Floor Statement Introducing the Rhode Island Federal Worker Fairness Act
MR. REED: Mr. President, today I am introducing the Rhode Island Federal Worker Fairness Act of 2006. This bill will merge the Narragansett Bay wage area with the Boston, MA, wage area to provide Rhode Island Federal blue-collar workers with pay equity in the region. These workers include janitors, mechanics, machine tool operators, munitions and explosive operators, electricians, and engineers. Federal employees within the Narragansett Bay wage area are paid under one of the lowest Federal wage system, FWS, pay scales while residing in an area with one of the highest costs of living. Significant disparities between Narragansett Bay wages and those in proximate wage areas raise serious questions about the fairness and equity of the Federal wage pay scales. The average wage grade worker in Rhode Island earns $18.01 per hour compared to the same worker in Boston who earns $20.25 per hour or an employee in Hartford who earns $20.05 per hour. As a result, Rhode Island may be losing experienced Federal employees to the same jobs, at the same grade levels, just miles away because of better pay. Enacting this legislation would help the approximately 500 wage rate workers in Rhode Island better provide for their families, and it will ensure that Rhode Island keeps qualified and trained Federal workers. Roughly 80 percent of all FWS employees in the United States work either in the Department of Defense or the Department of Veteran Affairs. Indeed, Naval Station Newport employs the most FWS workers in the Narragansett Bay area. These employees perform work that is important to our national security, and competitive compensation is the best way to ensure that these workers are qualified and effective. Merging these two wage areas would reduce the disparity between the salaries of these Federal workers and keep Federal workers in Rhode Island from abandoning their Government jobs for higher paying positions in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.