Friday, August 3, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - Aug. 3, 2012

Aug. 3, 2012
Congress Avoids Govt Shutdown, Funds Agencies for Six Months after September: Lawmakers this week reached a short-term agreement to fund government agencies at the 2011 levels for six months after the end of this fiscal year with no extra cuts demanded by the right wing, according to Senate Majority Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner
“This agreement reached between the Senate, the House and the White House provides stability for the coming months, when we will have to resolve critical issues that directly affect middle class families," Reid said. "I hope that we can face the challenges ahead in the same spirit of compromise.”

AFGE and TSA Agree to Historic Labor Contract: The American Federation of Government Employees and the Transportation Security Administration this week reached an agreement on the first-ever labor contract for the nation's 45,000 TSA officers, culminating the union’s 10-year effort to provide workplace protections and improve employee morale. Talks began in January and concluded in an agreement following a marathon bargaining session that ended at approximately 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 2, 2012. 

“This is a major milestone for AFGE and our officers who have fought for this very moment since the creation of TSA,” said AFGE President John Gage, who headed the AFGE bargaining team. “I’m very proud of our team and I appreciate our officers’ support and patience as we worked hard the past several months to get our first contract.”

“This collective bargaining agreement will better the working lives of 45,000 hard-working, dedicated employees, and that’s a fantastic feeling,” AFGE TSA Council 100 President Kim Kraynak-Lambert said. “TSOs come to work every day in the face of intense public and congressional scrutiny and, to the best of their ability, protect this nation from terrorist attacks. Now we can look forward to new rights and new working conditions, and a chance to form a true labor-management partnership. And, contrary to some of the misinformation circulating about TSA, an agreement will not adversely affect security – security related matters were strictly excluded from negotiations. In fact, this agreement will strengthen our ability to carry out TSA’s vital mission of protecting the American people.”

“What this contract will do is provide for increased uniformity on fair treatment and the other issues important to employees across the nation’s airports,” Gage added. “Both parties believe the agreement will also provide much needed schedule flexibility. Improvements in working conditions will also benefit both TSA and the officers by fostering a family-friendly workplace where the employees have greater job satisfaction and feel supported in performing their important security work.”

The parties were also able to finalize terms of a new dispute resolution process. This new procedure will enhance fairness and due process for TSOs. Independent, third-party review is a right that ensures transparency and will improve the working lives of our officers. The details of the contract will be released soon. The entire TSA workforce will have the opportunity to vote on whether to ratify the collective bargaining agreement. That ratification process will take place in the coming months.

Feds Who Are Delinquent on Tax Debts Could Lose Jobs under House Passed Bill: In another effort to single out and attack federal employees, House lawmakers on Tuesdaypassed a bill that would result in federal employees losing their jobs if they are seriously delinquent on tax debts. The bill, HR 828, was introduced by anti-federal employees Jason Chaffetz of Utah.
“If you are a federal employee or applicant, you should be making a good faith effort to pay your taxes or to dispute them,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “In short, if you refuse to pay your federal taxes, you should be fired.”
AFGE strongly opposes the bill as federal employees shouldn’t be singled out. Just like any other Americans during the recession, financial problems could be caused by many factors including spouse job losses or medical bills.  

OMB, DoD Officials Say Sequestration Will Likely Lead to Staffing Reductions, Furloughs:  Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter this week urged Congress to come up with a budget deal to avoid sequestration as it would likely lead to hiring freezes, unpaid furloughs and layoffs of temporary workers at many agencies including Defense, Transportation Security Administration, FBI, and Border Patrol. The budgets for the Federal Aviation Administration, food inspections and workplace safety would also face major cuts, Zients told the House Armed Services Committee.
“The root cause of the problem here is the [right wing]’s refusal to ask the top 2 percent [of taxpayers] to pay their fair share,” Zients said. 

Bill Sent to President to Protect Jobs of TSA Officers on Military Duty: The Senate this week passed an AFGE-backed bill that would protect Transportation Security Officers who are absent from their jobs because of military deployment. H.R. 3670 passed the House in May and is being sent to the President for signing.

Under the existing Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) that has been in place since 1994, private sector and federal employees at other agencies have the right to be re-employed upon return from their military deployment with the seniority and benefits they would have earned had they not left. But TSA has exempted itself from the law and contended that H.R. 3670 is not necessary as its policies already provide those rights. Many TSOs, however, have been marked absent without leave, denied raises and promotions or even fired after they returned from duty in the Reserves and National Guard. H.R. 3670 explicitly requires TSA to comply with USERRA.
“The passage of this bill is another congressional acknowledgment that the application of statutory workplace rights and protections to the TSO workforce is not detrimental to security and allows patriotic TSOs to continue to their service to this country on the front lines of aviation security and the front lines of their military deployment without penalty,” AFGE Legislative Director Beth Moten said. 
GAO Asked to Assess DoD’s Compliance with Contractor Spending Cap: At the urging of AFGE, Sen.Claire McCaskill, chairman of the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, last week asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the Defense Department’s compliance with the 2012 Defense Authorization Act that limits DoD’s spending for contract services in fiscal 2012 and 2013 to the amount requested by the White House for fiscal 2010.
McCaskill said Congress passed the measure to reign in DoD’s out-of-control use of service contracts – the department’s spending on contract services has doubled from $72 billion in 2000 to $150 billion in 2010. The GAO report will help people understand how DoD is implementing the measure.
Critic Says Defense Industry’s Job Loss Forecast is Exaggerated:  Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution this week accused the Defense industry of exaggerating the number of potential job losses as a result of sequestration. Singer said the report done on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) that came out last month projecting a loss of 1,090,359 jobs is pure speculation based on crude data.
“Indeed, just four months ago, Deloitte issued a report on the financial and economic impact of the industry, notably sponsored by the very same organization, the AIA, that sponsored the jobs report,” Singer wrote. “That report found that there were approximately 3.53 million jobs – direct, indirect and induced – sustained by the aerospace and defense industry. This is for the entire workforce, not just the part sustained by the Pentagon budget (such as workers making passenger jets, etc). So if 1.09 million direct, indirect, and induced jobs were lost from the 10 percent cut of sequestration, that would mean nearly a third of the overall jobs sustained by the industry would evaporate, an extreme projection to say the least.”  

Study Funded by Koch Brothers Found Climate Change Is Real: In an acknowledgement that is years late, a skeptical scientist who received funding from the Koch Brothers for his previous climate change denial work did a new study and found that climate change is, well, real. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) this week issued the results of its new study, confirming what other climate scientists around the world have known for years. BEST Founder and Scientific Director Richard Muller wrote in a New York Times op-ed, acknowledging that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years, and humans are the major cause:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”
BEST had received $150,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which also runs The Heartland Institute, one of the right wing’s propaganda machines that earlier this year launched a billboard campaign equating everyone who believes in climate change to the Unabomber and Osama bin Laden. The Koch brothers, big businesses and their right-wing allies in Congress have been shamelessly denying the basic science of global warming in order to continue business as usual – to the horror of European leaders, local and international climate scientists. 

This Week’s Spin Doctor: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the administration of trying to hide defense job losses when the Labor Department this week issued guidance advising companies that they don’t need to issue layoff warnings in anticipation of sequestration because it’s not clear if or how it’s going to happen. Sequestration, a bipartisan agreement reached last year to prevent the government shutdown and default, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and nondefense programs. To keep $$$ coming from the government, defense firms including Lockheed Martin have threatened to issue thousands of layoff notices. McConnell doesn’t believe government spending creates jobs unless it involves expensive Pentagon contracts for the right wing’s campaign donors.    

This Week in Labor History: July 30, 1965 - President Lyndon Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about key federal workplace issues during a special broadcast from the union’s recent Region B Training in Indianapolis. The show, which originally aired on Friday, July 27, is now available on demand. AFGE 6th District National Vice President Arnold Scott discussed the importance of educating and training union leaders. Scott also updated listeners on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s attempts to fire employees with low credit ratings. AFGE National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Local 3840 Women’s and Fair Practices Coordinator Antoinette Jones then discussed her efforts to ensure management follows Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations. She also shared her reasons for joining the federal workforce and labor movement. Lastly, AFGE Transportation Security Administration Local 778 President Vaughn Glenn addressed the status of the union’s contract negotiations with TSA and his concerns about the agency’s pay-for-performance compensation system.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at

Quote of the Week
Acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients on what blocks budget negotiations, which would lead to layoffs and furloughs of government employees as a result of sequestration:
“The root cause of the problem here is the [right wing]’s refusal to ask the top 2 percent [of taxpayers] to pay their fair share.”

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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