Attacks on Federal Pay Disportionately Affects African-AmericansMar. 11, 2011 - (DC Staff Contributor)
At a Congressional hearing yesterday to discuss federal workforce pay, House Republicans launched an legislative assault on salaries for federal employees, complaining that federal workers are overpaid compared with the private sector.
On the wall directly behind Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, majority Republicans had erected a large poster saying: “Employment Changes December 2008-December 2010; Private Sector Jobs -8,817,000; federal government jobs +157,000.” A sign next to it said: “2010 Average Total Compensation; Government Worker $101,628; Private Worker $60,000.”
“Compensation of private-sector employees has not kept pace with that of federal employees,” said Rep. Dennis Ross, chair of the House Oversight subcommittee that is conducting the hearing. “Our taxpayers can no longer be asked to foot the bill for these federal employees while watching their salaries remain flat and their benefits erode.” Ironically, federal workers are already facing a two-year freeze on cost-of-living increases through the end of 2012.
But John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, said many federal workers are underpaid and many comparisons are phony. He noted the federal government doesn’t employ retail clerks, waiters, short order cooks or other specialties — lower-paying private sector positions whose salaries are included in the average pay comparison statistics that Republicans rely upon.
Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said that Bureau of Labor Statistics show that federal workers are paid less than private sector counterparts. She testified, “The witnesses who will claim today that federal employees are overpaid have clear ideological views that I believe should raise serious questions about the reliability of their findings.”
The hearing represents the latest effort by House Republicans to make further cuts in the budget and overall spending at a time when there is a growing state trend of cutting pay for public sector workers. But the effort to cut federal employee pay will also have an enormous negative impact on African Americans.
The federal government is the largest employer of African Americans in the country. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, African Americans make up approximately 20% of the federal workforce. If Congress cuts pay for federal workers, these cuts will disproportionately impact African-Americans, who are paid at a GS-9 level on average ($41,463 to $54,028 annually), compared to their white counterparts, who are paid almost two salary levels higher.
Additional cuts to federal salaries will not only increase this pay disparity, but will widen the pay gap that exists for African-Americans between the private and public sector. African-American federal employees already earn less on average than individuals in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average private employee earns $61,051, or 13% more than an African-American government worker. Though the federal government still provides many African Americans with secure employment and quality of life — benefits that, for many, are unquantifiable — this latest move should have many African Americans questioning whose side the federal government and specifically, House Republicans, are on.(0) Comments
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