to some dissent, at least in one union. An AFGE member must have created issues among AFGE’s leadership when he wrote in a post entitled Why Did My Union Give an Early Endorsement to Hillary Clinton Over Bernie Sanders?: “It’s unfortunate that the national leaders of AFGE and a number of other unions have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Yet it becomes clearer with each passing day that union members support the candidate who best represents their interests. That candidate is Bernie Sanders.” He also wrote that “We are standing firmly behind Bernie Sanders. Less than a week after the national AFGE announcement, AFGE Local 3369 in New York endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.”

Of course, union members can vote and support any candidate they want; the official press releases that have gone out were clearly in support of Hillary Clinton despite the internal politics.

Mrs. Clinton has said to a union audience that she would “cut 500,000 private contracting jobs” during her first year as president. She did not indicate whether any or all of these federal contractors would be replaced with new federal employees who, perhaps, might eventually choose to become dues paying members of federal government unions if they were converted to federal workers.

She has also spoken in favor of providing paid parental leave to all federal employees. President Obama has also taken step on this issue as noted in this Presidential Memorandum.

Hillary Clinton has also been visible in her support for gay, lesbian, transgendered and bi-sexual federal employees when she was at the State Department. However, some of her emails that have been released because of pressure and rulings from federal courts indicate that her support for these federal employees was not whole hearted because of political implications of supporting changes for these employees at the State Department.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders was not as well-known as Hillary Clinton when he started his presidential campaign. We now know him as the Vermont Senator who was elected and is serving in the Senate as an Independent, now running as a candidate for the Democratic party, and who represents the State of Vermont but sounds like he learned to speak English in Brooklyn.

One article described Senator Sanders as a self-described socialist-Democrat who “promises to promote employees of the federal government more than any other candidate.”

That summation is probably behind the angst of some in who are active in federal employee unions and unhappy with their unions’ endorsement of Mrs. Clinton.

Not all unions have come out in support of Hillary Clinton. The American Postal Workers Union is giving its support to Bernie Sanders. Generally, Senator Sanders has come out in favor of positions that would expand government in various says, and he usually comes out in favor of positions that favor federal employees.

The Sanders’ campaign is essentially one that can be described as one against the ills of income inequality economic populism. That is not surprising since he describes himself as a socialist who also supports worker co-ops where “Employees invest in the business, and decisions are all democratic.”

He wants to have Postal Service visits continue six days a week. According to the policy director for the campaign: “He strongly supports postal jobs, but overall he wants to maintain and improve the quality of service that has improved the lives of the American people for more than 200 years.”

Of particular importance to federal retirees: Mr. Sanders has also worked against pro­pos­als to lower the in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tion in COLA calculations for re­tir­ees’ an­nu­it­ies. He also has backed le­gis­la­tion that would give federal employees re­tir­ees the ability to use a tax de­duc­tion on Fed­er­al Em­ploy­ees Health Be­ne­fits Pro­gram health insurance.

He has also supported providing more money and resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs including hiring more employees and building more facilities. While many veterans have indicated support for the Vermont Senator, that support is not universal.  “[T]he senator’s staff did nothing with detailed reports of myriad abuses going on for years at the Tomah Veteran Affairs Medical Center, according to whistleblower Ryan Honl.

It appears that the Vermont Senator also supports higher pay for federal workers but that is not crystal clear. The New York Times noted under the headline: “Bernie Sanders Joins Rally of Striking Federal Workers to Call for Wage Increase” that “Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, is using the pope’s visit to Washington to amplify his call for a wage increase for federal workers.” So far, so good. Here is what the article quoted the candidate as saying: “Comparing the federal government to a low-wage employer such as Walmart or McDonald’s, he said, ‘there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little.’ ”

Since there are very few minimum wage employees working for the federal government, he may have been referring only to federal contractors. Whether he actually supports higher pay for most federal workers is open to question. The actual meaning of Sanders’ comment is not known and there is a lengthy discussion of what he really meant on Politifact. Take this issue for what it for what it is worth in deciding which candidate will receive your support.

Poll Results

With the results of each primary coming in, we will certainly see support shift for or against specific candidates. Among federal employees, one widely reported poll showed greater support for Hillary Clinton than for her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders. In that poll, Hillary Clinton received support from 51% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents. Bernie Sanders followed with 35% and Martin O’Malley’s support was 1%.

A recent FedSmith poll with a larger number of total respondents had similar results. From the 684 Democrats who responded, 52% supported Hillary Clinton and 37% preferred Bernie Sanders. Martin O’Malley received support of 2% of Democrats who responded. 7% said they would not vote for a Democrat and about 2% supported other Democratic candidates.

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

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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