America’s civilian employees of more than 2 million face “an uncertain future” as discussions during the next two months on raising the nation’s borrowing limit, deficit reduction and the budget could have a direct effect on their pocketbooks and workplaces, The Washington Post warned in a report published on Tuesday.
Unpaid furloughs are a real possibility, and the potential for layoffs has workers worried, the report said.
According to the Post, during his second term inaugural address, President Barack Obama did not mention federal workers specifically but he closed with words that could have a special meaning for them: “With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”
After imposing a freeze on basic federal pay rates for more than two years, Obama has ordered a tiny raise, 0.5 percent, to begin at the end of March. Many Republicans, however, support legislation extending the freeze through the end of the year. Obama and Republicans have proposed making employees contribute more to their retirement funding, but so far that has been imposed only on those hired after 2012.
Though the president has talked about diversity, leaders of the Coalition for Change, an organization that fights discrimination in the federal government, says Obama is not specific enough about racial bias, according to the report.
The report concluded that labor unions and working people can play a key role in shaping Obama’s policies during his second term. It quoted Carl Goldman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26 as saying that “what policies the administration actually pushes during its second term depend not only on the president but also ‘to a large extent, on us: the unions, the broad progressive movement and working people in general.’”
“We won the election,” Goldman was quoted as saying. “Whether we win the next four years depends on what all of us are willing to do.”