There are federal workers in almost every single congressional district in our country. In Pennsylvania and Delaware, federal employees keep our airports safe, treat our veterans at VA hospitals, and ensure our water is safe to drink and our air is clean to breathe. And yet over the last decade, politicians looking for a sound bite have attacked these hard-working Americans, saying they are overpaid and given too many benefits — and that they are "bureaucrats."
Eighty-five percent of federal workers are outside Washington. They work in Johnstown, Lebanon, and Gettysburg — communities far away from the "swamp" of D.C. Their jobs are as diverse as they are, including law enforcement, accountants, nurses, and counselors. Starting pay ranges from minimum wage to a doctor's salary in a VA hospital.
Federal employees are your neighbors, coaches, and volunteers in your community. They pray in your house of worship and have kids who attend your schools. Federal workers want what most Americans want — a decent living and a union to protect their livelihoods. So, why do lawmakers want to cut their pay, benefits, and pensions?
This week in Pennsylvania the state legislature is expected to vote on a bill that would deny federal employees and other union workers the resources their unions need to operate. Senate Bill 166 would make it impossible to deduct union dues automatically from paychecks.
It is a union member's choice to have his or her dues deducted automatically, and these contributions aren't used for political purposes — they are strictly used for representation and workplace activity. Any money used to support candidates and campaigns comes from contributions to separate PACs.
Additionally, Congress is considering budget cuts that ignore the chronic underfunding of federal agencies such as the VA, prisons, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Transportation Security Agency. Instead of such draconian cuts, we should promote fair wages, safe working conditions, and job security for all. Let's lift up people who don't have pensions, decent wages, and good jobs. Our communities would flourish if we did that.
Federal workers support the military, even deploying into harm's way with them. They protect our communities by working at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, and federal prisons. Federal employees provide law enforcement at VA hospitals and Defense Department bases. They also oversee our historic parks, including Gettysburg and Independence Hall. And they take care of our veterans.
The next time someone in Congress or a media personality criticizes a federal worker, consider that the person they are talking about might be your neighbor, someone at your church, or a community volunteer. Federal employees are people trying to do their best, like you, raising their families, paying their bills, and working for the American public.
Philip Glover, an Army veteran, is the District 3 national vice president for AFGE and retired from the Bureau of Prisons. He resides in Johnstown. Philip.Glover@afge.org