Know Your Facts: Federal Pay


I know it’s frustrating. If you’re like the 150,000 federal employees the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) represents in 31 federal agencies, you’ve had just about enough with the misinformation about federal pay.

Some so-called think tanks love to talk smack about your pay. They claim you and most other federal employees like you are paid too much compared to private sector workers. They imply—and some just come out and say—that federal workers are overpaid for the work that they do.  They don’t understand or value your contributions.

Federal employees know the truth is far different. First off, the competence and expertise of the federal workforce are the envy of the world. Second, you are dedicated professionals who chose public service to serve your country and make a difference in the lives of your friends, neighbors and everyone else privileged to call our great country their home. Third, you get how vital it is that the government recruit and retain the most qualified workers.

Well, here are some facts on federal pay and why federal workers like you need and deserve a fair pay raise from Congress. Feel free to share them with friends, family, coworkers and elected representatives.

Myth #1: Federal employees are overpaid compared with private-sector workers.

Fact: Over the past six years, private sector wages have increased 10.6 percent according to the Department of Labor. In that time, federal wages have gone up by a mere 3.3 percent. Federal workers went without a raise for three years in a row and endured three years of below-market pay increases. The maximum was 1.3 percent—too small to keep pace with inflation. The White House is proposing a 1.6 percent federal pay raise in calendar year 2017—again, not enough to meet the rising cost of living.

Myth #2: Federal pay is only an issue for federal employees.

Fact: A strong, vital federal workforce that attracts the best and the brightest is important to all Americans. If federal agencies are to fulfill their missions and serve the public efficiently and satisfactorily, they need a highly skilled professional workforce, especially in an increasingly complex world. That means the federal government needs highly-qualified doctors, lawyers, CPAs, computer programmers, researchers, customer service representatives, lab technicians, law enforcement officers and many, many other professionals who are committed to serving their country and have the skills, knowledge and training to carry out their missions.

Myth #3: Federal employees haven’t sacrificed enough to help restore the nation’s fiscal health.

Fact: When you add up pay cuts, increased retirement contributions and unpaid furlough days from just this decade, the federal workforce has contributed more than $182 billion toward budget savings. That’s why NTEU fights hard to defeat attempts to do even more damage and continues to successfully block legislation on Capitol Hill that unfairly targets federal pay, benefits and workplace rights.

Myth #4: Recent pay raises are inadequate, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Fact: NTEU and other federal employee unions are strong advocates for fair pay raises. By working through your union, contacting your members of Congress when asked and educating your friends and family members, you can help promote fair pay. You can also participate in the upcoming election and support those candidate who support you. Federal employees are middle-class employees and many live paycheck-to-paycheck like a majority of their fellow citizens.

Don’t let the critics get away with mischaracterizations and half-truths. Fight back with the facts.

The author is National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Tony Reardon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply