Federal employees' union head: Obama pay raise proposal 'simply not enough'

The head of the largest federal employee union said Saturday that President Obama's proposal to increase pay for federal employees by 1 percent was "absolutely unconscionable" and "simply not enough."

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"It is not enough to allow federal employees to make up lost ground from two-plus years of frozen pay. It is not enough to allow workers, most of whom earn very modest salaries ranging from $24,000 to $70,000, to maintain living standards. And it is not enough to send a message with any kind of clarity that the administration values the federal workforce and doesn't believe it should continue to bear an enormously disproportionate share of deficit reduction," David Cox Sr., the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said in a statement.

The White House told labor leaders of the proposed increase in the 2014 fiscal year budget in a phone call late Friday night. That raise would come on top of the half-point pay hike, scheduled to take effect in late March, which has been delayed as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal struck last month.  Federal salaries have been frozen since 2011.

AFGE pledged in its statement to "work with friends in Congress who truly value the federal workforce," a signal that the union will likely lobby liberal members of Congress to oppose the president's budget.


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Other union leaders have also voiced concern over the president's proposed pay raise, saying that the minimal increase over three years does little to compensate for the rising cost of living.

“While the president’s proposal for a 1 percent pay increase for federal workers in 2014 is better than a pay freeze, I don’t feel like jumping and shouting for joy,” Carl Goldman, executive director of the AFSCME Council 26 told Government Executive.

“There are a number of unanswered questions concerning the proposal: Will there also be locality pay increases that reflect the higher cost of living in many areas? Will there be a raise in federal employees’ contributions to the health insurance program, which could have the net effect of a pay cut? It is difficult to know exactly how to react until these and similar questions are answered," he said.

Still, other labor groups applauded the president's budget request.

“After all that federal workers have sacrificed the past three years, they have earned a raise,” William R. Dougan, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, told CNN. “I repeat, they have earned a raise. We are pleased to see the president take a bold stance and advocate for this badly-needed pay adjustment."

Despite the president's request for a raise, the likelihood that federal workers see an actual increase is very much in doubt. Congressional Republicans are unlikely to support the president's budget, and voted earlier this year to freeze the salaries of lawmakers and federal employees.

In a statement in January, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) characterized Obama's push for a pay increase as "not necessary to retain talented employees and just wastes taxpayer money.”

“Federal employees have continued to receive promotions and within-grade pay increases over the past few years of the supposed ‘pay freeze,’ and voluntary separations from the federal government are near all-time lows,” he said.