Friday, September 28, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - Sept. 28, 2012

Sept. 28, 2012
Millionaire Tax Cuts v. Sequestration: As some lawmakers continue to push for massive tax cuts for millionaires, it is likely that federal agencies may have to furlough workers and stop hiring if sequestration were to take effect in January. Sequestration came into existence because of these lawmakers’ insistence that tax breaks for the wealthy 2% be protected despite the deficit caused by the irresponsible Bush tax cuts and two wars. But sequestration is completely avoidable. If the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy 2% are allowed to return to the Clinton rates, almost $1 trillion would be raised, eliminating the need for sequestration altogether. The $1 trillion hole would not even exist if it was not for the Bush tax cuts. Until that happens, agencies are bracing themselves for sequestration.
Defense Undersecretary and Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale this week said a hiring freeze and furloughs of civilian employees are likely if the sequestration axe falls. Hale said the department doesn’t know how many people would be affected as it doesn’t have a detailed plan yet.

“There's a long process with furloughs,” Hale said at a Government Executive event in Arlington, Va. “It will adversely affect our missions, not to mention the people involved.” But he added that reductions-in-force are unlikely as they are too expensive.

AFGE Calls for Freeze on Health Care Premium Hike: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. is calling for a freeze on all increases in health care insurance premiums for federal employees. The Office of Personnel Management last week announced the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) premiums will increase an average of 3.4 percent in January. But that is too much for federal employees and retirees whose wages have been frozen for two years.
“FEHBP premiums increased by an average of 7% in 2011 and 3.8% 2012 while federal pay did not increase at all, due to the freeze. Congress and the administration have decided to turn the federal workforce into a “fixed income” population that simply cannot afford another cent toward already inflated FEHBP premiums,” NP Cox said. “Now federal employees are facing the prospect of an extension of the pay freeze through April 2013. How can they be expected to afford another increase in FEHBP rates while their salaries don’t increase? It’s the same as a pay cut. This action is no way to ensure an effective workforce that provides valuable public services. It’s not a way to treat the men and women who support our troops, care for our wounded soldiers, protect our borders and ensure that Americans have safe food and drinking water.”

Senate Passes Six-Month Spending Bill to Fund Government, Freeze Federal Pay until March: The Senate on Sept. 22 passed a continuing resolution to fund the government at about the 2012 levels and freeze federal pay until March 27. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month.

NP Cox Testifies before Congress against Sequestration, Cuts to Government Services: AFGE National President J. David Cox last week testified that plans to further cut government services and federal employee benefits to reduce the deficit will have a devastating impact on the nation economically. Testifying on “Investing in an Effective Federal Workforce” before a Senate subcommittee on government oversight and the federal workforce, NP Cox stressed that steps should be taken to preserve a well-trained and dedicated federal workforce and that further cuts would threaten effective delivery of public services.

“The stakes are very high when it comes to maintaining a well-trained and capable federal workforce. We all know very well what does not help: Freezing or cutting salaries, threatening layoffs and furloughs through sequesters and personnel ceilings, forcing us to pay more for retirement benefits and cutting benefits, bullying us with nasty comments about our work and work ethic. All these things have the exact opposite effect,” NP Cox said.

NP Cox was also strongly against the irresponsible across the board cuts known as sequestration. According to the recent White House report, sequestration would result in a 9.4 percent cut in non-exempt defense discretionary funding and an 8.2 percent reduction in non-exempt domestic discretionary funding. The sequestration would also impose a 2 percent cut to Medicare, a 7.6 percent cut to other non-exempt domestic mandatory programs, and a 10 percent cut to non-exempt defense mandatory programs.

In addition to sequestration, NP Cox strongly opposed recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles commission that would cut 10 percent of federal jobs and reduce federal employee benefits and taxpayer services. NP Cox, who sits on the National Council of Federal Labor- Management Relations, suggested that more emphasis be placed on the labor-management process to bring together employees and agencies to identify ways to seek cost reductions and improve morale.

AFGE, Consumer Groups Kick off Social Media Campaign to Stop USDA’s Dirty Chicken Rules: AFGE and our consumer group allies have taken the fight against USDA’s new dirty chicken rules to social media including the Twitterverse to raise awareness and educate the public on what these proposed rules would mean to them if implemented. We kicked off the campaign on Monday with an intensive week of tweeting, posting, blogging, sharing, etc. about what people can do in one-third of a second. The idea is to highlight the absurdity of a rule that allows only one-third of a second to inspect birds. The final rules are expected in December if the USDA decides to go ahead with its plan to endanger America’s food supply.

The coalition has been spreading the word about how the USDA’s plans to increase chicken inspection speed and let slaughterhouses inspect their own chicken could lead to a massive flow of tumor-laced, salmonella-infused chicken into supermarkets nationwide. The following are a few examples of their tweets with hashtags and links to resources.

- What can you do in 1/3 of a second? US Department of Agriculture (@USDA) thinks you can inspect a chicken #PoultryRule
- In 1/3 of a second, I can take a sip of coffee. But I can’t inspect a chicken.
- 175 chickens every single minute? That’s how fast lines would go, if the @USDA #PoultryRule is implemented:
- Let poultry plants decide whether to test their chickens for bacteria like Salmonella? I don’t think so! #PoultryRule
- In 1/3 of a second, I can press my spacebar key. But I can’t inspect a chicken. #CleanChicken @USDAfoodsafety

The coalition is emphasizing the hashtags #PoultryRule and #CleanChicken in all posts particularly on Twitter because we need to link the messages and and hopefully direct interested persons to resources for background such as this website. Also, to make sure the agency is aware of these concerns, the coalition is tweeting @USDA or @USDAfoodsafety (the FSIS twitter handle).

GAO: Overcrowded BOP Prisons Put Staff in Danger: A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms what AFGE has been saying all along – that overcrowded federal prisons threaten the lives and safety of staff and everyone in the communities. The report, “Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure,” found that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) correctional facilities are 39 percent overcrowded with overcrowding most severe among the male inmate population – nearly half of whom were sentenced for drugs. BOP expects the inmate population to grow with systemwide crowding exceeding 45 percent through 2018. The overcrowding has put a huge burden on the already understaffed BOP. A correctional officer, for example, can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 inmates at once and is unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence – something AFGE says cannot continue. As BOP has had to increase the use of double and triple bunking to accommodate overflowing prison crowds, inmates themselves also are facing long waiting lists for education, drug treatment programs and work opportunities. These factors contribute to the increase in inmate misconducts, endangering staff and other inmates, the GAO said.

“Federal correctional officers and staff are the foundation of a secure federal prison system,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox. “Properly staffing the facilities is the best way to combat the rising inmate population. It’s an issue that must be addressed immediately.”

“This is also a community safety issue,” added AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals President Dale Deshotel. “An overcrowded prison bursting at the seams that isn’t properly staffed ultimately puts the surrounding community in danger.”

AFGE and CPL have fought not only for additional staffing and funding at BOP but also for protective equipment such as stab-resistant vests and pepper spray, Deshotel said. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country.

To learn more about the Council of Prison Locals, visit

This Week in Labor History: Sept. 30, 1962 - Cesar Chavez, with Delores Huerta, co-founds the National Farm Workers Association, which later was to become the United Farm Workers of America.

This Week’s Tweet: “McDonald's customer likes the restaurant's calorie labels...until he finds out it is part of [the new health care law]. ~ ‏@sarahkliff

Hot on WWW: Excellent Stingray Photobomb

Hot on YouTube: Cheating in Middle School

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for a special congressional roundtable on the state of middle class America and the public service sector. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Sept. 28, is now available on demand. The roundtable discussion featured Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Reps. Brad Miller of North Carolina, Tim Ryan of Ohio and Judy Chu of California, who analyzed issues facing the middle class and what’s needed to revive the economy. The discussion also addressed the need for a strong public service sector.

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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