Friday, October 26, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - Oct. 26, 2012

Oct. 26, 2012
Federal Employees Are Underpaid by 34.6%: Federal employees this year earn 34.6 percent less on average nationwide than their private counterparts, according to new analysis by the Federal Salary Council. The pay gap between federal workers and their counterparts in the private sector and state and local government grew by 8.3 percent compared to last year’s, which stood at 26.3 percent. The council attributed the gap to federal pay freezes and a new, more comprehensive formula the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses in its pay comparisons.

“The pay freeze imposed on federal employees must end immediately,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Our public servants cannot afford another day of frozen wages.”

Retirees to Receive 1.7% Increase in COLA Next Year: Federal retirees and Social Security recipientswill receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 1.7% in January. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.has issued the following statement in response to the announcement.

“While next year’s COLA is much smaller than the increase federal retirees and Social Security recipients received at the beginning of this year, it could have been much worse. Under the deficit reduction plan proposed by Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles and ex-Senator Alan Simpson, the annual COLA would be cut by three-tenths of a percentage point. So if Bowles-Simpson were in effect today, retirees would be getting a 1.4% adjustment in January instead of the 1.7% increase. Although a 0.3% cut doesn’t sound like much, it adds up over time. Over 10 years, that 0.3% difference would mean a 3% cut in benefits. Over 20 years, the loss in benefits rises to 6%. This cut in COLA benefits is just one of many outrageous and indefensible ways in which Bowles and Simpson proposed to cut the nation’s deficit by slashing wages and benefits of working class Americans. Any attempts to revive their fatally flawed recommendations must be vigorously rejected.”
Federal Travelers May No Longer Go Over Conference Lodging Allowance Limits: The General Services Administration is proposing an amendment to the Federal Travel Regulation that would remove language allowing federal travelers to exceed the maximum conference lodging per diem rate.

“The conference lodging allowance allows travelers to exceed the maximum lodging per diem rate by up to 25 percent when attending conferences sponsored by a federal agency,” GSA said in its proposed rule published in Federal Registered Oct. 23. “Unlike the actual expense provision which mandates that an agency official must approve these requests, there is no such mandate for allowing the use of the conference lodging allowance. To allow agencies to get a firmer grasp on how their travel dollars are used, GSA is proposing to remove the conference lodging allowance provision from the FTR.”
GSA is accepting comments until December 24, 2012.

OPM OKs Interns Provided by Third Parties: The Office of Personnel Management last week issued a memo telling agencies they can continue to use interns referred from third parties such as intern placement agencies following the recent launch of Pathways, which replaced several intern-type programs.

“Agencies should be aware that nothing in Executive Order 13562 (which created the Pathways programs), or in the regulations implementing Pathways, restricts in any way an agency’s authority to enter into arrangements with third-party intern providers,” OPM Director John Berry wrote. “Agencies retain the same authority to enter these arrangements that they had before the Pathways programs were authorized.” 

Chemical Industry Spends Hundreds of Millions Lobbying against Safety Regulations: Through heavy lobbying and hundreds of millions in campaign contributions, the chemical industry has successfully prevented Congress from strengthening the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has not been updated since it was passed in 1976. According to a new study by Common Cause, the industry spent nearly $400 million on lobbying between 2005 and September 2012.
TSCA authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect data on chemicals and come up with rules to regulate those found to be dangerous. But the law is so weak that when the EPA tried to regulate asbestos, a known and dangerous carcinogen, industry took them to court and won. Of the 80,000 chemicals on the market in this country, the EPA requires testing for only about 200. Efforts to strengthen the law have failed.

Walmart Workers in Chicago-area Sue for Unpaid Wages: A group of 20-30 temp workers at a Walmart store in the Chicago area has filed a lawsuit in federal court for unpaid wages. The class action lawsuit, filed Oct. 22, said Walmart and two staffing agencies – QPS and Labor Ready – “required laborers to appear early for work, stay late to complete work, work through lunches or breaks and/or participate in training without compensation, resulting in minimum wage and overtime violations.” The suit could include temp workers at other Walmarts in the Chicago area.

The lawsuit comes only two weeks after the first-ever strike by Walmart associates in Los Angeles that spread to 28 stores in 12 cities. The workers were protesting the company’s practice of silencing and retaliating against workers who speak out against poor working conditions, pay and benefits.

“I make $8.90 an hour and I’ve worked at Walmart for three years,” Colby Harris of Dallas told reporters. “Everyone at my store lives from check to check and borrows money from each other just to make it through the week.”

Meanwhile, the six heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton are worth $89.5 billion -- the same as the bottom 41.5 percent of U.S. families combined.

Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois and California also went on strike earlier this month.

This Week’s Blog: Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein explains how private insurers game the partially privatized Medicare to boost their bottom line, which will eventually drive up health care costs for everyone and undermine traditional Medicare.

“…in every single year from 1999 to 2008, the Medicare beneficiaries switching out of the private plans and back into traditional Medicare were sicker and more expensive than the beneficiaries who stayed in Medicare Advantage’s private plans. That implies that the private insurers in Medicare Advantage have figured out how to underserve sicker seniors such that they’re driven out of the program and back into traditional Medicare. That’s good for their bottom line, but bad for the program. If this is how private plans competing with Medicare save money, then they’re not saving money. They’re shifting costs.”

This Week in Labor History: Oct. 24, 1940 - The 40-hour work week went into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed by President Roosevelt two years earlier; U.S. minimum wage increases to 40 cents an hour in 1945.

Hot on YouTube: Improv Everywhere: The Boardroom. A group of 24 actors staged an unauthorized boardroom meeting in the office chair department of a Staples.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for more on the importance of the Hispanic vote in the upcoming elections. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Oct. 26, is now available on demand. Democratic National Committee Senior Advisor for Hispanic Affairs Juan SepĂșlveda discussed efforts to connect with Hispanic voters and understand their top concerns. But first, newly-elected AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr.discussed his top goals and the challenges and rewards of being a federal employee. Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) then provided a closer look at the Department of Defense budget and discussed infrastructure investment as a way to revive the middle class. Lastly, AFGE Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Local 2282 President Greg Brooks discussed worker safety concerns at FAA and initiatives to increase union membership.

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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