Federal Employees News Digest

Public Service Recognition Week: Thank you!

Imagine working for a company like my mother did for years. It promised steady work in even hard times.  But the pay wasn’t much, especially for a lot of women. In fact, when I was a kid we lived in a government housing project in Alexandria, Va., (near the then new Pentagon). It was mostly for single mothers with the rent (I suspect) heavily subsidized by Uncle Sam. As a clerk-typist she qualified. They paid for her to come to D.C. The salary wasn’t much but it had a good pension plan, good enough that a 19-year-old mother of one would take notice. We lived in a series of government buildings later boarding houses literally in sight of the U.S. Capitol dome. The old neighborhood has improved a lot. But the company seems to have gone downhill.

Big time.

Although it had ( and still does)  a full-time board of directors with great expense accounts and allowances, most board members spent more time away from work—often raising money—then they did on the job.  In fact one year, long after she retired, they were off almost 100 days and that didn’t include weekends. Whereas others pay up to $40 a day to park at the corporate airport headquarters, the 500-plus members of the board park for free.  As to their staffs. In a special close-to-terminal heavily guarded section. They also have a special police force and guarded limos for the leadership.

Free parking for board members turned out to be a good idea. Because many, if not most of them, belong to the unofficial, but very real, TWT Club. It stands for Tuesday-Wednesday income. Fortunately, more than half are millionaires. And many more will be before the leave, retire or move on to other jobs. Few are ever replaced. For any reason. 

Oh and did I mention that the CEO used to be a reality TV star?

And while it bills itself as a steady, stable, sane place to work it furloughs employees without pay all the time (even under a ‘good’ CEO).  At other times it has combination lockout-enforced work policy.  Most recently 800,000 of its people were told, depending on their job, to stay home without pay or come to work also without pay. Normally that is sort of illegal. Definitely not the American way.  Unless you can make or ignore the rules.

Company management—because of both internal and external politics—can be so pig-headed that it shuts down and defunds its largest source of income. And has done for the past three decades.

Unbelievable, right?  Who in their right mind would work at such a place, correct?

Still it was, is, so rude to question your choice of jobs.  And there must be a good explanation.

Maybe you had no choice. Maybe it was either be a TV weatherman or woman or work for NOAA. Maybe you like walking and delivering things to people.  Or driving a company car with the steering wheel on the right side.  Maybe you grew up in and wanted to continue living in a community where everything revolves around the federal prison, the army base, the giant postal sorting facility, a VA hospital or IRS service center. There are many, many communities where if you don’t work for Uncle Sam your company feeds, houses clothes or entertains his staffers.

Bottom line: you did it for whatever reason you chose a career with the federal government. Lots of good reason. But also opening yourself up to flack from the media, politicians, maybe that pain-in-the-south side brother-in-law who doesn’t like anything, especially government related. But you did.  And even if they (the family, your neighbors, most Americans, don’t know what you have done, what you and your colleagues do now and will be doing tomorrow, you know.)

Public Service Recognition Week was last week. Hope you made some of the events. Maybe got a pat on the back from local non-feds, or from a coworker who appreciates what you do. But if not, take five. Think about what you and your agency do. Exceptional people you’ve known and worked with who did some magical/heroic/dangerous things to make life better for the rest of us. Where were you during 9/11?  What about recent natural disasters. While most of us were curled up in bed or plastered to the TV, many of you were risking your health (lives).  And not for the money. Not for the retirement check.

If you are still limber enough after all these years give yourself a pat-on-the-back.

It’s allowed. And it’s deserved.

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Contributors

Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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