NTEU’s Kelley Sharply Criticizes
Media Attack on Federal Pay
|Washington, D.C.—The leader of
the nation’s largest independent union of federal employees
has sharply criticized a media report implying that federal
workers are substantially overpaid compared to their private
“The only meaningful way to measure public and private
sector pay against each other is to compare salaries for
similar jobs,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the
National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). “The superficial
and cursory look at federal pay in last week’s USA Today
story fails completely to do that.”
She added: “Surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
confirmed by the Federal Salary Council, show definitively
that when comparing similar jobs, the public-private pay gap
is, on average, 26 percent in favor of the private sector.”
The USA Today article, which appeared on Dec. 11, used
growth in the number of federal jobs paying six figures to
imply that such pay is widespread throughout the federal
government and that federal employees are thus overpaid.
“That people continue to make these nonsensical arguments
truly is disappointing and tiresome,” the NTEU leader said.
“Instead, we ought to be grateful for the continuing
contributions of those who choose public service.”
She noted, as she and others have in the past, that the
federal workforce is increasingly comprised of professional
jobs, including large numbers of doctors and nurses,
scientists in virtually every discipline, attorneys,
accountants, bank examiners, engineers, information
technology specialists and many others—nearly all of whom
are paid less as civil servants than their counterparts in
the private sector.
“The federal workforce is the most highly-educated in our
nation,” Kelley said, “with an extraordinary number of
employees holding both undergraduate and advanced college
This is a demographic significantly different than the
private sector workforce, which increasingly is made up of
non-professional and lower-paying positions.
At the same time, Kelley said it is likely that any increase
in the number of six-figure jobs in the federal sector is
largely accounted for by the growth, over the years, in the
number of political appointees, as well as increases in the
number of senior-level managers.
“I can assure you,” she said, “the vast majority of federal
workers earn nothing close to the figure put forward by USA
Today.” She offered as an example Transportation Security
Officers (TSOs) in the Transportation Security
Administration, whose starting salary is about $24,000,
adding that TSOs cover their shifts 24 hours a day, seven
days a week as their contribution to keeping the nation
“It is well past time that we began focusing on the
excellent work federal employees do for our country and
their dedication to duty, rather than using them as
scapegoats for problems not of their making,” Kelley said.
As the largest independent federal union, NTEU represents
150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.