Federal workers get image makeover

The country's largest federal employees' union is launching a year-long campaign to highlight the importance of federal workers to the country.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) represents more than 650,000 federal workers and says its campaign is meant to counter the negative view that some have of public employees.

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"The goal of this campaign is to break down the stereotypes that some folks have about federal employees and the federal government, and highlight all the great work that federal employees are doing," AFGE President David Cox said Wednesday. "The best way to do this is through federal employees' own voices."

The union released a video Wednesday explaining that federal workers are everywhere, performing tasks meant to help keep the country safe.

"They're our friends, family, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and they work around the corner, on main street, in our neighborhoods, and in the communities we call home," the video says.

"They are Americans. They are you. They are AFGE."

The AFGE says it will put out new videos every three weeks that highlight the important roles played by individual federal workers. In a release today, the AFGE said those roles include "caring for veterans, processing Social Security checks, researching cures for deadly diseases, cleaning up hazardous waste, guarding our nation's prisons and ensuring the safety of the flying public."

The campaign comes just as federal workers got their first pay increase in three years. After blocking this increase, House Republicans relented last year and allowed the raise to go through.

Over that three-year period, workers were given step increases within their pay grade, bonuses and overtime pay.

Congress will again have to decide whether to allow another increase to happen next year, as President Obama has proposed a 1 percent pay hike for 2015.

Polls over the last few years have shown that most Americans think federal workers are overpaid. A George Washington University poll taken last fall said nearly 40 percent of respondents had little confidence in federal workers.

But after last year's government shutdown, that number was cut nearly in half, as people showed sympathy toward public employees who didn't get paid at all for a 16-day period.

When Congress re-opened the government, it provided back pay for federal employees.

Automatic budget cuts known as sequestration also reduced the pay of many federal workers in 2013, as workers were not paid for days in which they were furloughed.