The informational blog for Michael Meserve, Vice President, Western Region, Council of Prison Locals
Sunday, July 1, 2012
BOP Officers at High Security Prisons to Be Issued Pepper Spray - AFGE Week in Review - June 29, 2012
June 29, 2012
BOP Officers at High Security Prisons to Be Issued Pepper Spray:Slowly, but it finally happened. Correctional officers at some high-security federal prisons will be issued pepper spray as demanded by AFGE following the death of Jose Rivera, who in 2008 was stabbed to death by inmates at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater in California. The pepper spray will be distributed in August at high-security federal prisons in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia and Louisiana as part of a pilot project. "I hope it helps someone not get injured, and absolutely save a life,"Dale Deshotel, president of AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals 33, told reporters. "We hope we can [eventually] get this into all employees’ hands.” Besides the pepper spray, AFGE wants BOP to issue stab-resistant vests to officers, fully staff its prisons, and continue the Federal Prison Industries program to reduce inmate idleness and the violence associated with that idleness. AFGE Beats Back Efforts to Have Feds Pay for Lower Student Loan Rate:AFGE today beat back the right wing’s attempt to have federal employees pay for a one-year extension of the low student loan rate. Both the House and the Senate today approved a measure freezing federally subsidized student loan rates at 3.4 percent for a year, effectively preventing the rate from going back to 6.8 percent July 1. AFGE successfully fought back the proposal to extend the rate by permanently increasing the current employees’ contributions to their pension by 1.2% of salary. Supreme Court Upholds Individual Mandate:In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Thursdayupheldthe Obama administration’s new health care law, a major victory for the more than 30 million Americans who currently are not insured, 129 million people with pre-existing conditions, and 3.1 million young adults who have already received health coverage through their parents’ insurance. Ignoring the court’s decision and the law’s many benefits, right-wing lawmakers in the Houseplannedto vote to repeal it the week of July 9. In siding with the majority and upholding the law, Chief JusticeJohn Robertssaid Congress cannot require Americans to buy health insurance, but it can tax them if they don’t, hence the decision to uphold the individual mandate. “The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part,” Roberts wrote. “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax." Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act is upheld in its entirety except for a Medicaid provision that strips funds from states that fail to comply with the law. The court held that the expansion of Medicaid to cover everyone whose income is at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line (about $14,000 for an individual) is constitutional, but states cannot be stripped of funds for not complying with the new requirements. States that are not complying may only lose new funds but not all of their funding. AFGE PresidentJohn Gagesaid because of the court’s decision, health care coverage will now be extended to 30 million uninsured Americans – including up to 200,000 federal employees who can’t afford insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. “Now that this historic legislation has been upheld by the highest court in the land, it’s time for [right wing lawmakers] to stop their campaign to repeal the law and to focus instead on improving the economy and creating jobs,” he said. Right wing lawmakers were indeed for individual mandate before they were against it. The much-debated individual mandate was the brainchild of right wing economists in the late 1980s who were trying to address free-riding to counter a call for government-sponsored universal health coverage. The idea was embraced by most right-wing lawmakers for decades. In fact, the Heritage Foundation helped draft and pass Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform law that required everyone in the state to purchase coverage. But right-wing lawmakers now demonize their own initiative when the Obama administration began to embrace it as a compromise and pushed it to become federal law. Uninsured Federal Fire Fighters Fight Fire in Colorado:Thousands of federal fire fighters are risking their lives helping to put out Colorado’s raging fire that has destroyed hundreds of homes with tens of thousands of people evacuating. These fire fighters hope they won’t get injured or develop work-related illnesses because they themselves don’t have health insurance. They are Forest Service’s temporary workers working six months a year and are not eligible for federal health insurance or pension. The workers rely on the new health care law, which fortunately survived the Supreme Court review. The Washington Post’sSarah Cliffreports. House Panel Passes Bill to Cut Agency Travel Spending by 30%:The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week passed abillthat would cut each federal agency’s travel and conference spending by 30 percent from 2010 levels starting in 2013 until 2017. The bill would limit agency spending to $500,000 for a single conference, even though private entities are allowed to pay the costs that exceed the limit. The bill would require that each agency post on its website a quarterly detailed itemized report on every conference that costs more than $100,000. The report will include expenses, location, sponsors, how it advances the agency’s mission, and cost analysis of why a physical conference is a better option than a teleconference. The report will also include a list of employees or any individual who is not a federal employee whose expenses were paid by the agency. The agency would also be required to post on its website conference materials such as any prepared text or visual presentation by a federal employee, except for materials that are deemed by the agency head to be sensitive to national security. The bill puts a limit on the number of participants to 50 for any international conference unless the Secretary of State determines it’s in national interest. The bill, introduced by Rep.Joe Walshof Illinois, excludes travel by military personnel. Supreme Court Strikes Down Major Provisions of Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law:The Supreme Court this week struck down major parts of Arizona’s anti-immigration law, ruling that the state cannot arrest someone based solely on the suspicion that that person is an illegal immigrant. The court also ruled that the state cannot force immigrants, legal or illegal, to carry identification and cannot make it a crime for illegal immigrants to apply for a job. The court, however, upheld a provision that allows law enforcement officers to ask for documentation from anyone they stop or detain for another offense. But the court left the door open to future challenges based on how the provision is actually implemented. Several other states have passed anti-immigrant laws similar to Arizona’s. Anti-immigration laws in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina are being challenged in lower courts. Op-Ed of the Week:Mark Thoma, a Fiscal Times columnist, macroeconomist and time-series econometrician at the University of Oregon,arguesthat empowering unions will help improve the recession.
This Week in Labor History:June 25, 1938 - Fair Labor Standards Act passes Congress, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week. Inside Government:Tune innow to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for more on the upcoming 2012 elections. The show, which originally aired on Friday, June 29, is now available on demand. Rep.Jan Schakowsky(Ill.) and Rebuild the Dream President and Co-founderVan Jones, speaking from the recent Take Back the American Dream Conference, discussed labor’s role leading up to Election Day and the importance of the elections to the middle class. Schakowsky then celebrated the work of public employees while Jones discussed the need for Americans to come together to solve the nation’s problems. Former Clinton White House senior stafferBob Weinerthen discussed his recent op-ed, “The Myth of the Postal Service’s Finances” and the role of government and public service. Lastly, AFGE Voter Protection CoordinatorMark Vinsondetailed the union’s voter protection campaign and the need for all Americans to have an opportunity to vote.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com. Quote of the Week Chief JusticeJohn Robertson the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the health care law: “The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part,” Roberts wrote. “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."