Letter to the editor

I have been reading Milt Zall's column for years. Regarding "Equal raises for all," to set the record straight, there are many civilian federal employees that sleep on the ground for endless days and nights, and do without sleep or very little sleep for extended periods of time: They are the men and women who fight wildland fires and the people that support them.

Many of us even make less on overtime hours than if we had stayed in our "regular" jobs and slept in our own beds because of the overtime cap at a GS 10-11. (President Clinton finally signed a bill to waive the cap for wildland fire situations, but it won't take effect until fiscal 2002.)

Why do we take these assignments you might ask? Because, just like our military counterparts, there is a job to be done, and when homes and lives are threatened, we respond. The thing that troubles me is that more than half of the permanent workforce for the Forest Service, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management is 10 years or less away from retirement, and as the existing workforce ages, it gets tougher and tougher to go without sleep and/or sleep on the ground. We do not have the people coming up through the ranks to replace us because, as you know, it's "not cool" anymore to be a federal employee.

I get so tired of everyone, including those in Congress, slamming the civilian workforce. I have never worked for any other agency, but most of us in the Forest Service work hard, put in more hours than we get paid for, and we enjoy our jobs, most of the time. Trouble is, most of the young people coming out of college are looking for who pays the most, and the government is not it. They may get some experience working for us, or work during the summer to pay for college, but not very many are staying and making a career. They get better offers, and you can't blame them.

So, as you said, "entitled" to more pay based on inflation should not be an issue. The issue is looking at the base pay schedule to begin with and giving everyone a raise based on inflation.

Marilyn Hansen
U.S. Forest Service

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