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The Life of a Fed

Oct 7, 2021

Like I said before, when I graduated from law school, I knew I wanted to practice labor law.  But I also knew I didn’t want to work 80-90 hours per week for a law firm.  That’s just not my style; life is too short and I had too many other things I wanted to be able to do with my life.  Yes, money is obviously important, but it’s not the end-all-be-all for me.  So, that significantly limited my job options.  When the Federal Labor Relations Authority posted the job in Atlanta, I jumped on it.  At the time, I was still living in Atlanta, but was only working part-time for a local attorney, and was about to run out of money.  If I didn’t find something permanent, I’d have to move back to Boca Raton with the ‘rents (and, in all honesty, that was not even an option.  I didn’t come that far to just quit and go back to Mom and Dad).  

After stressing out over the summer, continuously wondering, I finally found out that I got the job, and started working in October 1997.  I had 2 amazing bosses, and the people in the Atlanta Region were so welcoming and knowledgeable.  You can read all of the case law you want, but the only real way to learn my job is to do it.  My boss gave me some files, and off I went.  Man, did I learn QUICK that I sucked at communicating; I needed to learn to be a real person.  You see, I grew up in Boca Raton, FL (think 90210 of the East Coast).  I only went to private schools.  I was constantly surrounded by people who were very educated and very wealthy.  And I was a recent law school graduate.  Bottom line: I didn’t know how to speak English.  I used big words and complicated phrases.  I got a lot of “huh?” and “what the hell does that mean?”  Needless to say, my initial investigations were terrible.  But after about a year, I got the hang of it.  In my job, relationships are everything!  Once people got to know me and trust me, then they would take my advice.  There is nothing more rewarding than having someone say to me: Thanks Paige, your advice worked!  I will do another blog post soon focusing more about my life as an attorney.  

When I took this job, I had no idea how the politics worked, and how entrenched I would be in them.  The change in Presidential administrations, and the changes in people that are in charge of those administrations, is rough.  Historically, Democratic administrations are more employee and labor-friendly.  Since the FLRA governs the relationship between federal employees, Unions and the federal agencies, a Democratic President means more funding for us, along with a decision-making body that is ⅔ Democratic, which means case law that is more sympathetic to the Unions and employees (sympathetic is probably the wrong word, but it’s the only one I can think of right now).  On the other hand, a Republican administration is usually anti-labor, and thus anti-the FLRA.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to say that Democrats should rule the world; I’m just pointing out what most people don’t know: a change in Presidents brings about upheaval in the world of a federal employee.  It’s very stressful; there have been many times when I’d come into the office in the morning, not knowing if I still had a job.

Lemme give you an example.  During the W Administration, the leader of my Agency (who was a Republican) randomly decided that we could function with fewer offices, and that the attorneys were being paid too much.  I say “randomly” because even though our offices were fully staffed, we had more than enough work to keep us busy.  The Agency hired contractors to do studies on us.  That period was probably the most stress I’ve ever faced in my life.  To make a very LONG story short, the “studies” determined that, surprise, we were over-paid, and that we could function with HALF of our offices.  By the grace of God, the results of those studies were never implemented, and no one lost their job.      

So please, do me and a gazillion other Feds a favor: think twice before you use the phrase “that’s good enough for government work.”  Oh, and one other point I’d like to make.  Being furloughed as a result of a gov’t shutdown is neither a free vacation, nor is it fun.  We don’t get paid, people. 


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