We tend to think of “federal workers” as those in Washington, D.C., making big money, having too many paid holidays and otherwise living the good life off our tax dollars.
But the longest government shutdown in United States history is reminding us that federal employees live and work everywhere, and many of them live paycheck to paycheck “just like everybody else,” as one local employee told us.
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In fact, federal employee salaries on average lag behind those of similar private-sector workers by just under 32 percent, the Federal Salary Council reported last year. It said that what is commonly called the “pay gap” is 31.86 percent, and it had improved from the 34-35 percent range previously. Surprisingly, the second-widest gap behind the San Francisco area is in the Washington-Baltimore area — the heart of the federal government.
The tradeoff has always been that government provided lucrative health and retirement benefits compared to the private sector. But the shutdown is also exposing that, regardless of pay or benefits, a job in the federal government doesn’t provide the satisfaction of job security it once did.
“The end of the shutdown is not the end of the harm,” Max Stier, chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that has surveyed job satisfaction in government agencies for the last 15 years, told The Washington Post for a story Tuesday.
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As Day 26 dawns for the shutdown, it has become a crisis for many employees. They are unable to pay mortgages or rent, vehicle payments and other long-term loans, and even the basics like utilities — and food.
We’re pleased to see that Manna for the Many, the Shamokin-based food pantry, is taking action. Manna next week will begin offering food for federal workers on Mondays until the shutdown is over. It is the type of community help, and nonpartisan show of support, that these workers desperately need.
Perhaps other organizations can step up to provide help or simply show support for workers who provide thankless services that we often don’t fully understand and appreciate — until they’re no longer available.