Hundreds of federal employees gathered downtown Tuesday afternoon, to raise their voices in support of an 8.7% governmentwide pay raise next year.
“When we organize, we win,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said at the rally. “For the government workers that do some of the most essential jobs, from inspecting our agricultural products, to keeping us safe on our airlines — government workers must have 8.7%.”
The federal union rally, which the American Federation of Government Employees organized, endorsed the FAIR Act, reintroduced last month by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
Specifically, the legislation would provide an 8.7% average pay raise for most civilian federal workers in 2024. The raise would be broken down between a 4.7% across-the-board pay raise and a 4.0% average locality pay raise.
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Although, lawmakers have introduced some version of the FAIR Act every year for nearly a decade, Congress has never passed the bill. Typically, the enacted pay raise for federal employees is lower than what’s included in the annual legislation.
But amid a growing wage gap between public and private sector employees and high inflation levels, attendees at the rally heightened their demands for the bill’s enactment this year. The National Federation of Federal Employees national president Randy Erwin added that the FAIR Act would help mediate increasing cost-of-living adjustments.
“Don’t be the least bit apprehensive about pushing for an 8.7% adjustment,” Erwin said. “It may seem big, but it’s really not. All that it is, is an inflationary adjustment. And it’s the exact same cost-of-living adjustment that 70 million Americans got, who are on Social Security. That’s all that it is — a pay adjustment.”
“8.7% is not an increase — it’s keeping track with inflation,” added Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) at the rally. “Let’s be real about that. Nobody’s asking for a pay raise. You’re asking that what you get paid be commensurate with the Consumer Price Index or the cost of living. That shouldn’t be a hard issue for anybody to get behind.”
And pay wasn’t the only topic on the minds of those at the rally. In addition to echoing support for the FAIR Act, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) pointed to lawmakers’ other recent concerns for the federal workforce. A high priority for Kaine is preventing the potential return of Schedule F, a now-revoked Trump administration executive order that sought to reclassify about 50,000 federal positions outside merit system principles.
Alongside a bipartisan House version of the bill, Kaine introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act on Feb. 14, which would block future presidential administrations from reclassifying federal positions without Congressional consent.
“Our federal employees should be loyal to constituents, they should be loyal to serving American citizens,” Kaine told Federal News Network at the rally. “They shouldn’t be looking over their shoulder and feel like their livelihood is going to be put at risk because the president … got a whim one day and says … ‘I’ll get rid of you.’ Schedule F treats federal employees, who are hardworking, as if they’re expendable.”
Kaine also criticized the SHOW UP Act, legislation that the House passed mostly along party lines, which would return the federal workforce to pre-pandemic telework arrangements and return many feds to the office.
“We learned how to do telework and to do it effectively,” Kaine said to rally attendees. “Why would we pretend like we had not learned anything since COVID started? We need to take what we’ve learned and allow federal agencies to set their own policies without Congress dictating to them what they should do.”
AFGE National President Everett Kelley, left the crowd with a message of solidarity and encouraged federal employees to continue pushing Congress to pass the FAIR Act this year.
“My lesson to you is that when you stay together, nobody will be able to break you. Nobody will be able to bend you. Nobody will be able to defeat you,” Kelley said. “We’ve got to stand together.”
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