Friday, August 24, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - August 24, 2012

Aug. 24, 2012
AFGE Rejects Continuation of Federal Pay Freeze: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following response to President Obama’s letter to Congress extending the pay freeze for federal employees until at least April next year:

“The president’s decision to extend the two-year federal pay freeze until Congress passes a budget is absolutely unwarranted and unjustified. He could have used his authority under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) to set the pay alternative pay plan at 0.5 percent. Instead he has contradicted his own fiscal year 2013 budget promise of an end to the pay freeze. President Obama not only proposed a 0.5 percent federal pay adjustment for January 2013, he has also repeatedly referred to his support for an end to the two-year pay freeze in numerous statements to Congress.

Federal employees are the lone Americans who have made any sacrifice whatsoever to deficit reduction, suffering not only a two-year, $60 billion pay freeze, but also substantial cuts to retirement benefits. The contractor workforce, a group that is three times the size of the federal workforce and substantially more expensive in terms of both salaries and benefits, has not been asked to sacrifice one red cent. In fact, contractor CEOs and their employees will see their pay increase while federal employee pay remains frozen.

The well is dry, Mr. President. Federal employees cannot afford another four months or even another day of frozen wages. The VA nursing assistant struggling on less than $30,000 per year has already lost almost $2,000 during the last two years, while still facing rising health insurance premiums, and annual increases in rent, child care, and grocery prices.
 AFGE calls upon the administration to negotiate a pay freeze in health care premiums which would otherwise increase in January 2013. If our pay must be frozen, then so should our health care premiums.”

Happy 80th Birthday, AFGE!: AFGE this week celebrates 80 years of service to federal and D.C. government employees. Since 1932, AFGE has been dedicated to protecting the workplace rights of civil servants who ensure our food, air and water is safe, protect our borders, care for our veterans and provide the services that Americans depend on. As the nation’s largest federal employee union, AFGE takes seriously its responsibility to help provide good government services while ensuring that government workers are treated fairly and with dignity. Throughout its history AFGE has relied on the strength of its members and union leaders to increase membership, fight for equality in the workplace and build its legislative power.

Through its development of bargaining councils and the expansion of its departments at the national office, AFGE worked with members on the ground to create contracts and negotiate workplace conditions and benefits at the national level. This commitment to developing strong collective bargaining agreements and building equitable labor-management relationships led to nationally recognized contracts in agencies such as, the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and most recently the Transportation Security Administration. Lobbying and grassroots activism have continued to be effective ways that AFGE fights for the rights of its members. The collective voice of AFGE members has brought down the Department of Defense’s discriminatory personnel system, NSPS, halted further downgrades of low wage employees providing critical services within the VA and assisted in the historic election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

In its 80th year AFGE celebrates its membership of more than 277,000 dedicated federal and D.C. government employees and looks forward to the road ahead. AFGE will continue to challenge lawmakers to support the dedication of public employees, fight for the rights of its members on the job and recruit young workers to enhance the strength of AFGE in the future.

Discrimination Cases Rise as EEOC Is Still Underfunded: The agency whose mission is to eradicate discrimination at work is having a tough time doing its job due to underfunding. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's annual report, the number of discrimination appeals rose 13.9 percent from 4,545 in 2010 to 5,176 in 2011 while the agency is still struggling to deal with the backlog of old cases. The average processing time for appeals went up from 292 days to 378 days during that period. At the same time, the number of employees went down from 2,543 in September 2010 to 2,479 in September 2011 and dropped to 2,378 in March 2012. The fate of the agency’s 2013 budget is still up in the air as the House and the Senate passed their own versions of the spending bill. The Senate wants to give the agency the amount it requested – $373.7, a $13.7 million increase from the 2012 level – but the House doesn’t.
“While there are friends in both the House and Senate who recognize the need and take the lead on helping to ensure adequate funding, EEOC rarely receives the funds it needs,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of AFGE’s Council 216 representing EEOC employees. “Should EEOC receive additional funding, that money must be used more effectively and should be used to create efficiencies which allow EEOC to address the backlogs.” 

Martin said instead of using funding to continually hire Administrative Judges at the GS-14 level who spend 25-30% of their time on routine administrative and clerical work, EEOC needs to hire support staff like paralegal and clerical employees to free up the AJs to hear cases and write decisions. Paralegals should also be hired as they can help with the decision writing process at both the hearing and appeal level. 

Another issue is that EEOC continually loses AJs to Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) positions in agencies such as Social Security, leaving us with fewer employees. EEOC AJs feel that the EEO cases should be governed by the Administrative Procedures Act, which would require that they be reclassified as Administrative Law Judges with the attendant support staff, as well as the authority to subpoena witnesses and provide complete relief. Obviously, additional money absolutely is necessary if this conversion should occur as ALJs are paid according to a different pay scale.

Top 5 Pentagon Contractors’ Outrageous CEO Pay: According to anew analysis by the Project on Government Oversight, the average compensation package of a CEO at the top five Defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon – was $21.5 million last year. The CEOs’ outrageous pay is partly funded by taxpayers as executive compensation is billed as part of the indirect overhead rates on contracts. In fact, contractors can bill taxpayers for nearly $800,000 for their five highest paid executives, and there's no cap on what they can bill for other contract employees. AFGE is pushing Congress to cap taxpayer reimbursement at $230,000, which would save about $50 billion over 10 years. While the CEOs are raking in massive paychecks, their employees aren’t. The average wage for the entire defense industry last year was $80,175. 

New Poll Shows Majority of People in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin Reject Right Wing’s Proposed Changes to Medicare: According to a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS poll released this week, the majority of people in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin oppose the right wing’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program that would cost seniors $6,400 more annually in out-of-pocket expenses. Fewer than a third supports their privatization plan. Fearing public backlash for their attempt to privatize Medicare, right wing lawmakers made up lies that the new health care law takes away money from Medicare when in fact it will, among other things, help bring down out of pocket cost for seniors and reduce unjustifiably high subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that charge seniors more than traditional Medicare does. They have been called out but they keep repeating those lies, banking on people not paying attention or understanding the impact of the proposed privatization.

FEEA Is Here to Help: Each year since 2008, the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund has set new records for emergency assistance no-interest loans to federal employees, climbing from just under $400,000 to more than $600,000 in 2011. With seven months of 2012 under our belts, more than $332,400 has already gone out the door to help 546 feds in need. For the past several months, FEEA has been processing a new loan almost every working hour of the week. Among those helped were:

• A GS-6 SSA employee who needed help with rent because her husband is on disability and cannot work;
• A GS-9 IRS employee who experienced a payroll error and needed help with a mortgage payment;
• A GS-7 VA employee facing financial hardship during a divorce who needed help with rent;
• A GS-6 Army employee who needed help with relocation expenses after her home was damaged in severe East Coast storms;
• A TSA employee who needed help with rent after traveling to a family member's funeral.

"[FEEA] helped me, when I really needed it and could not get help any place else, they came through. I would recommend that other government employees donate to this agency -- you will never know when you will need help and there are no other options available to you," said Lolita Jefferson, an EEOC employee in Houston, TX, who received help from FEEA in June.

If you missed us during the May fundraiser, please remember you can give at any time. Click here to make a donation online. A gift of $10 or more will help FEEA help feds as we continue through summer heat, storms and wildfires. For a gift of $12.50/month our Friends of FEEA help feds all year long. This is an AFGE-endorsed program so we urge people to get involved. Or if you need FEEA’s help, click here for information on how to apply for grants and no-interest loans.

This Week in Labor History: Aug. 18, 1932 – AFGE was founded by local unions loyal to the American Federation of Labor after the National Federation of Federal Employees left the AFL in a dispute over organizing federal skilled craft employees. NFFE leaders who chose to remain with the AFL held AFGE’s charter convention two months later at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. where 42 delegates cast ballots for the first officers of the union. John A. Shaw replaced the AFL-appointee David R. Glass as president of the union. Navy employee Helen McCarty retained her AFL-appointed position as chief organizer. Since 1932, the responsibility AFGE has been to assure America’s government employees of fairness, due process, decent and safe working conditions, fair pay and a voice on the job. AFGE’s story is America’s story. When the union is free to carry out that role, the morale, efficiency and productivity of government workers are enhanced.

This Week’s Tweet: “[right wing] announces "We built that" campaign slogan... in a stadium [in Tampa] built with 62% government funds” ~ @ariannahuff

Hot on WWW: The Mississippi Drought, as Seen From Space

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn more about the federal pay freeze extension. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Aug. 24, is now available on demand. AFGE National President J. David Cox and Public Policy Director Jacque Simon denounced President Obama’s decision to extend the pay freeze of federal workers until Congress passes a new budget. Cox discussed the union’s next steps while Simon analyzed the financial impact a continuing freeze will have on federal employees. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker and AFGE Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Local 556 President Don Thomas then participated in a special broadcast from AFGE’s recent national convention. Holt Baker discussed efforts to end voter suppression and Thomas highlighted the union’s labor contract with TSA.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at

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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