For the second time this year, federal workers throughout California appeared to be contestants on a Congressional/Presidential version of “Deal or No Deal.”
Unlike private sector workers, those of us who work for Uncle Sam are dependent on Congress and the President for our pay and benefits. Even before this new high-stakes game began, we found ourselves with salary freezes over the next three years, regardless as to the cost of living or the increased cost of our health insurance coverage. And we just recently survived a last-minute threat of a government wide shutdown. While we may be paid through September 30, 20ll when the current fiscal year ends, everything else is uncertain.
Over the last week, as employees watched and waited, House and Senate members opened various cases with dollar amounts showing how much government spending would be cut, without raising even one dollar in revenue.
Members of Congress seem to be outdoing themselves in an effort to Wisconsin-ize the federal government. There are proposals to end federal collective bargaining rights. There's a proposal to scrap union rights for TSA workers just after my union, AFGE, won a major organizing victory. There are proposals to completely change our retirement system and increase how much we have to pay, which means employees whose salaries are already frozen would be taking home even less pay at a time when gas, health care and other costs are on the rise.
Clearly, a year that was a roller-coaster for federal workers has not gotten any better. And while Congress may be playing “Deal or No Deal” with one another, the future does not look good.
We already have found ourselves in my agency (i work at the Social Security office in Oakland) losing wages. The hours at the California Social Security offices were cut, and now, whith the debt crisis hovering over us, our hours on August 15th will be cut again. Actors Patty Duke and George Takei are encouraging people to file online –but those do not have computers or do not understand them (which includes a large percentage of the retirees who depend on the Social Security office) are left with few options.
The fact is, federal agencies such as my own are extremely successful and efficient. AFGE’s slogan against contracting out “Nobody Does it Better” has been proven over and over again.
But if MC Howie Mandel brought his game to the federal workers and people who rely on them, he might want to re-title it, “Raw Deal or No Deal”.