Federal employee groups laud Obama victory, seek to end pay freeze

M. Spencer Green/AP

President Obama’s reelection was hailed by major federal employee groups as a vindication of the view of government as a force for good, urging lame-duck lawmakers as they confront the fiscal cliff to acknowledge the contributions government workers have already made to deficit reduction.

“Leading our nation through one of the most difficult times in our history, President Obama plied a steady hand at the wheel and kept us on track,” said William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents 110,000 federal employees in 40 agencies. “Within government, he has taken innovative approaches to improving workforce morale, efficiency, and productivity” while involving employees in decision making.

“For the past several years, Gov. [Mitt] Romney and his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate have focused an organized smear campaign against federal employees,” Dougan said. “With Romney’s defeat, and key victories for Democrats in a number of closely contested Senate races, federal employees can breathe a big sigh of relief. The American people have clearly rejected the flawed argument that government and its workers cannot be a force for good in their country.”

J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, hailed Obama’s win as a victory for the nation and working-class people. “Under President Obama’s leadership, our country rebounded from the brink of economic collapse. Job growth is up, unemployment is down, the housing market has finally turned a corner, and America’s prestige in the rest of the world has been restored,’ he said. “We look forward to working with the president and our elected representatives in Congress to pursue a legislative agenda that protects and preserves our vital government services and programs and recognizes the substantial sacrifices that federal employees and agencies already have made toward reducing the deficit.”

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies, highlighted wins both by Obama and by the union’s allies in the House and Senate, whose reelection bids the union supported through canvassing and manning phone banks.

Unlike Romney, Kelley said, the president is keenly aware of the risks to the effective delivery of vital government services posed by proposals to sharply reduce the federal workforce and cut the budgets of federal agencies. “In a very real sense, these are make-or-break issues for our country,” she said. “Federal agencies simply must have the resources and personnel they need to carry out their missions,” she added, noting the effective work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the storm that battered the East Coast in late October.

Federal employees, through the pay freeze and increased pension contributions, have contributed $75 billion to deficit reduction over 10 years, “far more than any other group,” Kelley said. The union looks forward to working with Congress and the administration on “getting federal pay raises back on track, capping federal reimbursement of contractor executive salaries; and restricting operations of pharmacy benefit managers to help bring down the costs of prescription medicines for federal employees.”

Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said, "As we come to the edge of the fiscal cliff and the start of the lame-duck session of Congress, the stakes are higher than ever for federal workers and retirees. Both President Obama and members of Congress talked about shared sacrifice while on the campaign trail, and that’s what we at NARFE are asking for now,” he said. “We hope the president will defend federal workers and retirees from the waves of unfair attacks that incorrectly paint civil servants as the cause of our nation’s fiscal problems."

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