George Clooney, Sandra Bullock … and me

When it comes to name-droppers, D.C. is the nation’s capital.

As a rule, I don’t care for name-droppers. But for my own credibility and to make a point, I need to let you know that George, Sandy and I belong to the same union.

Bullock and I grew up in the D.C. area, attended Thomson Elementary School and Gordon Junior High School (now Rose L. Hardy Middle School). Like Clooney, I spent three of my teenage years in Kentucky. So even though I rarely see either of them — actually never — we have so much in common.

Since union dues are linked to income, they probably pay more than I do. That said, we get the same services and coverage and it’s a very good union.


Unlike some occupations, federal and postal workers don’t have to join unions to get or keep a job. And outside of the highly-unionized U.S. Postal Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority most feds do not belong to a union. But many if not most are covered by these organizations that are required to bargain for and defend them as if they were dues-paying members.

That’s the law as set by Congress which, for what its worth, doesn’t operate a union shop.

Considering their size and clout, federal and postal workers do an excellent and sometimes remarkable job representing their people. They say they could do a lot more if they had more members, dues money and better-funded political action committees to help friends and unseat foes.

The two largest white-collar federal unions, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, are challenging provisions in two of the three executive orders President Donald Trump issued in late May. They deal with the use of official time and office space, meaning unions must use less of it. Agencies are supposed to limit the amount of time on-the-clock workers can spend on union business and charge rent for office space used by union reps. So is this serious, of just Washington lawyer talk?

It could be very serious.

In 1972 then-President Richard Nixon, at the peak of his pre-Watergate power, delayed a federal pay raise by three months. Nixon, who had a good working relationship with key union leaders, wanted to save money by putting off the raise from the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 to the start of the calendar year. It looked like a longshot, Washington slapping contest. Except the union won and workers got $533 million in back pay. That is a lot of money now and even more back then.

The unions and groups representing feds, from executives and managers to rank-and-file workers and retirees, are always looking for more members. Some are hoping that what they see as the anti-worker, anti-union attitude of this administraton will serve as a recruiting tool for them.

The largest group of feds who are not covered by the “no politics” Hatch Act is the National Active and Retired Federal Employees. Unlike some more partisan groups, NARFE prides itself on working with friends on both sides of the political aisle. In its most recent memo to members it praised Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) for introducing a paid parental leave plan for federal workers. Her district is chock full of active and retired feds.

From Aug. 26-28, NARFE will sponsor a special “advocacy training” session in Jacksonville, Florida. The so-called FEDcon 18 session will bring members up to speed on the legislative landscape, and tell them how to organize all important grassroots campaigns in districts where the federal-military vote can turn an election. What’s in it for you?

Today at 10 a.m. EDT on the Your Turn radio show, NARFE Staff Vice President of Advocacy Jessica Klement, Executive Director Barb Sido and Deputy Director of Business Development Jennifer Bialek will talk about the very real threats to the Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System plans, the status of bills to change them and what’s next.

They’ll also talk about what rank-and-file feds — active, retired, union or nonunion — can do in their communities to make a difference. Listen to Your Turn at or 1500 AM in the D.C. area.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Steve Buscemi, known for his roles in “Fargo,” “Boardwalk Empire” and others, worked as a New York City firefighter while starting his acting career. He joined the Engine Co. 55 in 1981 and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he helped his former crew look for survivors.