Friday, May 25, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012
Senate Panel, House Reject New Rounds of BRAC: The Senate Armed Services’ Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee this week rejected the Pentagon’s request for new rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2013 and 2015. Subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Claire McCaskill said she will not let new rounds of base closures pass her subcommittee this year. She is willing to allow the closing of U.S. military bases overseas, but not domestic bases.
“At minimum, base closures are extraordinarily disruptive to local communities, so before we even consider authorizing another round of BRAC, Congress must have a much better understanding of how future BRACs would affect our budget, our national security interests and the communities that patriotically support bases around this country,” McCaskill stated.
The House last week passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act with a measure prohibiting the Defense Department from planning and implementing a new round of base closure and alignment in 2013. 
But don’t expect DoD to give up. Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, said Congress usually rejects a BRAC request on the first try.
“In the past, DoD has had to make repeated requests before it finally gets a BRAC round,” she told reporters. 
Right Wing Passes Bill to Eliminate Census Bureau Surveys: In yet another example of extremist positions they have been taking, right-wing House lawmakers last week passed a bill that would terminate the American Community Survey, the largest and only data the government has been using since 1850 to determine funding for states and communities for things like education and public health. But these extremist lawmakers said the government shouldn’t poke its nose into American people’s business.
“This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators,” said Rep. Daniel Webster, a freshman member of Congress from Florida who introduced the bill, oblivious to the fact that the very thing that helped bring down the financial system in 2008 was financial deregulation.
Even though businesses and industry groups – his usual allies – spoke out against eliminating census data, the extremist lawmaker absurdly responded, “What really promotes business in this country is liberty, not demand for information.” 

AFGE Calls for More Training for VBA Employees Following IG Report: AFGE this week called for increased staffing and improved training for supervisors and disability claim representatives working at the California Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) offices following a recent report by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) which found that mismanagement and improper training has led to a substantial claims backlog at California´s three processing centers.

"This report confirms what we´ve been hearing from our members for years," said AFGE President John Gage. "We have been advocating for increased staffing to handle the influx of claims from our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and up until now our requests have fallen on deaf ears. The larger problem at these facilities is management officials are unqualified to assist with veterans´ increasingly complex claims for conditions such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury and Agent Orange. As a result, claim reps don´t have adequate back up when problems arise to maintain efficient workflow."
In addition to fighting for increased staffing and training, AFGE has led the fight against the agency´s use of contractors, such as ACS Government Systems, to address the backlog issue. The VA has entered into a contract for $54 million for claims processing work by a company with no experience in VA benefits claims and a questionable track record that threatens the jobs of government employees, many of whom are veterans. The VA has yet to respond to a letter from members of the House of Representatives requesting a cost-comparison study or other justification for outsourcing veterans´ jobs to an inexperienced contractor. AFGE has argued that instead of pouring money into contractors with a troubled history of fulfilling their end of the bargain, this level of investment should be used to support the VA´s current workforce.
"I have visited these facilities and our public servants are facing dire working conditions. They are forced to do more with less," said AFGE 12th District National Vice President Eugene Hudson Jr. "Many of the folks working in these offices are veterans who are also disabled and therefore have first-hand knowledge of the weaknesses in the current claims process. We can eliminate this backlog if the agency would allocate the proper resources and training. Far too often the claims process is held up by management officials trying to appease external forces."

Senate Panel Approves Bill to Allow Employment Benefits for Feds’ Same-Sex Partners: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) that would grant employment benefits such as health, retirement and family emergency leave to domestic partners of federal employees. The measure would apply to same-sex couples, both married and unmarried, if they can prove that they share a residence and responsibility for each other’s welfare and finances, among other things. The bill still needs to be approved by the full Senate and the House. 

FLRA Appoints New San Francisco Regional Director: Jean Perata has been appointed regional director of the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s San Francisco Regional Office. Perata was acting regional director of the San Francisco Office prior to the appointment and served as its deputy regional director since 1996. She has almost 36 years of experience with the FLRA and its predecessor, the Office of Labor Management Services in the Labor Department.

The San Francisco region covers California, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon.  

CEO Pay Went Up Again in 2011: The average CEO pay of S&P 500 Index companies rose 13.9 percent to stand at $12.94 million in 2011. The average wages for workers  was only $34,053 during the same period, up 2.8%. The Congressional Budget Office has found that income inequality has dramatically risen with the top 1 percent receiving the most of income growth between 1979 and 2007. Drops ALEC: has announced it will part ways with the controversial right wing group that lobbies Congress for numerous controversial laws including Voter ID and Stand Your Ground  laws. Even though the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) last month shut down its task force that lobbied and drafted model legislation for voter ID and ‘Stand your ground’ gun laws, it vowed to double down on their lobbying efforts on other areas such as the war on workers and their unions and a big push for fewer government regulations and lower tax rates for the rich and big corporations.  

This Week in Labor History: May 22, 1920 – Civil Service Retirement Act of 1920 was enacted, giving federal workers a pension.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about the 2012 Yitzhak Rabin Public  Service Award. The show, which originally aired on Friday, May 18, is now available on demand. This year’s honoree, AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox, and Yitzhak Rabin Center ChairDalia Rabin, daughter of the late Israeli Prime Minister, discussed the significance of the award, the importance of public service and promoting dialogue, acceptance and respect. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland then detailed the Budget Control Act and advocated for a balanced approach to reducing the federal deficit. Lastly, First Command Financial Services District Advisor Bob Hill provided retirement planning tips for federal employees and new information about the Roth Thrift Savings Plan option.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at
Quote of the Week: 

Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida on his bill to eliminate Census Bureau surveys:
“This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators.” 

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492

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