WASHINGTON – Why does Congress want to cut the jobs and benefits of federal civilian employees who are volunteering their time to help fellow citizens recover from this year’s devastating hurricanes?
That’s the question being asked in a new video from the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest labor union representing federal and D.C. government workers.
“It might be the politicians up on the Hill that have the purse strings, but it really is the civil servants that do their best to keep America A-OK,” says Wesley McCarville, a legislative political coordinator at AFGE Local 1924, which represents McCarville and other employees at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).
McCarville is one of more than 2,500 federal civilian employees who have volunteered to travel to Puerto Rico to help citizens there recover from Hurricane Maria, which has devastated the U.S. territory. He had signed up for FEMA’s Surge Capacity Force, which was created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to deploy federal workers in the aftermath of a catastrophic event to support response and recovery efforts.
“It’s really about the people power and being able to put people on the ground to make a difference and to help,” he said. “To be able to have a compassionate person come in and say, ‘Look, I’m here to help.’ Even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on, it’s better than nothing.”
More than 30,000 federal employees have helped with recovery efforts this year nationwide. Yet while they’re on the ground literally saving people’s lives, lawmakers back in Washington are passing legislation that would cut their retirement benefits to the tune of at least $32 billion.
Other budget cuts are forcing federal agencies to cut jobs, even though the government has about the same number of federal workers today as it did in the 1950s.
AFGE’s video asks viewers to call their members of Congress and tell them to support workers like Wesley, not cut their benefits and jobs.
McCarville joined the career civil service to continue giving back to the country after leaving the U.S. Army as a disabled veteran. He signed up for the Surge Capacity Force for the same reason. He recorded his interview on Oct. 17, just before leaving for a minimum 45-day deployment to Puerto Rico.