President Trump has made his decision on whether federal workers should get a pay raise next year. The answer is, “No.”
“When President Kennedy spoke of the nobility of public service, he did so out of a belief that our country is made stronger by a federal government people can depend on and for which people want to work,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia in a statement. “For President Trump, the federal workforce is just a punching bag.”
Trump’s decision to cancel the automatic raise, issued Aug. 30, affects 1.8 million civilian workers across the country including IBEW members. It takes effect Jan. 1.
In his letter to congressional leaders, Trump described the raise as “inappropriate,” stating, “In light of our nation’s fiscal situation, federal employee pay must be performance-based and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining and rewarding high-performing federal employees and those with critical skill sets.”
Trump did not explain how an across the board pay freeze recruits, retains or rewards any federal worker, let alone high-performing ones or those with critical skills that would be in high demand in the private sector.
“They found a way to give a huge tax cut to the wealthiest of the wealthy last year with the tax bill but can’t offer a standard raise for the men and women who actually make the government run,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Once again, this administration is making it very clear where its priorities lie, and it’s not with working families.”
The Republican-backed tax legislation, hailed as a signature achievement for the White House, was supposed to pay for itself, according to supporters. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued an analysis earlier this year that painted a different picture, one described as, “an unrelentingly bleak picture of the federal deficit,” by the Chicago Tribune. The CBO predicted the deficit will hit $804 billion this year and eventually cross the $1 trillion mark in 2020.
The tax bill has also been shown by multiple analyses to benefit the extremely wealthy far more than anyone else, contributing to further to the nation’s gaping income inequality.
“To lavish tax breaks on the richest 1 percent, then turn around and say we can’t afford to give a raise to the hardworking men and women who go to work every day in our shipyards and government offices, is an egregious affront to working families everywhere,” Stephenson said. “It’s supposed to be ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people.’ Not just those at the top.”
Trump’s refusal to grant the pay raises comes on the heels of three executive orders issued in May, just before Memorial Day, that aimed to curtail the rights of federal workers by undermining their collective bargaining agreements, and in one order, make it easier to get fired. A U.S. District Court judge overturned key provisions of the orders on Aug. 28.
It’s possible that Congress could override the decision. In early August, the Senate passed a 1.9 percent pay raise as part of an appropriations bill. The House, however, approved its own spending bill that endorses Trump’s freeze.