Are federal government employees “public servants,” who faithfully execute the laws and aim at the broad public good? Do they match the Progressive-era ideal of neutral and selfless experts free of political bias?
Perhaps many federal workers do. But a story in GovExec suggests that other motivations are also in play:
Lawmakers from both parties addressing unionized federal employees at a conference Monday pledged more support and respect for the civil service, but the union itself promised to “whoop [the] ass” of Congress if it stood in the group’s way.
At its annual legislative gathering, the American Federation of Government Employees vowed to combat any congressional efforts to shrink the federal workforce, cut pay and benefits or weaken unions. While Congress has succeeded in slashing agency rolls and freezing pay, union leaders said, those actions have better positioned the union to prevent similar efforts in the future.
Every time the “fools” in Congress try to hurt the federal workforce, said AFGE National President J. David Cox in a passionate address to his members, “We get bigger. We get stronger and we fight harder.”
He added: “We are a force to be reckoned with and we are a force that will open up the biggest can of whoop ass on anyone” who votes against the union’s interests…
The union chief called on each of those [AFGE] members to help push its agenda. “I’m begging you,” he said, “I’m pleading with you: Get in the fight.”
Maybe it is no surprise that federal workers and their unions fight for themselves. But can we count on federal legislators to stand up for taxpayers and citizens and check union power? Maybe not:
Lawmakers who addressed the attendees emphasized they would not be alone in that struggle; the lawmakers promised to bring the message of the positive and essential work feds do back to their colleagues and into the public sphere.
Freshman Congressman Don Beyer, D-Va., promised to be a “champion” for federal employees, adding the “critical question” for the workforce is how to change the perception of civil servants. He pledged to mention the positive work feds do in every speech he gives, suggested creating public service announcements highlighting federal employees and even proposed someone write a movie in which an “anonymous civil servant” is the hero.
“We have a great, great story to tell,” Beyer said of the federal workforce. “We just have to find every possible way to tell it.”
Beyer and his fellow Virginian, Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, agreed one crucial step to demonstrating that support is to repeal the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
I think we can see who is the real boss in Washington today. Beyer and Wittman have figured it out, and they are standing firmly in line. AFGE chief, David Cox, barked the orders: “If I meet one more politician who tells me we need to tighten our belts, I’m going to take my belt off and I’m going to whoop his ass.”