Much has been written about the current partial government shutdown as it approaches its third week, and rightfully so. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country remain unable to perform their constitutionally-mandated missions until the shuttered agencies and departments are properly funded by Congress and signed into law by the President. Millions of dollars in production are lost and the services Americans count on are simply not performed. As the shutdown continues –without end in sight – another devastating policy towards feds was enforced over the holidays. On the evening of Friday, December 28, 2018, President Trump issued an executive order calling for a freeze of federal employees’ pay in fiscal year 2019.
The executive order fulfilled the language in the President’s FY2019 budget request and formal announcement in August of intentions to freeze civilian pay for FY19, but the executive order cemented the policy. It was particularly discouraging, as a broad majority in Congress had worked on a deal for a 1.9% pay raise, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate and had strong bipartisan support in the House. The pay freeze does not affect those in the military, who are receiving a 2.6% pay raise in 2019.
While approximately 30 percent of feds are forced to wait for the government shutdown to be resolved, 100 percent of feds will have their pay frozen for the next year. Federal managers, and indeed all feds, deserve to be treated with the respect for their efforts and the work they have performed over many years. Every job feds hold and perform daily is because of a congressional mandate. Federal employees work to fulfill these mandates to ensure American citizens are protected from enemies and disease, and ensure our way of life is protected for generations to come. It is not too much to ask that, in return, feds be given the ability to maintain a living wage that keeps up with inflation and that provides for them and their families.
To make matters even worse, the progress FMA and others made in advocating for six new locality pay areas for FY19 also gets put on hold as the pay freeze went into effect. The new locality pay areas would have boosted pay for over 70,000 general schedule employees. FMA President Renee Johnson described the pay freeze as “a direct slap in the face to all federal employees.”
FMA supports the effort to provide for a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2019, included in the House-passed spending bills that would end the partial shutdown. We urge the pay raise be included in any funding package that ends the shutdown. We are also grateful for the letter to the president from Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), suggesting legislation be introduced in the 116th Congress to retroactively reverse the pay freeze. “We strongly encourage you to take immediate action to reverse your ill-advised pay freeze and lift federal workers from this added layer of financial uncertainty,” the senators wrote. “Should you choose not to change course, we will continue working on a bipartisan basis to ensure federal workers receive a pay adjustment for fiscal year 2019.”
With regard to pay for furloughed feds impacted by the shutdown, FMA applauds Senators Cardin, Collins, and 28 of their Senate colleagues for their swift introduction of bipartisan, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act. The bill would guarantee that furloughed federal employees impacted by the shutdown would be paid retroactively and that all employees would be paid as soon as possible after the funding lapse ends. The Senate passed a similar bill late in the 115th Congress by unanimous consent and we strongly support the reintroduced bill in the 116th Congress.
It is the job of the civilian federal employees to continue to perform their mission regardless of bias or political leaning. It is also the job of elected decision makers to ensure those performing the government’s missions are compensated fairly. FMA will continue to work with Congress and the administration to urge our leaders to pass legislation that will retroactively include a pay raise in 2019 for all feds.