Pay Freeze as Union Recruiting Tool

Tuesday - 6/1/2010, 4:00am EDT

The Senate decision not to freeze federal pay must have had federal union leaders laughing and crying: At the same time.

Think about it.

Groups representing federal workers managed to protect next year's 1.6 percent-White House proposed federal pay raise.

But by rejecting a 2011 pay freeze the Senate cut the legs out from under what would have been the greatest recruiting tool federal unions ever had.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), who proposed the pay freeze probably don't dislike federal workers, nor do they want to give unions a gold-plated recruiting tool. Assume they were telling the truth - it happens sometimes in politics - and felt it would be an important fiscal (and psychological) gesture in tough economic times. Interestingly their amendment failed by a vote of 53-45 which is pretty close.

For as long as they've been around, organizations representing federal workers have had trouble getting federal workers to represent.

There are dozens of federal unions (Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, National Federation of Federal Employees, and National Association of Government Employees) among them. There are several - Federal Managers Association, FAA Managers Associations and the Professional Managers Association - that represent managers and supervisors. The Senior Executives Association looks out for career members of the SES and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees guards the federal retirement system for retires and active workers interested in retirement benefits and issues.

Union membership is declining in most areas. The big growth is among the public service sector. But it is largely confined to state and local governments (can you say AFSCME and SEIU). When it comes to the federal employee market, recruiting has always been tough. The problem is getting people (a minority of workers) willing to pay union dues for representation as opposed to the majority who are represented without those pesky dues.

Although most white collar and blue collar feds are represented by a union, most, for whatever reason, are not members. Only a few federal operations, the U.S. Postal Service, TVA and some smaller operations have a high percentage of union members. In the USPS, most workers belong to craft unions such as the National Association of Letter Carriers, American Postal Workers and Mail Handlers unions.

But most civilians in Defense, Interior, GSA, Commerce, Homeland Security, etc., are not union members for a variety of reasons. Paying dues is one of them although federal-postal union dues (when compared to private sector union fees) are very low. Dislike of unions is another, and many feds (and some union members) object to the political actions taken by their leaders.

The pay freeze issue isn't necessarily dead. Stay tuned.

Unions, Who Needs Them?

So what do you think? If you are not a member would a pay freeze be grounds for joining a union? Are the minority of union members carrying the rest of the workforce or are unions a thing of the past. What's good, and not-so-good, about federal unions?

You tell us, we'll tell them.

Meantime, don't budget for that 2011 pay raise just yet.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


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Among the pay and benefits headlines this morning on the Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast: Federal shuttle bus services under scrutiny, Pay freeze effort defeated in House, TSA union effort denied. Learn more from the Morning Federal Newscast by clicking here.



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