HILL AIR FORCE BASE — A recent executive order issued from the White House is being received with measured gratitude by some federal workers in Utah.
President Donald Trump this week signed an executive order to implement a retroactive pay raise for federal civilians, a news release states. Thousands of Utah workers at federal installations and agencies throughout the state, including Hill Air Force Base, will see a 1.66 percent increase that includes retroactive pay dating to the first pay period in January.
According to a memorandum from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, agencies will need to correct any intervening personnel actions that were effective from Jan. 6 until the pay raise is processed in order to retroactively reflect the new pay rates.
“Employees should always be checking their leave and earning statements, but it is even more important when records are being retroactively adjusted to ensure that the correct information is being reflected,” said Donna Desimas, chief of civilian personnel at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts.
She noted that while the agency's goal will be to process the adjustments as quickly as possible, employees would likely receive their retroactive pay over a few pay periods.
While employees are grateful for the back pay and the slight wage bump, one person impacted said the amount of the increase doesn't really cover the rising cost of everyday living.
"It doesn't equate when you figure out what the inflation rate was and the amount our health insurance went up," said Jeff Langston, educational vice president for Local 1592 of the American Federation of Government Employees — the largest employee union representing 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers in the U.S. and abroad, including thousands in Utah.
Langston said the past several years have included pay freezes or minor increases that have not kept up with the overall rises in the cost of living, making it difficult for individuals and families to make it from year to year.
"I'm happy to get whatever I get, but it would be nice if our pay raises kept up with the amount of inflation," he said. Last year, the raise was just over 1 percent while the prior two years there were pay freezes, he noted.
I'm happy to get whatever I get, but it would be nice if our pay raises kept up with the amount of inflation.
–Jeff Langston, employees' union
"(The) 1.66 (percent hike) is a little bit of money, but it doesn't keep pace with the amount of inflation with the housing market, groceries and more importantly our health insurance (that) keeps going up," Langston said. "You get a 1.66 pay raise like we did this year, but your insurance goes up 2 percent. You're fighting a never-ending battle."
He said the executive order affects all general schedule federal employees — the classification and pay system covers the bulk of 1.5 million civilian white-collar federal workers worldwide that are in professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions, according to the Office of Personnel Management website. In Utah, that includes scores of workers employed in the military, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Postal Service, Veterans Administration and Transportation Security Administration, among other agencies.
Langston hopes one day that Congress and the White House will see fit to raise their pay in a manner that helps workers maintain a reasonable standard of living. For now, they will just have to make due on what is being appropriated in Washington D.C., he said.
"I'm not ungrateful for what I get, but it would just be nice if our raises would keep up with inflation," he said.