WASHINGTON – Nearly 250 federal workers rallied and chanted outside the Capitol Tuesday to oppose threatened cutbacks to federal employee pay and retirement benefits.
Congressmen from Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, who have large federal employee populations in their districts, joined the group, pledging support.
“We have to convince Congress that not a day goes by that our constituencies are not served by federal employees,” said Rep. Constance Morella, R-Montgomery.
“You are hardworking federal employees, not dollars to pay for capital gains tax cuts,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.
Many of the workers signed and asked for support of a “Federal Employee Contract With America.” The contract says workers will “continue to work hard to provide Americans with the services they expect and need from the government” in return for a fair compensation and retirement system.
According to the rally’s cosponsors, the National Federation of Federal Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, Congress is looking to save money on the federal retirement system by raising the retirement age or reducing benefits.
It is also trying to help balance the federal budget by gutting federal workers’ pay raises and exploring additional layoffs, said Louis Jasmine, president of the NFFE, which represents 150,000 workers.
President Clinton’s fiscal year 1996 budget does not make federal worker pay comparable with the private sector, as mandated by a 1990 law, union leaders said. His budget provides funds for a 2.4 percent comparability raise, as opposed to the 5.9 percent average raise the law’s pay scale called for this year, union leaders said.
“This budget doesn’t respond to fair pay,” said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Prince George’s. “Federal employees are asked to do more with less help.”
Spokesmen for the two largest federal employee unions said Congress is also exploring further downsizing.
Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on civil service, said in an interview that Congress is considering a 250,000-worker downsizing, on top of the 273,000 already agreed to by Clinton and Congress.
But, the Florida Republican said, he is looking for a fair way to treat workers while balancing the budget.
“We have to find some way to alleviate the (financial) bleeding,” Mica said. “We don’t have a lot of options, but we are trying to do this in a positive way.”
He also said one option is to increase federal employee contributions to their retirement system.
He did not address the pay raise issue. -30-