Obama's Federal Wage Freeze

January 1, 2011

On December 22, Congress passed a bill authorizing Obama's proposal to freeze federal workers' wages for two years. Two of the largest categories of employees affected are nurses and information technology specialists. Obama admits that the wage freeze will save little money and is meant to symbolize the need to "sacrifice" and cut "costs" by cutting back on funding for public services.

The wage freeze is part of a generalized offensive. As government at all levels keeps slashing social investments and privatizing vital public services, public employees are coming under sharp attack. Jobs are being wiped out and wages and benefits are being cut while remaining employees are forced to take on ever greater workloads. What is more, the government is trying to hamstring or eliminate altogether public employee unions and suppress the collective rights of these workers.

In attacking the individual and collective rights of public employees, the government, of course, has the economic motive of turning more of its funds directly over to the private sector capitalists. But the attacks on public employees also have an important political motive. By trying to undermine the collective strength of public workers and marginalize them, the government seeks to remove a major roadblock to its program of privatizing public services and putting everything at the disposal of the monopolies. Public employees and unions are an important organized force which have and continue to defend the interests of the whole people, especially on the front of struggling to defend and extend guarantees for fundamental social aims such as the right to health and other public services.

Thus the workers and people must continually support the just struggles of public employees, recognizing that the defense of their organizations and demands is a vital part of the struggle to defend the rights of all. By the same token, public employees and their unions must develop their movement and demands in the context of advancing the rights and agenda of the people as a whole.