Our federal employees merit better treatment

This week, Public Service Recognition Week, is an opportunity to recognize the daily contributions to our country of federal employees. The range of the work they do is staggering. Along with protecting our borders, keeping nuclear materials safe, watching over our food and drugs, and working toward cleaner air and water, federal employees also help ensure that hungry schoolchildren get a lunch, that low-income women and infants get formula, that banks are regulated and that patents are protected.

The work of federal employees fuels our economy and they are first responders in times of disaster. While we thank them and all they do for our country, we are especially reminded this week that federal employees deserve better treatment than the constant flow of attacks being directed at their pay and retirement benefits – and their jobs.

The massive cuts called for under sequestration are taking a severe toll on the ability of federal employees to do their jobs and help their agencies be successful. Deep cuts threaten vital services such as border security and food safety and will harm the ability of federal employees to help taxpayers seeking assistance and to collect the revenue our country needs. Sequestration is unwise policy. For the good of the country, it must be canceled and replaced by balanced deficit reduction measures.

As president of National Treasury Employees Union 154 representing Customs and Border Protection employees in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton, I am grateful for the dedication and tireless work of our fellow federal employees, but I find it frustrating that they are among the first targets of drastic budget cuts. Federal employees are in a three-year pay freeze, while housing, utilities, health care and other expenses keep rising. Announced furloughs will make it more difficult for middle-class workers to make ends meet. Through the pay freeze and increased contributions to retirement programs implemented for new hires, federal workers have contributed more than $114 billion over 10 years to deficit reduction.

Federal workers are talented, highly skilled public servants, who are dedicated to serving our country, and they deserve to be treated with respect.

Paul Kwiatkowski