Obama Praises Federal Workers, But Forecasts More Fights Over Pay

MINNEAPOLIS –Democratic President Barack Obama is again praising federal workers, while forecasting more fights with Congress’ controlling Republicans over those employees’ pay and working conditions.  “It will be a tough negotiation just because everything is a tough negotiation in Washington right now,” he says.

Obama’s predictions answered the last question at his “town hall”: meeting after his June 26 speech in the Twin Cities.  29-year Defense Contract Management Agency worker Katie Peterson said she and a colleague – standing alongside – “feel really privileged to serve.

“It’s been a great career, we love it, but lately, as you know, there’s been a few rough patches with three years of pay freeze and sequestration and furloughs,” Peterson added.   “And we’re just kind of wondering what you foresee for the next fiscal year for government workers.”  There are almost 2 million federal workers.

After praising federal, state and local workers, including teachers, “who work really hard doing important stuff,” Obama confessed he’s puzzled by how and when government work “somehow not became a real job.

“It frustrates me when I hear people acting as if somebody who’s working for the federal government somehow is less than somebody working on the private sector.  If they’re doing a good job and carrying on an important function, we should praise them,” he declared.

While the private sector drives the economy, public workers “helped create the platform and the wealth we enjoy,” Obama said.   “So this whole idea that somehow government is the enemy or the problem is just not true.”  Except GOP critics of public workers believe it is, he said.  And the critics plan to keep making life for public workers difficult.

While the administration “has been able to stabilize” government pay and get rid of GOP-mandated budget cuts – sequestration – and furloughs, “When we go into the budget talks with Republicans next year, we may go through some of the same problems, in part because the other side has said they want to cut funding for education, they’ve said they want to cut support for vulnerable families, they want to cut Medicaid, which would have an impact on the elderly and families that have folks with disabilities.   And I’ve said no.”

-PAI