Friday, March 01, 2013

Feds make better workers, yes, we do!

Today there was an interesting article in the Washington Post about Federal workers and the sequestration, if it occurs.

A lot of folks, understandably, are worried about their jobs and possible furloughs. One guy went so far as to inform his handyman that a planned build-in of shelving in his livingroom would need to be put off or canceled if the sequestration occurred.

Now, I don't know exactly how to think about it myself, but we've been told by management in my agency that we shouldn't worry about furloughs. FDA is, we are told, is committed to dealing with that loss of funds in other ways, such as cutting back on contracting. Personally, I find that not just comforting, but as a kind of payback, as the widespread contracting out of government functions in the Bush years put a lot of government people either in real fear of their jobs or really did move some folks out into private industry. This gives us an a opportunity to stick it to the Republicans and their private contractor buddies while smiling and obeying the latest Republican madness.

Great job, guys, thanks!

On the other hand, I really, really hate what the Republicans have done to the reputation of Federal workers. Back in my mother's day, when she worked for the Commerce Department and then Social Security then the FAA, being a Fed was a good thing to be.

Of course, the pay was nothing to write home about, but the leave and other benefits were really good, and one couldn't beat the retirement plan. Job security was also a huge draw, and especially if one was a veteran, it was almost impossible to get fired.

Of course the down side to that last was that a few bad apples set an example that the Republicans used to smack us down and make up a stupid myth about lazy Feds who never work, get overpaid and can't get fired, no matter how bad our work.

Look, folks, I've got news for you, even back then, you COULD get fired, if you did something that violated several hard and fast rules, and even if your problem was just bad work, they could simply make your life hell until you just decided it wasn't worth it. Few people have the intestinal fortitude to put up with what a Federal Manager can do to make an employee's life hell.

Which is why the vast majority of Feds don't screw around. Of course, the main reason why is what I know to be dedication. Nobody goes into Federal service to get rich. Hey, if you can work your way up into a senior level position, yes, the pay is nice, but not everybody can do that, and for many it takes literally years to do. It isn't known as a senior level for nothing! But most of us are simply dedicated to doing a good job, because that's why we are here. Many of us chose the agency we work for because we believe strongly in the mission of the agency. I've known and now have coworkers who regularly work an extra 4 - 5 hours a day at times, and a lot of folks take their laptops home and work at email at home so their hours in the office are more productive.

A lot of positions in some agencies mean long days and sometimes weeks away from home on the road, working. Inspectors in the FDA, as junior level workers, spend up to three weeks out of every month on the road. Senior level inspectors mostly do just one. Seniority is nice! I am sure that other agencies have similar arrangements for some jobs.

Some Feds do work that puts them in the line of fire of people who don't much like this country. They put their lives on the line most every day. Some Feds make sure your drugs are safe and effective, others keep your meat safe to eat. A lot of Feds patrol the borders of this country and get shot at regularly. Others spend long boring hours in cubicles doing the inevitable paperwork that keeps a large organization going.

I'll be honest, I've known, in the almost 40 years I've worked for the Federal Government, maybe one or two people that would fit the stereotype the Republicans complain about. The rest, almost completely fit the opposite profile, honest, hard working, dedicated and very very good at what they do. I also know that at least one of the bad workers got fired, shortly after she got hired. That was back in the early 80's, after Carter's reforms.

So, please, don't be down on Feds. We are just like you, honest, hard working, and trying to make ends meet. We've got families, kids and college bills along with the same kinds of daily and monthly expenses you do.

Remember Greece? Remember what austerity did to Greece?

You really, really don't want to see that here.

No comments: