AFGE rallies for 7.4% federal employee pay raise, spending deal to avoid government shutdown  

The largest federal employee union is calling on Congress to give federal employees a higher pay raise next year, as well as avoid a government shutdown next mo...

The largest federal employee union is calling on Congress to give federal employees a higher pay raise next year, as well as avoid a government shutdown next month.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) held a rally Tuesday, calling lawmakers to give the federal workforce a 7.4% average pay raise this year.

AFGE is backing the pay raise proposed by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act they introduced last month.

AFGE National President Everett Kelley told bargaining unit employees at the rally on Capitol Hill that it is “past time for federal employees to receive what they are due, for hard work and service to the American people.”

Kelley also urged lawmakers to “keep the government open [and] keep the government serving the American people.”

“This is the most basic function of Congress,” Kelley said.

Congress passed a continuing resolution last month to avert a partial government shutdown and extend funding for federal agencies through March.

It’s the third stopgap funding bill lawmakers have passed since the start of the fiscal year.

Under the current “laddered” continuing resolution, funding for some federal agencies will run out on March 1. Others have annual appropriations to last through March 8.

Democratic lawmakers echoed AFGE”s demand for higher federal employee pay, and urged their colleagues to avoid a government shutdown in March.

Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) said a pay raise on par with the FAIR Act has been “long overdue,” and he would “make sure that you all get the pay raise that you deserve.”

Connolly and Schatz have reintroduced the FAIR Act in Congress for 10 consecutive years, although lawmakers have never acted on any version of the bill.

The lawmakers and federal employee unions say the FAIR Act would help bring federal salaries in line with those of the private sector.

According to the Federal Salary Council, federal employees’ pay lagged about 27.5% behind that of private sector workers in 2023.

About 57% of feds say they’re happy with their pay — a 10% decline in just the last three years, according to the results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) from the Office of Personnel Management.

Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Ore.) said federal employees and the agencies they work for aren’t getting the financial resources they need.

“One job should be enough. And then, [to] not give you staff, and blame you when things start breaking, it is not right. You’re expected to show up at your jobs, even when government is shut down and you’re not getting paid,” Hoyle said.

Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.) told the crowd she also supports the FAIR Act.

“You work hard every day. You deserve the pay at the end of the day for the work that you’ve done, and you don’t make enough, you can count on me to do my job to raise your wage by 7.4%,” Budzinski said.

Budzinski, a member of the House Veteran Affairs Committee, said VA employees are “asked to do so much and not given enough to do your very important jobs for our men and women that have served.”

She said she would also oppose a fiscal commission that would “cut your pay and benefits and reduce the impact the workforce that we have that we so desperately need.”

AFGE and 116 House lawmakers oppose the creation of a fiscal commission, as proposed by a bill that passed out of the House Budget Committee in January.

AFGE says the commission would hold “enormous power to recommend cuts to Social Security and other popular programs without any ability for the public to weigh in.” The union opposes efforts to attach the fiscal commission bill to the fiscal 2024 spending deal.

Union officials and lawmakers are also pushing to ensure agencies receive enough annual funding from Congress to continue to meet their mission.

AFGE is calling for $20 billion in supplemental funding for the Social Security Administration over the next 10 years. The funding proposal, modeled after what the IRS recently received to rebuild its workforce and modernize legacy IT, would give SSA about $2 billion each year.

Rich Couture, the chief negotiator for AFGE Council 215, told Federal News Network the funding is “what we need in order to put our agency back on track and to provide the American public with the service that they deserve.”

“More and more work keeps getting dumped on fewer and fewer employees, which is creating a lot of stress for those workers. When you combine that with our lack of competitive pay and benefits, it is inducing a lot of our workers to leave, either through retiring earlier than they would have planned, or to find work with other federal agencies or with other employers, where the pay, the benefits, the telework are better,” Couture said.

Couture said SSA’s staff has “declined precipitously” since 2010, even though it’s seen a 17% increase in beneficiaries during the same period of time.

He added that short-staffing at the agency may have contributed to the agency’s discovery last fall that it made $23 billion in overpayments, and is looking to claw back those overpayments.

“We simply do not have the people to stay on top of those changes timely to make sure that they’re getting paid the right amount at the right time,” Couture said.

Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas), a freshman member of Congress, recalled that his first vote in the House last year was a bill to roll back multi-year funding for the IRS under the Inflation Reduction Act.

While Congress is looking at a comprehensive spending bill that would mostly lock in current agency spending levels, Casar said the “money” is there to ensure federal employees get a substantial pay raise.

“We know the money is there to pay the everyday person that is doing the work of protecting this country. That meat doesn’t get inspected on its own. Those workplaces don’t get kept safe on their own. People don’t get their Social Security check on their own. That health care is something that people fought for and built in this U.S. Congress, but you deliver it, and it’s time for the U.S. Congress to do our job,” Casar said.

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