Opinion: Gripping Reality; The GOP Hates You

The Informed FedSenior employee and labor relations consultants (typically GS-12 through GS-15 positions) are senior advisers to agency managers from first line through the entire Senior Executive Service. Most we work with have a Masters Degree directly related to their field of practice, if not multiple Master’s Degree’s, and are experts in research and objective analysis.  Many have practiced academically in some capacity as well and often serve as adjunct professors at local educational institutions.  Rarely do these experts collectively express political opinion much less let such opinion weigh on technical advice or general counsel to Agency managers.  It has been our experience, the majority of these experts, just as with all federal employees, support(ed) the Republican Party, obviously something the Party could never figure out or leverage.  However, this is all changing for the first time. And this change may well be permanent and for good reason.

The “Grand Ole’ Party” (Republicans) really, really, I mean really, hates you if you are a federal employee, or any public employee other than a private contractor for that matter, and it’s time to embrace that reality; not deny it; Republicans don’t deny it.

The enigmatic cadre of senior federal labor relations experts, sometimes affectionately referred to by labor organizations as “puppet masters” are no different than any other federal employees.  They do a job to the best of their ability with the provided resources.  In return, they expect to be compensated fairly to provide a respectable quality of life for their families and do not expect to get rich.  Though they obviously could make more as outside consultants, and they know this because they often work next to outside consultants, they continue to remain federal employees for a myriad of reasons. Make no mistake, it is not “loyalty” keeping federal employees employed as the concept of “loyalty” to the federal government as an employer died with John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.  Rather, it is fair and equitable compensation.  It is on this basis, and the current political context, that times and paradigms are changing and changing fast.  You can expect this this change to eventually impact the federal workforce through counsel provided by top senior employee and labor relations consultants.

There is no denying the simple fact Republicans and Republicans alone have targeted and continue to target the pay and benefits of federal employees.

Just recently, the GOP suggested cutting the pay of federal employees to fund payments to DOD contractors, on top of a furlough (Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H).  Republicans have openly called government employees (as a collective group) “takers,” “incompetent,” “dumb,” “welfare recipients,” and “overpaid,” just to name a few.  They successfully convinced the vast majority of Americans to hate federal employees.  Don’t believe us?  Do your own research and try to prove us wrong and then post your results in the comments section.  Many federal employees are openly blaming President Obama.  These employees are not only misguided, they are demonstrating complete ignorance.  Clearly the President acquiesced on certain components adversely affecting federal employee pay and benefits such as the pay freeze and increased retirement contributions. However, the President’s effort to compromise was eclipsed by published Republican proposals and introduced legislation affecting aspects of federal pay and benefits to include:

  • Continued pay freeze to 2015 and possibly beyond
  • High three to high five retirement calculation
  • Increase FEHB premiums
  • Increase minimum retirement age
  • Increased retirement contributions to 8%
  • Eliminate Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement
  • Terminate performance bonuses (for those remaining few who get them)
  • Withhold Within Grade Increases (WIGI’s)
  • Changes to Social Security that would directly affect FERS federal employees, whose retirement relies on social security (unlike CSRS)

There are other proposals floated by Republicans, some too insane to even mention as the mere mention would undermine the credibility of The Informed Fed, but these are probably the most impacting with a realistic probability of becoming reality given enough momentum and the current political environment.  Interestingly enough, Republicans have no proposal to “grandfather” current employees.  Clearly, from a reasonable perspective, the pay and benefits of not yet hired employees is (or should be) of no issue to current employees as a practical matter.  But, to change such major aspects of pay and benefits mid-stream of current employees is reprehensible, if not actually a violation of law.

The terms “federal employee” and Republican are now officially mutually exclusive to all but the most unknowing federal employees.

Case in Point

United States Border Patrol Agents provide an anecdotal case in point.  This group is historically a very conservative group of federal employees.  I should know, I represented them for many years.  This group of federal employees, numbering approximately 20k nationwide, always had issues with their union, the American Federation of Government Employees, in the context of national politics. They also overwhelmingly vote Republican across the board, just looking for that magic “R” as a brand; almost robotic and unthinking; myself included.  In a sense, they voted themselves into the situation they face now.  I guess, you could call it irony.

Border Patrol Agents are facing combined pay cuts of approximately 45% through furlough (already announced 20% reduction) and AUO (premium pay) de-certification (25% of base pay) . Examining their private message boards and talking with union leaders as well as many other contacts I maintain, lead me to conclude they overwhelmingly place the blame on President Obama; a stunning collective demonstration of a lack of knowledge based on the simple facts that 1) President Obama does not control premium pay, 2) the Agency previously proposed AUO de-certification under the George W. Bush administration in a push toward LEAP, 3) the Agency (then legacy INS) was looking for ways of ending AUO as far back as 1998 with one proposal actually sourced to the PAIC of the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station at the time,  4) the President did not order they be furloughed, the Agency, run by overwhelmingly conservative managers, elected to furlough the Agents and eliminate AUO (25% of basic pay) rather than find cost savings elsewhere as other agencies are doing; the same managers that signed off on position upgrades for other managers just six days after they notified Agents of furlough and AUO pay cuts. These are all, without equivocation,  decisions reserved to Agency management AND NOT the President of the United States.

Post-furlough, these same Agents are facing an even greater reduction in pay and benefits as proposed by Republicans. They will be in addition to everything that has transpired to that point; by some estimates an additional 12% not factoring in continued pay freezes.  Yet, to this very moment, this group of employees collectively refuses to lay blame on the appropriate source, the political party they continue to overwhelmingly support. Call it denial, rejection of reality, whatever you want. If these employees go into the 2014 mid-term elections with the same political convictions they hold now, they are asking for continued pay and benefits reductions.