Just days before Valentine’s Day, hundreds of federal employees descended upon Washington, D.C. demanding the respect and fair compensation they deserve. They marched to Capitol Hill for a Government Works for America rally and stormed the marble halls of Congress to make their voice heard.
From pay cuts to a threat to the very existence of the union, AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. reminded people that this is the most important fight in the union’s history.
“We have people in the House and Senate who want to run AFGE out of business,” he told AFGE activists at the union’s annual Legislative Conference. “But we are going nowhere!”
One of those people President Cox mentioned is the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ron Johnson, who made no secret of his hostility towards unions and workers’ rights when he remarked, “I really don’t believe that the public sector employees should be unionized.”
To stave off any new attacks, President Cox, National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and other AFGE leaders said the union needs to grow immensely. A new membership goal of 500,000 members by 2020 will serve as a new push in light of the fact that there are 360,000 unorganized workers in the bargaining units and 500,000 who are not in the bargaining units and should be.
AFGE was encouraged that a bipartisan group of lawmakers stopped by to speak with AFGE activists, pledged support for them, and vowed to end sequestration.
“We have some folks there that want to criticize but don’t know what they’re criticizing, but don’t understand how we actually can make things better and how the federal workforce wants to do the best job possible. They just need the tools to make sure we can do the best job possible,” said Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, who worked as a state government employee for years and is currently Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.
Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland told AFGE activists, “If you are a policy maker, you can’t on one hand complain that veterans are not getting the services that they need but also hold down the workforce. Those two things do not match.”
Rep. Don Beyer, a freshman from Virginia, agreed. “I’m opposed to arbitrary caps and cuts. It’s a terrible way to run business,” he said.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to talk about how we expand the middle class in this city and around our nation,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “And we do that with good jobs and good wages.”