DENVER — Despite a sputtering job market, persistent unemployment and reports that the U.S. economy contracted last quarter, at least one group of highly paid Americans are set to receive a pay raise: Federal employees. But that may not happen if Republican lawmakers get their way.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives is slated to begin consideration of legislation that would block a scheduled salary bump for government workers that President Obama ordered in December.
The GOP effort to hold pay for government workers at current levels has prompted outrage from labor unions and others who are demanding that Congress approve the raise.
The coalition supporting higher pay for government workers includes the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the National Association of Government Employees, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.
“[Government employees] have earned, at least, the modest 0.5 percent pay increase proposed by the President.”read a Monday letter from the pro-government pay raise coalition. “The demands of our government in a constantly modernizing world with increasingly complex threats call for highly-skilled employees who require appropriate compensation.”
But critics say government workers already enjoy generous pay and better job security than those toiling in the private sector.
An analysis from the Heritage Foundation by Senior Policy Analyst James Sherk echoed the findings of other studies which have determined that federal employees enjoy far more lavish compensation packages than their private sector counterparts.
“[F]ederal employees earn approximately 30 percent to 40 percent more in total compensation (wages and benefits) than comparable private-sector workers,” Sherk wrote. “Federal employees demonstrate with their actions that they receive better compensation in the public sector than in the private sector: They quit their jobs at one-third the rate of the private employees.
The general public also seems to be skeptical of the argument that federal employees are underpaid.
According to one recent public opinion survey, a majority Americans believe government employees are paid more and work less than those in the private sector, and more than two-thirds say that bureaucrats enjoy more job security than those not employed by the government.
Congressional Republicans have questioned both the wisdom of the White House pay raise order and its timing, given looming cuts in domestic spending.
“Total compensation packages for federal employees top $126,141 compared to $62,757 in the private sector,” read a summary of the GOP bill on the House Republican Conference website. “The President’s announcement, which will cost taxpayers more than $10 billion over ten years, comes at a time when automatic spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect.”