On January 17, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10988, “Employee Management Cooperation in the Federal Sector”. This order granted federal employees the right to engage in collective bargaining through labor unions. President Kennedy understood the importance of workers having a seat at the table, especially those in public service. “The participation of employees in the formation and implementation of employee policy and procedures affecting them contributes to the effective conduct of public business,” he noted.
57 years ago, the President of the United States respected the public servants of the federal government and demonstrated that respect through the acknowledgement and expansion of their rights as workers. Today, more than 800,000 federal workers are being denied respect and their economic dignity. Currently, 480,000 federal workers are being forced to work without pay.
After his inauguration, President Kennedy wrote to the AFGE, “The American Federation of Government Employees has played a notable part in broadening and deepening the standards of career and merit service in our government. I look forward to working with your members as I take on my new responsibilities.”
While six decades ago our government was expanding rights for workers and encouraging a new generation of public servants, over the past two years our federal work force and public employees across the country have sustained substantial hits to their economic rights. Our current government shutdown is just the most recent in a line of attacks on collective bargaining, fair wages, safe staffing and job security.
Today, remember President Kennedy’s call to public service, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Then call our elected leaders, tell them to reopen the government and pay workers the wages they deserve.