Federal Workers Alliance: No More Workforce Cuts

The Federal Workers Alliance recently sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking that federal employees be excluded from further cuts as Congress embarks on its sequestration and fiscal cliff negotiations.

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

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.