NTEU Letter to Congress on Federal Employee Pay

NTEU urges members of Congress to provide a pay increase for federal workers for 2019.

U.S. CapitolToday, NTEU sent the letters to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate urging them to provide a pay increase for federal workers in January 2019 in light of President Trump’s proposal to freeze pay. Without congressional action, a pay freeze would take effect, meaning there would be no pay raise for 2019.

As you know, by law, federal white-collar employees are intended to receive an annual, across-the-board pay adjustment as well as increases in locality pay rates, effective in January of each year, under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-509). The annual pay adjustment is based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which measures changes in private sector wages and salaries. For 2019, the annual pay raise using this formula should be 2.1 percent (prior to any increases to locality pay rates). The President usually includes a federal employee pay proposal in the administration’s annual budget request to Congress, and by law may issue an alternative pay plan by September 1 that differs from the ECI formula.

President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump

Historically, Congress acted to set the annual pay adjustment during its consideration of appropriations bills, and may legislate an adjustment that is different from the one recommended to Congress by the President or that might be authorized by the President in an alternative plan. However, Congress has remained silent on the issue of federal employee pay since 2011, allowing the President’s proposals to take effect under administrative authority. Given the President’s decision to freeze federal employee pay for 2019, and the current lack of a plan to issue an alternative pay plan later this year setting some amount for a raise, it will be imperative that Congress act on this issue, or there will be no pay raise.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA)

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) pay legislation, H.R. 4775 and S. 2295, calling for a 3 percent pay adjustment for 2019 for federal workers covered by the General Schedule and Wage Grade systems. NTEU strongly supports this legislation.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

If the federal government, particularly FDA, is to have the ability to compete with the private sector in recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, it is essential that the federal government provide its workers a pay increase. In 2018, private sector wages on average are rising by 3 percent, and like their private sector counterparts, federal workers face ever-increasing costs-of-living, with rising utility, health care, and food bills, along with school loan and rent or mortgage obligations.

At a time when the nation is experiencing a healthy economy and private sector job growth, the federal workforce should not be left suffering from a pay freeze, particularly as paychecks have already been strained by earlier pay freezes and recent years of modest pay increases.

NTEU will continue to urge Congress to provide federal workers a pay increase for 2019, and I will keep you updated on future developments.

For more information, please visit the NTEU Legislative Action Center.