Federal union leader: It's time to "rally for your benefits"

That federal hiring freeze which President Trump announced almost immediately upon taking office really has the public employee unions setting their hair on fire. This week there was a call to arms issued by Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in which he declared that federal workers needed to take to the streets and loudly demonstrate their solidarity in protecting the status quo. Citing all sorts of liberal bogeyman visions, Reardon informed the workers that Donald Trump was definitely the enemy and a hard rain was going to be falling unless they were willing to fight. (Government Executive)

The advent of the Trump era has heightened prospects for an array of Republican bills that would, as Reardon put it, threaten “collective bargaining and due process” at the same time President Trump is proposing large-scale cuts in agency budgets—37 percent at the State Department, 24 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency and 14 percent at the Internal Revenue Service, for instance.

This is the time to rally for your job, your benefits, your country,” Reardon said in opening the three- day blitz of visits to lawmakers’ offices that includes a Thursday rally on East Front of the Capitol. “We fight to protect each other,” he said, while also challenging what the union sees as a threat to services upon which American taxpayers depend , from air traffic control to food safety to border protection.

Reardon’s comments demonstrate the type of thinking which goes on inside the union bubble, particularly among the ranks of government workers. Just pause for a moment to consider his rallying cry. “Your jobs, your benefits, your country.” Not to take this to some sort of Sesame Street level here, but one of these things does not go with the others. Rallying for your country is a great idea and one which I’m sure we can all support. Rallying for your job and, particularly “your benefits,” is another matter. With a bit of semantic juggling this could quickly be turned into a line from a John F. Kennedy speech saying, asked not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you.

The article highlights some of the other “fears” which are being expressed among these government workers and union members these days.

A new survey of NTEU leaders who represent 31 agencies in its 121 chapters nationwide found palpable unease last month. Eighty-one percent reported declining morale; 79 percent wished Congress better understood that federal workers are struggling middle class people; 78 percent feared for their job security; 71 percent feared cuts to pay and benefits; 65 percent worried over a lack of agency funding; 60 percent feared cuts to retirement benefits; and 58 percent worried over Trump’s hiring freeze.

Let’s talk about this “palpable unease” which union members and executives are experiencing. I’m willing to allow the fact that many government workers who are not among the executive ranks are indeed, “struggling middle-class people.” The struggling part could certainly be up for some debate since federal workers still earn significantly more than their private-sector counterparts on average and they have virtually no fear of ever being fired from their jobs, even if they are caught driving the getaway car at a robbery. But still, many of the lower pay grade folks have to get by on a comfortable, but not exorbitant salary just like many other working Americans.

But they are also worried about, “cuts to pay and benefits” and “cuts to retirement benefits?” I hope you’ll excuse the general round of snorting and guffawing coming from virtually everyone who works in the private sector, sir. When was the last time anyone working for the federal government experienced a pay cut? As near as I can tell, it’s never happened. Conversely, when the economy takes a downturn, people working in private-sector jobs actually do experience pay cuts, reductions in hours, and slashes to their benefits, while seeing expenses such as healthcare premiums continue to skyrocket. And retirement benefits? The fact that government workers still get generous retirement plans is astounding to the majority of working-class people out there in the real world. Retirement plans found outside of government work all too often consist of nothing more than a 401(k) which, if you’re lucky, your employer kicks a few bucks into on top of your own contributions.

This speech by Mr. Reardon exemplifies the attitude which is so badly damaging the reputation of unions in general and public worker unions in particular. People who live inside of that protected environment truly seem to have no clue about the experiences of Americans who deal (and have been dealing) with those realities for their entire lives. If new policies implemented by President Trump have awoken these federal workers to the true face of living in a damaged economy, that might turn out to actually be a good thing in the end.