President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel upcoming pay raises for federal civilian employees will affect hundreds of Anniston residents, union officials say.
“It would be substantial,” said Everett Kelley, the former Anniston Army Depot worker who is now national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “There would probably be 1,500 to 2,000 people who lose a pay increase.”
Trump on Thursday sent a letter to Congress announcing he will cancel scheduled 2.1 percent pay raises that federal civilian workers were expected to get in January. He also canceled “locality pay raises” that would have bumped up the regular pay raise in some cities.
In his letter, Trump cited provisions in law that allow him to cancel raises under “national emergency or serious economic conditions.” The pay raises would have cost the federal government $25 billion, Trump wrote.
“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increase,” the White House letter reads.
Included in the cuts is Anniston Army Depot, where more than 3,000 civilians work, either directly for the federal government or through contractors, fixing and refurbishing armored vehicles and small arms . Anniston is also home to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, which employs federal workers and many contractors.
Trump’s move generated immediate response from federal worker advocates like Kelley, who said federal workers are worse off, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than they were years ago.
“They’re making 5 percent less in real terms than they did in 2011,” Kelley said.
A budget impasse in 2011 caused a freeze on federal worker pay for several years, Kelley said, though workers did see raises in the past two years.
Lawmakers could override Trump to put in place a slightly smaller raise. A Senate spending bill would lay out the money for a 1.9 percent increase. If the bill passes the House it would take a Trump veto to cancel the smaller raise.
Attempts to reach Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, for comment on the pay raises were unsuccessful Friday.
His Democratic election opponent, Mallory Hagan, said in a prepared statement Friday that the canceled raises would affect 10,000 families in the 3rd Congressional District, many of them headed by federal workers who are also veterans.
“Going back on a promise, especially to our military families, isn’t something we do in America,” Hagan was quoted as saying in the statement.
Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones on Thursday took to Twitter to criticize Trump’s move.
“If the President wanted to save money, he could have started by not handing billions in tax cuts to the wealthy,” Jones tweeted. “His decision is unfair to the 38k hard-working Alabamians in federal civilian service & only serves to punish people who carry out this important work every day.”
Alabama’s senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, now chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee that drafts spending bills like the one that includes the 1.9 percent pay raise. Shelby didn’t release a statement after Trump’s cancelation of the larger pay raise, and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful Friday.
The House can’t act on the raise issue until after Labor Day, when members return from their August recess.