Where are the government employee unions?

During the past week, we’ve received a bolus dose of fear-mongering from big government establishment types who are scared to death that they suddenly might have to deal with smaller budget increases than they were expecting.

The automatic spending reductions that went into effect at midnight total around $85 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  That’s about 2% of the total $3.8 trillion that the Federal government is projected to spend.  Every working American has already dealt with a 2% reduction in earnings, thanks to the increase in FICA withholdings that went into effect on January 1.  But the Federal government?  Take away two cents on the dollar, and America as we know it is finished.

Of course everyone who has been paying attention knows it’s all a ruse.  The Washington Post let the cat out of the bag earlier this week when it published this telling comment from a DC healthcare lobbyist: “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad.”

As Charles Krauthammer recently noted, the tried-and-true tactic used by politicians frightened by the possibility of someone actually closing off the spigot of taxpayer money is “firemen first.”  Threaten to give pink slips to sanitation workers, policemen, teachers, clerks at city hall, guards at the county jail, etc, and talk of budget cuts gets drowned out by the horrors of 10 foot high piles of garbage in the streets.  Meanwhile, bloated municipal contracts, redundancy, waste, and fraud never seem to get mentioned by government leaders.

But as I was reading these latest predictions of doom that will stem from hundreds of thousands of Federal employees being laid off or furloughed, a thought occurred to me: where are the Federal employee unions in all of this?  Seriously.

Whenever private sector unions are threatened with layoffs or pay reductions, they launch a full frontal assault against the corporation, alleging greed, waste and inefficiency, and hammering executives for the lavish pay that they earn.  Remember when unions blamed “Bain-style Wall Street vultures” for the shut-down of Hostess?

Why haven’t we seen this tactic used against the Federal government?  Aren’t unions supposed to protect the interests of their members?  It’s not like examples of billions – no, hundreds of billions – in government waste are hard to find.  And President Obama promised that he and his team would “go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.”   Had they done this, the sequester would be a non-issue.  Why isn’t he being held accountable for doing his job?  Why aren’t his agency heads being publicly shamed for putting politics ahead of the well-being of Federal employees?

How can Federal employee unions simply sit by and let their members be threatened with layoffs and furloughs and not punch back?

I’d like to hear thoughts from anyone who is a unionized government employee.  What is your union doing to protect your job?

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  • JWH

    I’m not a unionized gov’t employee, but I know a few … and they’re kind of pissed.

    As of right now, most of them are looking at about significant (10-15 percent at least) chop in pay just over the horizon because of furloughs. The professional employees (accountants, lawyers, and such) are particularly pissed. By law, they won’t be able to work a certain number of hours a week, but the work won’t go away — it’ll just have to be done in less time. This is especially for some workers (and there are more than you might think) who already work off the clock because they need to meet deadlines.

    The entire gov’t worker community has the knives out. Contractors resent gov’t employees because the employees have guaranteed jobs, but contracts are likely to be slashed. Employees resent contractors because the contractors don’t have to take time off, even if they have to eliminate jobs. And everyone resents the political appointees (think Deputy Assistant Undersecretary, not the Secretary level) because the political appointees don’t have to give up any pay at all.

    And all of them resent being used as pawns in the budget fight.

    • the smallest violin ever … “but the work won’t go away — it’ll just have to be done in less time.” If you believe that I have a bridge for sale …

    • MartinLandauCalrissian

      Tell them we’d rather they be fired, not just lose a few dollars for a few weeks. All these government leeches always make up the “loss” later anyway, so all their whining will fall on deaf ears here. Government workers are leeches. Period. ALL of them.

    • jim_m

      I got news for your friends. I don’t have the money to cover their jobs. Life sucks, it’s time to look for a job something that people will pay for willingly and not just by the threat of imprisonment (ie confiscatory tax rates collected by an ever increasingly aggressive IRS).

    • retired.military

      Actually DOD employees will have their pay cut 20%.

      • MartinLandauCalrissian

        Only to have it made up later, more likely.

        • retired.military

          As I said above.

    • LiberalNightmare

      >>but the work won’t go away — it’ll just have to be done in less time. This is especially for some workers (and there are more than you might think) who already work off the clock because they need to meet deadlines.

      That complaint probably sounds really impressive to anyone who hasn’t been working under those same conditions for years now in the private sector.

      Tell your friend the same thing I tell my liberal friends when they whine…
      “You voted for him!”

    • herddog505

      I’m sure they do. And I feel sorry for anybody who has his pay cut; it’s happened to me and *I* didn’t like it. However, if it’s a choice between “lose part of my pay but keep my job and benefits” and “lose my job and everything else”, I’ll take what’s behind Door #1.

      It’s also hard to have sympathy for government workers because (and this is not their fault) the government is, in my opinion, enormously bloated, does a great deal that it really oughtn’t do, and that with gross inefficiency. I’m sorry that somebody got hired as Third Assistant Deputy Chief Inspector of Redudant Forms (GS-18) at the Dept. of Not in the Consitutition or the Federal Intrusive Administration, but this is a job that we should never have hired out in the first place, and certainly can’t afford now.

      If it were up to me, a great many federal employees wouldn’t be looking at pay cuts: they’d be looking at pink slips. We simply cannot afford to keep our bloated, intrusive, inefficient federal government in its present form, and much has to go.

      • JWH

        Small problem, Herd. Where do you cut?

        There are at least three layers with the sequester/cut issue.

        The first layer is the sequester itself. It’s stupid, and it was kind of designed to be stupid. Ten percent across the board with no discretion is not a good cut. It’s slicing bone as well as fat.

        The second layer of issues is the impasse — that is, the idea that the Republicans want to cut, Obama doesn’t want to cut as much (and wants more revenue). Ordinarily, the Congress and the president would resolve things with a compromise, but today’s Congress is not in a bargaining mood.

        But that second layer, I would argue, is a distraction.

        The third layer is where to cut. At the same time that Congress and the president piss and moan about each others’ priorities at the macro level, at the micro level there’s virtually no agreement. Even if a member of the Congress believes in cuts in the abstract, he’s going to fight tooth and nail against any cuts that affect his district. And this doesn’t even get into the idea of cutting items based on subject matter rather than geography.

        Now, I’m sure you have an idea of where to cut the budget, Herd, and so do I. (I would start by taking a look at the F-35). But will Jim_m agree on the cuts? Will DJ Drummond? Will Dave Robertson?

        And that deep layer — the one where work actually gets done — is where we end up at the true impasse.

        The smarter government folks in my circle of friends acknowledge there are cuts to be made. And some are even willing to enumerate where in their own programs cuts can be made. But they don’t think the sequester is the way to do it.

        • herddog505

          An easy answer to “where do we cut” would be to say, “Back to 2008 spending levels.” I cannot be convinced that, with the war in Iraq essentially over (remember when that was the principle if not sole cause of our deficit woes?) we MUST spend all the money that’s been added to the budget in the past four – five years.

          This would give us a picture similar to this:

          2008 spending: $2.9T*

          2012 revenue: $2.627T**

          Yes, this still leaves us with a deficit, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, don’t you think?


          (*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_United_States_federal_budget

          (**) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_United_States_federal_budget

          • JWH

            I’d carry us back to 2001 spending levels, adjusted for inflation. If we’re finishing off the Afghanistan and Iraq efforts, then we can and should trim back our military budget and seriously re-evaluate some of the procurement programs. Secondarily, I’d introduce means-testing to social security and raise the retirement age for white-collar retirees.

            Of course, it’s easy for you and I to say this … you’ll never get Congress to agree to it.

          • herddog505

            Of course. They get elected (and reelected, and reelected, and reelected) by promising more free stuff to more people.


    • stan25

      They might have to actually do some work Oh the humanity

    • Constitution First

      Look at it this way; the pay and benefits they got were far in excess that same job in the private sector and on the taxpayers dime to boot. Unions have no place in the public sector, it should have never happened, and I am all for getting rid of them now (Unions, that is). Everybody who is not on that government teat likely feels the same way I do.

    • Jwb10001

      Math is hard I know but why does a 2% cut result in 15-20% pay cuts? Plus too freakin bad, do they have any idea how many people have lost their jobs in this recession? The government has failed completely on this and if the government workers are pissed well welcome to club it’s past time they joined the rest of us in Obamaville.

  • GarandFan

    Another way of looking at this is: Federal employees will now learn that there’s been a recession.

  • jim_m

    First of all, does anyone honestly believe that the government is going to lay off union workers who pay dues that are funneled directly back in to the campaign funds of dem candidates?

    They will fire non union workers (if they fire anyone) and they will cut back service activities while maintaining employment. This is going to be orchestrated to maximize the pain felt by the public and to maximize the money going into the dem coffers.

  • retired.military

    The unions have already stated that if the furlough comes off they plan on getting the govt to pay the money for people who didnt work as if they did.

    And with Obama in charge it will happen.

  • Constitution First

    Because it worked so well for the Europeans… and if it doesn’t, they can always riot.