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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Behind the headlines: The Wisconsin protests and the impact on government employees

By Melissa Bell
race relations
A survey has found that African Americans felt uplifted by the election of President Obama. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Although Wisconsin has caught the nation's attention -- with its missing senators and a Capitol building clogged by protesters -- federal, state and local government employees across the country are in danger of losing benefits and jobs as governments attempt to balance their budgets.

One group that could be greatly affected by this trend is African Americans, who are disproportionately employed by federal and state governments. Despite their precarious economic footing, however, many African Americans feel optimistic about their future, a new poll finds.

The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted three public opinion polls on issues facing the black community. Over the next few weeks, The Post and its partner The Root will look at the results of the polls in a series called "Behind the Headlines." The first analysis will look at the recession's impact on black families and how economic policies in Washington have affected them.

Are you an African American federal or state government employee? How are you feeling about your economic outlook?

Let us know your experience using the hashtag #behindtheheadlines.

Also, look for these upcoming events with Behind the Headlines:

• Sunday: The story will appear online and in print, focusing on on the recession's impact on race.

• Wednesday A forum discussion will cover these topics at Prince George's Community College lead by Michelle Singletary, nationally syndicated Personal Finance Columnist for The Washington Post, with panelists including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman; Michael A. Fletcher, National Economic Reporter for The Washington Post; Jeff Johnson, Political Commentator on The Tom Joyner Morning Show; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Economist and Educator; Cecilia Rouse, White House Council of Economic Advisers; and the Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network President.

By Melissa Bell  | February 18, 2011; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Next: ♪♫ It might as well be spring

Comments

Funny I was having lunch with my oldest daughter and she told me I look so happy lately. She's right because for once since my girls were little I don't live paycheck to paycheck anymore BUT I don't want either of my daughters (one is a Sr in college) to EVER work for the federal gov'ment. I don't feel inspired and wish I could take a buy out but I'm too young (in 40s) to retire from fed!!!

I know sounds like an episode of Oprah. Nice to see Tom Joyner on panel. I'm a X mas wish alum!!!! Yes Tom I still get your cards all these years later!!!! As Drake would say "Baby You da best" hahahaha

Posted by: MDlady2 | February 18, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I am not sure why everything has to be black and white. Why are we continually being divided. That being said, I don't care who loses a job, it is tough on everyone. Government workers face the same problem today as those in the private sector, or an athlete. When your income rises above your value, you are at risk of losing your job. The unions priced their private sector members out of jobs, and now the same thing is happening in the public sector.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | February 19, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

For those of us in the public sector that aspire to lead innovation and efficiency, the latest round of bashing, freezing and slashing is a kick in the n-ts. i can't wait to get out and go back to the pig trough - er ahh, corporate contracting!!! At least the choice is easy to make.

Posted by: DontGetIt | February 19, 2011 7:00 AM | Report abuse

For those of us in the public sector that aspire to lead innovation and efficiency, the latest round of bashing, freezing and slashing is a kick in the n-ts. i can't wait to get out and go back to the pig trough - er ahh, corporate contracting!!! At least the choice is easy to make.

Posted by: DontGetIt | February 19, 2011 7:01 AM | Report abuse

In 1981 and 1990, I was one of thousands of white workers laid off from large aerospace factories. Both times, black workers were largely immune, for fear of legal consequences. Was this policy broadcast? No. But it was an open secret, and even the black workers knew that they were safe.

Posted by: PaulinMaryland | February 19, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

WaPo once again shows it, and its leftist readers, are the most racist people out there.

Posted by: pgr88 | February 19, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

since they mostly hired black people, as per the order obama gave and the reason the cbc has lept quiet...
mostly black people will be fired when they downsize...
unless they get rid of the rest of the white people...

Posted by: DwightCollins | February 19, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

@DwightCollins
'since they mostly hired black people, as per the order obama gave and the reason the cbc has lept quiet...mostly black people will be fired when they downsize...
unless they get rid of the rest of the white people..'

What racist drivel you spew. Firstly as a long time federal employee (27 years, but I'm to young to retire...late 40's here) when I graduated from college in the mid-80's in accounting/financial management none of the big accounting firms wanted to hire black people and didn't. I graduated from a first tier university in DC, with a 3.7 GPA. None of my fellow students of color landed a position in the big firms. So I went back (I had worked for feds during high school and college)to work for the federal government. I noticed that a high number of graduates that were hired across the federal government were people of color. My white friends wouldn't even apply for a federal position at that time. They thought working for the feds was beneath them and the feds did not pay the big salaries they felt they deserved and the feds could not match what the private sector was paying. Now over the past few years that the private sector has imploded and there are not as many jobs, all of a sudden there is something wrong with the federal workforce. Your statements has convinced me that the real issue that people of your ilk have is that there are to many people of color still working (for the feds) while you whites have been let go from the private sector. If you check the statistics of the federal government you will find that the majority of people who work for the federal government are white. President Obama has never said to hire just black people. Black people have worked for the feds for a very long time. In Washington DC it was extremely difficult to get a fed position in the early part of the last century, but also sometimes it was the only position you could get since the private sector refused to hire blacks. Again many white did not want to take those 'govt' positions so blacks applied. Maybe the stats will show that the previous white presidents must have stated to 'only' hire whites during their administrations since the majority of federal employees are white. Both notions are ludicrous.

Posted by: DCDCSW | February 19, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Now over the past few years that the private sector has imploded and there are not as many jobs, all of a sudden there is something wrong with the federal workforce. Your statements has convinced me that the real issue that people of your ilk have is that there are to many people of color still working (for the feds) while you whites have been let go from the private sector. If you check the statistics of the federal government you will find that the majority of people who work for the federal government are white. President Obama has never said to hire just black people. Black people have worked for the feds for a very long time. In Washington DC it was extremely difficult to get a fed position in the early part of the last century, but also sometimes it was the only position you could get since the private sector refused to hire blacks. Again many white did not want to take those 'govt' positions so blacks applied. Maybe the stats will show that the previous white presidents must have stated to 'only' hire whites during their administrations since the majority of federal employees are white. Both notions are ludicrous.

Posted by: DCDCSW | February 19, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

------------------------------
Right on sister! I might add that not only are whites simply in the majority of federal employees, but whites outnumber blacks substantially in the federal work force. I also agree with your observation that since the breaking down of private sector jobs, some people seem to now be picking on the federal workforce.

Posted by: LindaElliott | February 19, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Lazy, overpaid tokens of unproductive government payola. fire them all. They won't be missed.

Posted by: carlbatey | February 19, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

@carlbatey...

riiiiiggghttt.

Until you want your tax refund; or your social security payment; or your VA benefits; or your plane flight to land safely; or a hundred other services that ignoramuses like you, in your simplistic fantasy world, think you can do without...

petty bigotry and ignorance is obviously your forte.

Posted by: fendertweed | February 19, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

"One group that could be greatly affected by this trend is African Americans, who are 'disproportionately employed' by federal and state governments."

Washington Post speak for blatant racism cherished by liberals.

Posted by: 2xy4k9 | February 21, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Governor Walker caused the budget crisis in Wisonsin by giving tax breaks to the rich and the big corporations. Wisconsin's budget was fine, until he did that.

Posted by: Xfactor | February 21, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Many young black people have no clue of the struggles and hardship many of our foreparents faced. The jobs in the government helped blacks become part of the middle class. The government jobs paid the mortgage, car notes and helped us send our children to college.

The government unions helped drive the labor laws in this country. The unions helped blacks by ensuring all rights and labor agreements were adhered to by the employer. Without the unions than many of my brothers and sisters would not have been hired by the public or private sector. If they were lucky enough to be hired then the salary would have been much less than the white counterparts.

The unions make sure we have a safe working environment, compensation pay for any hours over 8, child protection laws and the list goes on. We all need to refresh our history on the labor laws and the unions.

Posted by: sun52shine | February 21, 2011 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"The unions make sure we have a safe working environment, compensation pay for any hours over 8"

Uh, you mean over 40. Most people dont get paid OT after 8. Unless you're in a union.

Posted by: mikey999 | February 21, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, DCDC SW, for a great post.

Posted by: carlaclaws | February 21, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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