As President Barack Obama touted current and new efforts to uplift the middle class in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, federal employees will be central to these efforts as they are the very people who will carry out these initiatives.
In explaining how the federal government needs to play a bigger role in providing everyone with an opportunity to pursue a decent private life, he mentioned federal employees from various agencies and the work they do that benefits everyone: scientists and health care professionals who are fighting Ebola; employees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who protect Americans from predatory lending; NASA, NOAA and Pentagon scientists who keep track of the threat posed by global warming; NASA employees who make America a leader in space discoveries; computer scientists who protect American businesses and families from foreign hackers; American diplomats and military personnel overseas who work hard to make sure Americans are safe; VA employees who care for our veterans; and employees at the Department of Health and Human Services who make sure uninsured Americans receive health coverage.
To help the middle class move forward, the president proposed several initiatives such as free community college, child tax credit, affordable child care, and paid leave.
AFGE supports the president’s initiatives to help the middle class and appreciates the president including federal employees in his proposal to strengthen paid leave policies for working families, but it would make a big difference if he also narrows federal employees’ wage gap with the private sector.
“Like so many other working families in this country, federal employees have faced stagnant wages, cuts in benefits, and reduced take-home pay, thanks to a three-year pay freeze, unpaid furloughs, and reduced retirement compensation for new hires,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Having a federal workforce that is fairly compensated and provided with the tools they need to do their jobs is key to carrying out all of the government’s important work on behalf of the American people. I hope Congress keeps that in mind as it goes about its business in the weeks and months ahead.”
AFGE strongly supports legislation introduced earlier this month in the House and Senate that would provide federal employees with a 3.8% pay raise next year. The union also praised President Obama for recognizing in his speech the role that unions play in the middle class economics and how Congress needs to pass laws that strengthen unions in order to give workers and their families a fair shot.