Government workforce a key vote in 2012 election
By: Matt Laslo
Virginia is one of the most hotly-contested states in this year’s presidential election, which makes political outreach to federal workers in the region all the more important. Some Democratic campaigns think they have the votes of most federal employees in the bag, but it’s more complicated than one might think.
There’s been no shortage of Republican rhetoric about shrinking the government — even eliminating entire agencies — during this year’s presidential race. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney epitomized the argument during a speech on the campaign trail after he won the Michigan GOP primary in February.
“I’m going to deliver on more jobs, less debt and smaller government,” Romney said. “We’re going to hear that day in and day out, more jobs, less debt and smaller government.”
It goes beyond rhetoric, though. Republican leaders want to extend a pay freeze for government employees and make them contribute 5 percent more to their pensions. These proposals haven’t gone unnoticed, especially by federal employee labor unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees.
Federal workforce feels like ‘an ATM’
Tom Webb, president of the AFGE Local 3615, sits down to talk presidential politics at the Juke Box Diner in Northern Virginia on a recent afternoon. He’s retired now, so he has time to sip coffee under the neon lights of this classic diner on a weekday afternoon.
The AFGE represents more than 600,000 federal workers, and many members are frustrated by Republican efforts to reduce compensation for federal employees, Webb says.
“We seem to be like an ATM machine for this Congress,” he says.
That’s been a recurring theme from Republicans. In Romney’s economic plan, the former Massachusetts Governor argues he can reduce the deficit by nearly $50 billion dollars by bringing federal compensation, including benefits, in line with the private sector.
Webb, who worked at the Social Security Administration for 38 years, bristles at some of what he’s heard from Romney about protecting taxpayer.
“Well we’re taxpayers too, you know, and we contribute to the economy,” Webb says.
Dems combatting fallout from Obama pay freezes
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who has represented Northern Virginia for more than two decades, acknowledges the federal workforce is more diverse than portrayed.
“Many people have the misimpression that virtually all federal employees vote Democratic. That’s not the case,” he says. “Now, blue-collar federal employees tend to vote Democratic.”
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