February 8, 2017

Federal Employees Aren't Lazy; They Work to Protect You

I worked in the federal work force for 10 years as a civilian employee, a laboratory technician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I could have gone to industry to get paid more, and I could have driven to Atlanta and gotten paid more still. However, I chose to work in my hometown so I could have some sort of life with my family after work and avoid long commutes.  

I do resent the implications that President Trump’s new attrition move, pay freeze and silencing of federal employees on social media are saving our government funds and rescuing the people of the United States from a lazy, overpaid federal work force. Quite the opposite is true. These new actions signed into law by our megalomaniac leader are hurting more normal people than you think: middle-class workers, and people like you and me.

You know that fresh, non-contaminated food you eat? Meats are checked 24 hours a day by your federal government to make sure you don’t get sick from them. How do you think those recalls happen so quickly when food is contaminated?  

You know that clean air you breathe and clean water you drink? The Environmental Protection Agency works tirelessly to make sure our air quality remains breathable with less allergens, despite our constantly dumping pollution into it. Try living in China and literally not being able to see the building across the street due to pollution in the middle of the day. The EPA also helps us to make sure we have non-contaminated water. Why do you think access to fresh water is so important after a world disaster? To prevent spreading disease.  

How about those corn crops without toxins in them, or the chicken at your supper table? Do you have serious health problems due to the food you eat? No, you don’t, because we make sure that doesn’t happen in our country. We protect you.  

How about lactose-free milk when your body can’t process lactose anymore, better dairy products and the best disease-control center on the planet at your back door protecting you from all sorts of diseases that are, by the way, rampant in other countries all around us?

Many of you imagine a federal worker kicked back at their desk, feet up, reading the paper, collecting a huge salary and doing little work. This picture has been painted by so many adults before me that even I had that image of a federal worker as a youth. To get closer to the truth, let’s fast-forward about 40 years of my life to a government employee—those who work right in your community, in your fields, in your streams and laboratories all around our country.

My husband is currently a federal employee, as is my best friend and a slew of other lifelong friends. All are intelligent, hardworking individuals, with earned degrees and enough scientific knowledge and factual data to build Trump’s desired wall. We are a family as a work group, and each of us have families to support outside of that work group. We are no different at all from you, from where you work, no more privileged (probably less, truth be known) and no more better off financially than you (probably less even still).  

I’m sick of everyone being so far detached from the truth of what being a federal employee really means and looks like. I’m not saying there aren’t a few who abuse the system and bend the rules, but I think those people are everywhere in society, no matter the work or their personal rank.

As for my family and friends who are federal employees, they work overtime without pay, get assigned collateral duties without pay, often do not get pay raises, turn out real factual data and science to improve our safety of food, crops, water, air and land. Some federal workers I know work with old, out-of-date equipment; some work on the weekend because they are overworked (a large majority, in fact); and mostly, they don’t complain, because they are doing what they love, and it feels good to protect their loved ones by contributing in some small way.

So stop bellyaching about federal employees. Don’t laugh and smile and smirk, or shake your head in affirmation and make snide comments every time the government gives us another “stick-it-to-’em’” kind of reduction or freeze or—the one we all dread in my circle—when the government shuts down. My family’s and my friends’ families’ livelihood are at stake. If you mess with federal government jobs, you are messing with me and a whole bunch of people I love and care for, and I won’t be silent anymore. Stop poo-poo-ing something you know absolutely nothing about just because the TV says it’s so.

I implore you to get out there and meet a few of those civilian employees. You’ll find incredible people right in your community, and then you’ll see how much pride we feel in what we do to protect you. The work we do benefits everyone in our society and others worldwide, as we are a giving and loving country. Give us a chance, and stop being so cynical just because we have a job associated with the federal government.