3/9/09: The chairman of a key House subcommittee dealing with federal employee issues last week promised prompt action on a measure to provide paid parental leave, and left the door ajar for potential changes in the administration’s recommendation concerning federal pay in 2010.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) addressed these subjects and others in remarks before several hundred members of NTEU, gathered in Washington for the union’s Legislative Conference. Rep. Lynch is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.
He said his subcommittee intends to mark up on March 26 legislation introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would provide federal employees with four weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. “This is an important piece of unfinished business” for our nation, Rep. Lynch said, “and we’ve got to act.” The measure is H.R. 626. Securing paid parental leave is among NTEU’s legislative priorities for this year.
Rep. Lynch was introduced by NTEU national President Colleen Kelley, who recounted his years as president of a 2,000-member local union of the Ironworkers Union and his long-time family connections with the federal workforce, with many members of his family having worked with the Postal Service. “He is a person who understands well working men and women,” she said.
Rep. Lynch described the situation involving federal pay as “fluid — in the right direction.” In its budget blueprint for 2010, released last week, the White House proposed a 2.9 percent pay raise for members of the military and a 2 percent raise for the federal civilian workforce.
NTEU is committed to the longstanding tradition of parity between the federal civilian workforce and members of the military and President Kelley said she would seek discussions with the White House on the matter.
On another matter, the Massachusetts Democrat voiced his strong support for collective bargaining rights for employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). NTEU is engaged in an aggressive nationwide organizing campaign among TSA employees, and already represents several thousand TSA employees at eight of the nation’s busiest airports. The union is leading the push, both administratively and legislatively, for TSA collective bargaining rights.
“We need to correct the TSA denial of rights,” Rep. Lynch said, noting that he has a good grasp of their working conditions, since he flies two or three times a week. These employees “need a voice in their workplace.”
The congressman described the refusal of previous TSA administrators to permit collective bargaining rights—the law creating the agency provides that discretion—as having “stood common sense on its head.”
More broadly, the subcommittee chairman said his goal is to “restore the basic dignity that is owed to every worker,” and he praised the “patience, persistence and determination of federal employee unions” and their leaders at every level “to get things done on behalf of individuals who share a commitment to public service.”
President Kelley welcomed Rep. Lynch’s commitment to those who serve the public as federal employees and noted that he recently introduced legislation dealing with three important issues. The bill, the Federal Retirement Reform Act of 2009, would:
- provide for the automatic enrollments of new federal employees in the Thrift Savings Plan;
- allow federal and military retirees to pay their health insurance premiums using pre-tax dollars, as current employees can; and
- provide employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System with an annuity credit for unused sick time.
“Chairman Lynch has already demonstrated his leadership on federal employee issues by focusing on some of NTEU’s key legislative priorities,” said President Kelley.