Opinion: CFC Must (still) Die

The Combined Federal Campaign must (still) die.

Last year, we published this post and took some heat….at first.  However, we soon received many e-mails agreeing with our position. Well, here we are again, with federal employee pay falling even further behind while cost of job related benefits continue to rise and Congress continues to push for take backs from federal employees.  This situation means that for many, though not all, federal employees, every year they work (except those years with step increases) they effectively get a pay decrease compared to the previous year.  The situation has become so odd, an AFGE Council President representing approximately 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol Agents, actually testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, “I am coming to you and I am telling you, agents [Border Patrol] are willing to take a pay cut”  and “Frankly, I am asking you for a pay cut” to the bewilderment of Democrats and delight of Republicans (click here to read the Washington Post Article covering this stunning development).

NOTE: As reported in the Federal Times, CFC pledges were down sharply at the end of the 2013 campaign as shown in the graph below (Source: OPM).

Combined Federal Campaign Contributions

Combined Federal Campaign Contributions

Original Article (August 9, 2013): The Combined Federal Campaign must die.

And, federal employees must kill it.  While this opinion may sound bitter or vengeful, and we are prepared for the push back, let us explain why we collectively arrived at this logical conclusion. However, even before we get to that, let us clarify a key point concerning The Informed Fed.  We are not an objective news reporting agency nor are we politically biased.  We are advocates of and consultants to federal employees.

No one, not even the antagonists, dispute the fact federal employees have been, and remain, a political target. This targeting is largely GOP generated with a lot of Democrat complicity, especially by President Obama.  The results of this political targeting on federal employees have been pay freezes, furlough, increased benefits premiums with decreased benefits, near elimination of performance bonuses (most agencies so far), and now a threatened government shutdown that will further cut pay. Next up?  The GOP threatened a further pay cut in 2014 camouflaged as increased retirement contributions (reduced benefits), RIF’s, high 3 to high 5, increased retirement age, and a plethora of other actions that will make federal employees wish they worked for Wal-Mart.  Effectively, the federal workforce is now treated as a low-skilled, uneducated, expendable, part-time labor pool despite the fact the United States federal workforce maintains a higher proportionate education level compared to private sector and is considered the most highly skilled and efficient government workforce in the world. So, how have federal employees responded to this situation?

A near hodgepodge of Federal labor unions possess the legal, moral, and ethical obligation to collectively represent the federal workforce. Combined, their response to the dire situation federal employees find themselves in has been both laughable and sad. Arguably, the limited collective response has been for good reason in that federal unions, unlike private sector unions, are largely unable to bargain over wages or benefits and are further restricted in that they cannot strike.  So, the federal union response defaulted to traditional and contemporarily inefficient methods of “sending a message” such as picketing, letter writing, and some speeches so full of hyperbole, coffee came out my nose one day listening to AFGE President David Cox say, and I quote, “Sequestration is a nasty disease that will destroy and kill this country and its economy and all working Americans.” You can see the video by clicking here (40 seconds into video).  In short, they did, and are unable to do anything substantial to protect the fundamental core interest of a labor union: the pay and benefits of its members.

In 2011 I had a short conversation with a GOP congressional staffer concerning federal pay and benefits.  This staffer made a remark that stuck with me.  He noted the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) managed to collect over $278 million dollars from federal employees despite the pay freeze.  In short, he was using CFC collections as a barometer to measure discretionary income of federal employees. It actually made sense. The source of all CFC contributions is federal employees.  Charitable contributions are arguably one of the most discretionary expenses related to personal income. As long as federal employees contribute, they possess excess discretionary income. The CFC program actually provides an empirical measurement gauge in this regard.  It is undeniable syllogistic logic: As long as federal employees contribute to the CFC, they have sufficient discretionary income to the point they willingly give it away and CFC collections provide a qualified measurement in this regard.

Why CFC Must Die and Why You Must Kill It

The inability of federal labor unions to influence the political system to protect federal employee pay and benefits, combined with the annual barometer measurement of just how much discretionary income federal employees donate to charity, leaves a clear path in sending a message.  Federal employees must send a distinct message and not donate to CFC. In fact, the ultimate message federal employees could send as a group would be killing off CFC entirely, signaling to all parties that federal employees can act as a cohesive group to protect their own interests, whether killing off CFC or voting out politicians acting against the interests of federal employees.

We understand charity is close to many hearts. However, donating directly to the local food pantry, church, or other charitable group, has been and remains the more efficient method anyway. So, you can still send that message to all concerned by refusing to donate to the CFC  while maintaining your charitable contributions outside the program.

So, CFC must die and you must kill it.  If you don’t, you may find yourself on the receiving end of the charity as opposed to the giving end. That is, if you haven’t already.

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