AFGE's Gage fires back at Romney


(Darren McCollester, Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s comment about “unfair” federal pay and benefits has raised the hackles of the two largest federal unions. The National Treasury Employees Union slammed Romney yesterday for going after middle-class federal workers. And today, American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage let loose with an even more cutting response:

You know what’s really unfair? The specter of having a new boss who thinks so little about the work that you do that he can’t bother getting his facts straight before making the ridiculous and patently false claim that federal workers are “getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve.”

Gage flat-out rejected Romney’s allegation that feds receive drastically higher pay and benefits than private-sector employees, and cited “decades of research by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics” that shows feds consistently earn much smaller salaries.

What Gage said is true, but may not tell the whole story. The Federal Salary Council, using BLS data, last reported in November that federal pay fell even further behind private-sector pay last year, and concluded that feds now earn 26.3 percent less than their private-sector counterparts. But some federal pay experts have their doubts about the council’s methodology. (Even Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has said the government’s pay gap numbers have a credibility problem.)

And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office came to very different conclusions earlier this year — partly by throwing health, retirement and other benefits in the mix, which the salary council does not. CBO found federal employees are compensated, on average, 16 percent higher than private-sector workers. (It’s also worth noting that Gage and other union officials heavily criticized CBO’s study when it was released.)


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  1. John Berry = Pay expert? He was Director of the National Zoo for crying out loud. Asian Gibbons need an increase in food rations immediately.

  2. @dogrules14, John Berry had a career in the Federal government in the Department of the Interior before he was employed by the National Zoo. He is not new to Federal management or the Federal government in general.

  3. Feds do receive a financial advantage when considering the amount we contribute to our pensions. However, oftentimes being a fed employee is incredibly painful as one has to work with so many diversity/protected class/hiring advantaged persons who are all too often unqualified to do the job. Further, it is the nonexempt (nonprofessinal) feds who are overpaid when compared to private sector salary alone, not the professionals. But of course the unions won’t allow anything to be said about the uneducated clerk pulling in 40 – 50K per year.

  4. The federal government employs over two million civil servants covering nearly every imaginable skill or profession, yet through Congress, pay and benefits are largely homogenous across the work force. For example, the GS-15 principal engineer with 30 years of experience earns the same amount of leave as a GS-7 secretary with 30 years of service.

    This is why some positions end up having higher compensation than similar private sector jobs, while others, notably those in the science, law, engineering or medical professions generally lag their private sector counterparts. (Having done the research, I myself am underpaid between 10 and 25% measuring total compensation compared with the private sector).
    Making federal pay more on par with the private sector necessitates the wholesale dismantling of long established federal civil service tenets. It would mean the end of pensions for secretaries, but not for most engineers. It would mean 7-10 days of leave for a 30 year clerk, but a 12 year attorney would get 3 weeks.

    Only one institution is able to make these changes and that is the US Congress. These clowns cannot so much as pass any kind of budget, balanced or otherwise on any schedule. Expecting them to tackle something this difficult is indeed wishful thinking.

  5. I shudder to think what will happen to federal workers if Romney is elected, with the way he thinks of us right now. It will be truly sad.

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