That Good Ol’ Patronage System!

By John J. O’Grady, President, Local 704, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE Local 704), Chicago, Illinois

The word “patronage” is derived from the Latin word patronus for patronPatronage was the distinctive relationship in ancient Roman society between the patronus (patron) and his client.  The relationship was hierarchical, but obligations were mutual. The patronus was the protector, sponsor, and benefactor of the client; the technical term for this protection was patrocinium.   Benefits a patron might confer include legal representation in court, loans of money, influencing business deals or marriages, and supporting a client’s candidacy for political office.  In return, the client was expected to offer his services to his patron as needed.

The Federal bureaucracy in the years after the Civil War involved extensive patronage in selecting officials and supervising their work.  That system had evolved in the early nineteenth century, and relied on the well-known political adage, “to the victor belong the spoils.”  When a Democrat was elected President, all of the Republican appointees were swept out of office, and vice versa.  The idea of rotation in office caused by election of a candidate from the other party was thought to be “democratic.” Continue reading “That Good Ol’ Patronage System!”

That Good Ol’ Spartan Government!

By John J. O’Grady, President, Local 704, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE Local 704), Chicago, Illinois

Sparta: Government and classes

I’ve worked in both the private and public sectors, but always in environmentally oriented businesses or concerns.  In the final analysis, the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – to protect human health and the environment – meant more to me than making lots of money, and having a life outside of work was and remains compelling.  Besides, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no major studies that have stated that employees are happier when they work 60 plus hour weeks, have no personal life and risk losing their families so they can have a high-powered career and make lots of money.  “Gee, I wish I spent more time at work than with my family” said no one ever on their death bed.

Having a strong, well-staffed, and sufficiently budgeted U.S. EPA used to mean something to a lot of ordinary American people.  It took a while for us “commoners” (read taxpayers and voters) to awaken; e.g., the Cuyahoga River in northeast Ohio had to catch on fire at least 13 times before it captured the attention of most Americans.  Eventually, as a result of a number of environmental disasters and certain champions of the common folk like Rachel Carson, the U.S. EPA was born on December 2, 1970.  Up until recently, it was one of the finest environmental protection agencies in the world, but thanks to many elected leaders in Washington, war has been declared war on the U.S. EPA, oftentimes referring to it as the “Job Killing Agency,” for which there is no financial or statistical basis.  Yet, somehow bashing the U.S. EPA became the battle cry of the elected misinformed and now has been expanded to include all of government by attacking America’s Federal employees. Continue reading “That Good Ol’ Spartan Government!”

For federal employees, 2014 won’t be as bad as 2013, but morale problems linger

The Federal Diary
The Federal Diary
Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

For federal employees, 2014 won’t be as bad as 2013, but morale problems linger

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters – A lone worker enters Woodrow Wilson Plaza at Federal Triangle in Washington Oct. 2, 2013. Federal Triangle is occupied by city and federal office buildings.

By , Published: January 5

This new year doesn’t promise to be especially happy for federal employees, but it won’t be marked by pay cuts and lockouts and hopefully not the violence that marred 2013.

As they begin the first full workweek of 2014, most federal workers have a 1 percent increase in their basic pay rates for the first time in three years. Congress broke form and managed to pass a budget last month, making the uncertainty that hovered over the labor force in recent years — as legislators were unable to complete this basic task — less worrisome.

Federal Employee Morale Hits Record Low

Federal Employee Morale Hits Record Low

Posted: 12/17/2013 11:59 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/18/2013 11:07 am EST

WASHINGTON — Budget cuts and forced furloughs have taken a toll on federal workers, with job satisfaction at a record low in a new government-wide survey.

“We are dismantling the capability of our government by the way it’s being managed, and the people in government are giving that message back. … It should be really worrisome to anyone who cares about our country,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which produced a report on the survey.

The Office of Personnel Management surveys workers across the government annually about their satisfaction at work. This year, nearly 400,000 people participated from April through June, just as sequestration’s furloughs were hitting many workers.

Using the data compiled by OPM, PPS and the consulting firm Deloitte issued their annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” report Wednesday, finding “troubling” responses. Continue reading “Federal Employee Morale Hits Record Low”

Sinking Employee Morale Worries HR Chiefs

Sinking Employee Morale Worries HR Chiefs

Angela Waye/Shutterstock.com

Concerns over federal employee morale dominated the annual public meeting of the government’s top human capital leaders on Tuesday.

Job satisfaction among federal workers has dropped nearly across the board in 2013 — a year marked by furloughs, a pay freeze and proposals to reduce federal employee compensation, according to the latest Federal Employment Viewpoint Survey from the Office of Personnel Management released on Friday. OPM officials, including newly-confirmed Director Katherine Archuleta, discussed the survey’s results and how to capitalize on positive trends while tackling worrisome ones. Continue reading “Sinking Employee Morale Worries HR Chiefs”