Sisters and brothers,
The first few months of 2017 have already flown by. And with each passing day, we meet both tremendous challenges and unique opportunities. At 310,000 dues-paying members, we are bigger and better than ever, yet face our gravest threats.
The federal hiring freeze ensures our government can’t hire the best and brightest Americans to the civil service. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are busy implementing legislation that takes away our voice in the workplace. I’ve testified before a Congressional hearing about one of our core union rights, representational time. Despite all evidence that representational time is good for labor-management relations and the taxpayer, some lawmakers have made it clear they think this right should be taken from us.
We will only withstand these attacks on our jobs if we stand united. We’ve got to make the case to the American people and to our elected officials that the civil service is a pillar of our democracy.
And through that unity, we must empower each other. I was so proud of what happened during this year’s Legislative Conference, the largest in our union’s history. And we’ve already seen some remarkable developments from those conversations with lawmakers. We will work with anyone around any issue to achieve our goal of a better life for our members and a better government for the American people. Party does not matter. If we share the same goals, we will work together to get things done.
For instance, the FAIR Act to give you a 3.2 percent raise in 2018 was introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly and Sen. Brian Schatz before AFGE activists came to D.C. After the conference ended, our members convinced six new co-sponsors to sign on to the bills. In total, the FAIR Act has 41 co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate.
Brothers and sisters: people are watching and listening. We must step up and create the progress our country so desperately needs. But that will only happen if we tell our story to every lawmaker who will listen, and in every community where we work. The upcoming budget season will no doubt cut our agencies wide and deep. Our pay and rights will be targeted. Our very jobs will be at risk.
But when we stand united, when we empower each other, and when we speak out for progress, there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. We are growing, brothers and sisters. But if our union puts all hands on deck, we can become Big Enough to Win.
Let’s get to work!
J. David Cox Sr.
AFGE National President