Friday, August 31, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - August 31, 2012

Aug. 31, 2012
NP Cox: Goal Is to Reach 300,000 Members by Next Year:Newly elected National President J. David Cox said AFGE’s goal is to reach at least 300,000 dues paying members within the next year. AFGE currently has about 277,000 dues paying members.

DEFCON Blitz to Kick off Next Week: DEFCON is launching a massive organizing effort at DoD worksites across the country to recruit new members. The blitz will run from Labor Day, Sept. 3, to Oct. 12. Last year’s blitzes netted over 8,000 new members in our DoD locals. DEFCON is using this blitz as an opportunity to talk to DOD employees about sequestration and other personnel cuts and how they may affect their livelihoods in the future.

“DEFCON is excited about the potential success of this blitz and the possibilities of increasing the membership in the AFGE DOD Locals,” said DEFCON Chair Don Hale. “Let's make the DEFCON organizing blitz a success, with the participation of each and every DOD Local's involvement.”

DEFCON currently has over 50 volunteers assigned to help conduct events across the country during the blitz. These volunteers use their own time to assist other locals build AFGE’s membership.

Louisiana Governor Jindal Now Wants Federal Help:Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been a vocal critic of federal spending, but as Hurricane Isaac was about to make a landfall on the gulf coast state, Jindal on Monday 
wrote to the president, seeking more help from the federal government. The governor asked the president to reimburse Louisiana for the full cost of its preparations on top of the disaster assistance the government normally provides.

“The State’s expenditures for emergency protective measures are already approximately $8,000,000 and exceed the State of Louisiana’s threshold when making a request for a major disaster declaration,” Jindal wrote.
This is the same governor who decried federal spending, mocked a volcano monitoring budget, but at the same time posed with a stimulus check when it reached his state.  Jindal supported his right-wing colleagues in Congress to severely cut funding for federal programs that help victims of natural disasters. In 2011 for example, they rejected the administration’s budget request and slashed the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s funding by $454 million. The National Weather Service’s budget was reduced by $126 million. They also cut FEMA’s state and local programs by $783 million and management funding by $24.3 million. This year when Hurricane Irene devastated the east coast, a deadly tornado hit Missouri, and an earthquake shook Virginia in 2011, the right wing demanded that the funding for natural disaster victims be offset with spending elsewhere.

Texas Voter ID Law Struck Down: A federal court this week struck down Texas’s controversial voter ID law passed last year to suppress turnout and exclude minorities from voting. The court ruled that the law would harm Latinos, racial minorities and the poor.

“It imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas,” the judges said.

Several states have either passed or introduced similar laws pushed largely by right-wing lawmakers and governors. The effects of the laws are already felt in Florida where the number of people registering to vote dropped sharply after the voter suppression law took effect more than a year ago.

Poll: The Wealthy Don’t Pay Enough in Taxes: According to a new Pew Research Center 
pollreleased this week, 58 percent of those polled believe the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. Twenty six percent say they are and 8 percent say they pay too much. About two thirds feel the income gap between the rich and the poor grew wider the past decade. Sixty three percent say the right wing favors the rich over the middle class and the poor. 

80 Years of Proud History: AFGE is 80 years old this month. Looking back, the union has accomplished a great deal for the government employees we represent. These advances are even more impressive in view of hostile
administrations, the restrictions against unions, and the scapegoating of federal employees whenever the economy tanks. The following are some of the highlights of our achievements since the creation of AFGE in August 1932.

1930s and 1940s: AFGE won improvements in sick leave, annual leave and retirement security through political pressure since bargaining was still a distant dream. We called for the abolition of the so-called “spoils system,” in which federal employees were kept beholden to the elected officials who hired them.  When the system was finally eliminated and replaced with the merit system, almost 14,000 jobs were taken off the patronage roles, giving those workers a voice and job security.
In 1939, AFGE won a major victory when the War Department, later renamed the Defense Department, granted workers the right to organize. On the heels of World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded civil service and provided paid overtime for federal employees, AFGE won uniformity in salary increases. The union later defeated bills that would have banned overtime pay and made union contracts illegal.

During the war, while private sector workers enjoyed tremendous growth in income, government employees had their wages frozen, resulting in a 15% pay gap by the end of World War II. AFGE lobbied hard and won a 15.9% raise for federal employees in 1945.

1950s: During the Eisenhower administration, AFGE and veteran groups fended off an effort that would have given the attorney general the right to fire workers without describing the nature of the charges or giving the employees the right of appeal or a hearing. The president, however, did remove the limits on annual leave and provided lump-sum payments for the greater of 30 days or the amount accrued since the start of the year to employees leaving federal service.
By the late 1950s, when pay raises had not kept pace with inflation and the VA and others had resorted to downgrading jobs to save money, AFGE successfully protected workers whose jobs were downgraded by ensuring that they would not suffer pay cuts. The union also managed a 7.5% pay raise for all employees in 1956 and a 10% raise for white-collar employees in 1958.

1960s: In 1960, AFGE won establishment of the Federal Employee Health Insurance Program. For the first time ever, the government would pay one-third of the cost of benefits and insurance would pay up to 80% of non-hospital and all hospital expenses.

In 1962, AFGE successfully persuaded President John F. Kennedy to issue an executive order to institutionalize labor-management relations by mandating agency heads to negotiate agreements with the unions.  The order opened the doors to AFGE organizing around the nation, and the union membership jumped from 71,000 members in 1961 to 301,000 members by 1970. These victories culminated in a pioneering 1966 collective bargaining agreement between AFGE and the Labor Department, one that would become a model for AFGE-federal government contracts for decades to come.

In 1968, AFGE won the passage of the Equal Pay Act, which was designed to bring federal wages in line with the higher paying private sector.
In 1969, AFGE won better retirement benefits that included a formula based on the three highest consecutive years of service, including sick leave in the computation to determine the multiplier, correcting the cost-of-living adjustment formula and allowing widows or widowers to keep benefits if they remarry.

1970s: In 1972, AFGE’s intensive lobbying led to the passage of two laws that made the entire pay process more fair for both white collar and blue collar federal workers – the Federal Wage System for blue collar workers and the Federal Pay Comparability Act for white collar workers.

In 1978, AFGE won one of its greatest victories ever – passage of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), which expanded and solidified collective bargaining rights and opened up the courts for contract enforcement. The law, signed by President Jimmy Carter, created the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). FLRA oversees the rights of federal employees to form collective bargaining units and to engage in collective bargaining with agencies. MSPB hears the appeals of federal employees who are disciplined.
AFGE also won a wage adjustment in 1970, resulting in thousands of federal employees receiving millions of dollars in back pay.

1980s: Even though contracting out had long been a problem for AFGE, the wind-down of the Vietnam War intensified the problem as major defense contractors sought to shore up their declining incomes by displacing government workers. They pressed Congress and eventually virtually every civilian activity became subject to outsourcing under the Reagan administration. But AFGE fought back, winning revisions in government contracting regulations, standardizing cost comparisons, and forcing agencies to maintain in-house functions when proven to be more economical. AFGE created a headquarters capability to devise strategies to challenge outsourcing decisions and to permit units of threatened employees to “compete” with contractors to keep work out of the hands of contractors.

In June 1982, AFGE signed its first national agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) covering some 60,000 employees. In August the same year, AFGE signed its first national contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covering over 125,000 employees.    

1990s: AFGE persuaded President Bill Clinton to issue an executive order further expanding government employee bargaining rights through a new labor-management concept called the National Partnership Council. This improved the quality of services while reducing the number of grievances and unfair labor practices.
After five long decades, AFGE finally won a Hatch Act Reform bill, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 as the original Hatch Act had intimidated federal workers and wreaked havoc on local political campaign. Under the new law, federal employees could be candidates in non-partisan elections. Off the worksite, they could voice support for candidates and issues and hold office in political parties and clubs just like any other American citizen.

As the Cold War came to its final end, thousands of federal workers were being laid off. AFGE lobbied and won a $25,000 buyout, job training, extended health benefits, and more for the affected workers. This provided the much needed financial cushion for our members. AFGE was also successfully lobbied for the passage of the Family Leave Act, which gives workers the right to take time off to care for ailing family members without the risk of losing their jobs.

2000s: Since the 1950s when the military-industrial complex was in full gear, AFGE spent years fending off efforts to wipe out civil service. When the Bush administration took office in 2001, they began rewriting the A-76 contracting out rules to review nearly one million federal jobs for privatization. But in 2008, AFGE won bipartisan support from Congress to reverse a number of key rules to make competition for the work between federal employees and contractors more evenhanded, including the exclusion of health care and retirement costs from the contracting out cost comparison process when contractors contributed less than the federal government for those earned benefits. It was also the first time that federal employees were allowed to appeal bad outsourcing decisions to a neutral third party, the Government Accountability Office. At our urging, Congress for the first time banned outsourcing studies governmentwide in 2009 and permanently prohibited direct conversions of federal jobs to contractors. AFGE also secured the first insourcing laws ever—which the departments of Defense and Homeland Security report have resulted in significant savings and restoration of public control over important or sensitive functions. AFGE has been able to keep many of these restrictions in place despite some anti-union lawmakers’ repeated attempts to repeal them.

In 2011, our 10-year fight for worker rights at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) came to an end when we finally won historic collective bargaining rights in 2011. AFGE also won a union election to represent 45,000 TSA officers nationwide.
This Week in Labor History: August 28, 1963 - The march for jobs and freedom—the Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have A Dream" speech march—is held in Washington, D.C. with 250,000 participating.

This Week’s Tweet: “The reason the recovery is so slow is most Americans no longer have the money to buy enough to create more jobs. It's inequality, stupid” ~ @Robert Reich 

Hot on YouTube: Fake celebrity pranks New York City

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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