Saturday, August 11, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - August 11, 2012

Aug. 11, 2012
AFGE to Elect New Officers: Nearly 2,000 delegates from around the country will gather next week to elect the three general officers and determine the actions of AFGE for the next three years. The election of AFGE National President, National Secretary-Treasurer, and National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

No BRACs in 2013: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has given up on another round of base realignment and closures in 2013. Speaking at the annual conference for the Association of Defense Communities in Carmel, Calif., Panetta said he will continue to push for BRAC in coming years, but will no longer push for the two rounds in 2013 after facing much resistance from lawmakers who fear possible jobs losses and impact on the communities while the economy is still struggling.

“I understand why it's so tough [for Congress]. But it's an important debate we have to have, and frankly, it's not going away,” he said.

SSA Offers Early Retirements to 9,000 Employees: Anticipating further budget cuts, the Social Security Administration this week offered early retirements to 9,000 employees, a move that would likely mean skyrocketing backlogs of claims and hearings. The offers take effect immediately and the employees need to retire by Sept. 30. Employees must either have completed 25 years of credible service or be at least 50 years old and have served for 20 years. 

AFGE Condemns Retaliation against VA Whistleblower: AFGE is calling on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to take immediate action in ending the retaliatory actions taken against a psychologist at the Wilmington VA Medical Center. Dr. Michelle Washington, a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist at the facility, has seen her performance rating lowered, job duties altered and job titled changed stemming from her Senate testimony about mental health care access wait times. On the eve of her Senate testimony on understaffing and improper accounting measures regarding PTSD treatment of veterans, Dr. Washington had her personnel evaluation changed and lowered. Thereafter, she had her duties radically changed and veterans have had to travel much further for PTSD evaluations. Her fellow union members also have faced other adverse actions as part of what appears to be a coordinated pattern of retaliation for bringing to light mismanagement at the VA.

In a letter to Secretary Shinseki, AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox calls the retaliation “highly illegal, extremely disrespectful of the congressional hearing process and threatening to the VA’s ability to identify deficiencies in services in provides to veterans.”

“For eight months, Dr. Washington has been under attack for speaking the truth about the unmet needs of veterans facing severe mental health problems,” said Cox. “It is time for the agency’s highest level appointee over our veterans’ health care system to take prompt action to fix this situation and make Dr. Washington whole in terms of her job duties, job title and performance ratings.”

AFGE also has requested a meeting with Secretary Shinseki to address management’s retaliatory actions.

Details of Sequestration to Come out by Sept. 6: The President this week signed into law a bill that requires him to provide Congress with details of the first phase of $1.2 trillion in defense and non-defense spending cuts by Sept. 6. Without action from Congress, government programs will take a significant budget hit starting Jan. 2, 2013 as required by the Budget Control Act passed last year as part of a deficit reduction plan. The government is on the verge of massive cuts and talks on the budget deal stalled after right-wing lawmakers refused to budge on eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of earners.

Defense Contractor Group Pressures DoD Not to Insource Jobs: As the Defense Department is gearing up for possible deep budget cuts by, among other things, considering bringing outsourced work back in-house as studies show federal employees are mostly cheaper than contractors, the Professional Services Council, which represents 350 companies, last week sent a letter to high-ranking DoD officials pressuring them not to insource work but to do more analysis, which would likely lead to the same conclusion others have reached that feds are cheaper.

“It is imperative for the department to require, without exception, that any insourcing of other than inherently governmental functions or for the most critical skills be preceded by the kind of analysis described above,” PSC President and CEO Stan Soloway wrote to Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall. Soloway served as the deputy undersecretary of defense (acquisition reform) prior to joining PSC – a classic revolving door move. 

This Week’s Spin Doctor: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia this week pressed the administration to back a one-year across the board extension of all Bush tax cuts, claiming falsely again that raising taxes on the rich would cost jobs. As we have pointed out many times, more jobs were created in the previous decade under higher taxes than in this decade under low taxes. But Cantor stuck to his talking points as it perfectly fits his pro-big corporation, anti-government narrative. This is the same Eric Cantor who has been harping on the need to attack the deficit but at the same time introduced a bill passed by the House earlier this year to give 20 percent tax breaks to 95 percent of the country’s businesses. Fortunately the Senate never took up the bill. H.R. 9 would have blown a $46 billion hole in the deficit this year alone and $460 billion for the next 10 years. 

This Week in Labor History: August 10, 1939 – President Roosevelt signs amendments to the 1935 Social Security Act, broadening the program to include dependents and survivors' benefits.

Hot on Twitter: “Congrats to Claressa Shields, the first US women's boxing GOLD in Olympic history ~ @Huffington 

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE's "Inside Government" as former Virginia governor Tim Kaine praises the work of federal employees. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Aug. 10, is now available on demand. Kaine, a U.S. Senate candidate, recently held a town hall forum in Arlington, Va. to highlight the role of federal employees and the public services they provide.Kaine also shared his thoughts on sequestration and job creation. But first, AFGE National President John Gagediscussed details of the union´s agreement with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on the first-ever labor contract for the nation´s 45,000 TSA officers. Gage, who recently announced he would not seek re-election as AFGE president, discussed his proudest accomplishments leading the nation´s largest federal employee union. Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale also addressed Pennsylvania´s controversial voter identification law and his organization´s efforts ahead of the 2012 election season.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at

Quote of the Week
AFGE President John Gage on the historic, first-ever AFGE-TSA contract:

“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long. Today we begin to look forward.”

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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