Federal and postal union members nationwide will conduct a mass call-in to Congress on Tuesday, July 18, to campaign to save their pay and pensions from deep cuts proposed by President Trump. The cuts could cost the workers $149 billion, the leader of the largest federal worker union says.
“Tell Congress to keep their hands off our paychecks. Tell Congress to keep their hands off our retirement,” urged American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox in union-wide conference calls with activists on July 11.
The call-in and campaigns are necessary because the Trump administration and the GOP-run Congress again propose deep cuts in federal workers’ pay, by forcing them to contribute even more to their pensions, with no corresponding benefit increases at retirement. Trump also demands most agencies submit personnel-cutting plans for fiscal 2018, which starts Oct. 1, and beyond.
In response to Trump’s schemes, unionists from AFGE, the Treasury Employees, the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, the Mail Handlers-Laborers and the Machinists, among others, will call their lawmakers on July 18.
But Cox said demonstrations, office visits and phone calls to lawmakers outside of the D.C. area are even more important, because 85 percent of federal workers live and work elsewhere in the U.S., and are valued members of local communities who give valued service.
“Every agency is under attack,” Cox told the thousands of members on the conference calls. “The president, Mr. McConnell (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) and Mr. Ryan (House Speaker Paul Ryan) have made it very, very clear that they want to cut our pay, cut the number of federal employees, and privatize everything that can breathe, crawl or move.”
And while defense-oriented and law enforcement agencies are supposed to be exempt from his job cuts, one Bureau of Prisons worker told Cox that “our acting director issued a staffing report that is 7,000 positions shorter” in the coming fiscal year.
By contrast, Trump wants to immediately cut one-fifth of the Environmental Protection Agency’s workers. And a Social Security worker from New Mexico told Cox her agency’s numbers “have flat-lined,” resulting in lessened service.
The biggest threat is the pension payment hike, which effectively cuts workers’ pay. Trump would also kill cost-of-living increases, reduce retirement benefit hikes, and put more federal workers into the equivalent of riskier 401(k) accounts.
Taken together, those moves would cost workers $149 billion, the unions calculate. They also report past GOP-budget cutting and pension payment hikes cost the feds some $182 billion – the largest sum any section of the U.S. contributed to federal deficit reduction.
The workers’ lobbying has already picked up written support from 100 House Democrats and nine Republicans, AFGE reports.
“Our strongest objection is how the proposals break a promise to employees and retirees who have based career planning on longstanding promised benefit calculations. They and their families don’t deserve to be treated in this cavalier manner,” the GOPers told Ryan in a June 17 letter. And more cuts in federal workers’ pay, pensions and job security could jeopardize the federal effort to hire replacements for retiring “baby boomers.”
“Recycling discredited proposals targeting federal workers is disruptive to them and demoralizing to all middle-class civilian worker families,” they wrote. “These proposals would make it even harder to attract and retain the best and the brightest into the civil service.”