The American Federation of Government Employees has long pestered President Obama to give federal employees a significant pay raise.
Given the chance to address the president directly, AFGE National President J. David Cox did not shy away from the opportunity to make the pitch to the president’s face. And in doing so, he recruited a powerful ally: Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush.
The White House invited Cox to march with Obama, Bush and civil rights leaders to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the walk across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. While Cox said he was honored to be part of the ceremony, the ongoing fight for civil rights was not on his mind when he shook hands with the president before the march began.
“Boss man, it’s time for a raise,” Cox said he told Obama. Cox also thanked the president for avoiding a shutdown of the Homeland Security Department.
He later thanked former President Bush for pardoning two former Border Patrol agents, charged for shooting a drug smuggler, before he left office.
“I believe this is the first time AFGE has ever thanked me for anything,” Bush told Cox, according to AFGE. Bush then turned to Obama and delivered a key endorsement: “Give these guys a raise,” Obama’s predecessor said.
Obama responded that it was “the second time they asked me for a raise today.”
The president already recommended a 1.3 percent raise for federal employees in 2016 in his budget proposal, though Congress still has the opportunity to block the increase or suggest an alternative amount. Obama approved a historically low 1 percent raise in 2014 and 2015 for the federal workforce, after three consecutive years of frozen pay.
While AFGE and Bush did not agree on much, the union would be ecstatic if Obama took a page out of the former president’s pay raise book: All of the raises approved during the Bush administration were more than 2 percent.