Friday, December 14, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - Dec. 14, 2012

Dec. 14, 2012

NASA, FDIC, Surface Transportation Board, Army Audit Agency Rated Best Places to Work in 2012: The results are in. Every year, the Office of Personnel Management asks federal employees how happy they are with different aspects of their jobs. OPM reported this year’s results last month, and now the Partnership for Public Service used these results to identify the best places to work in the federal government. Agencies are categorized by size. The following are top 10 in each category:

Large Agencies: NASA, Intelligence Community, State, Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security Administration, Treasury, Justice, Transportation, Navy

Mid-Size Agencies: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Smithsonian Institution, Federal Trade Commission, National Credit Union Administration, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration, Federal Communications Commission

Small Agencies: Surface Transportation Board, Congressional Budget Office, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Peace Corps, National Endowment for the Humanities, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Farm Credit Administration, Office of Special Counsel

Agency Subcomponents: U.S. Army Audit Agency (Army), John C. Stennis Space Center (NASA), Office of General Counsel (EPA), Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ), Patent and Trademark Office (Commerce), Civil Division (DOJ), Region 1 - Boston (EPA), Naval Special Warfare Command (Navy), Federal Highway Administration (DOT), Pretrial Services Agency (Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency)

AFGE's Jacque Simon to Talk Fiscal Cliff on C-SPAN: AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon will appear on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal television program Monday morning, Dec. 17, to discuss sequestration (the “fiscal cliff”) and the potential impact on federal employees and government agencies. Jacque’s segment will air live from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and she will be fielding calls from viewers.
Please tune in to hear Jacque’s analysis and feel free to call in with your own questions. There will be a special phone line dedicated to federal employees: 202-585-3883.

Supreme Court Rules Feds Can Appeal Discrimination Cases to District Court: The Supreme Court this week reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling in favor of a former Labor Department employee who sought to appeal her discrimination case to the district court. Carolyn Kloeckner  in 2005 filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s civil rights office, alleging that the agency had engaged in unlawful sex and age discrimination. The agency completed its internal investigation and the employee requested a hearing before an EEOC judge. She was fired a month later while her EEOC case was pending. She appealed her termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Concerned of duplicative expenses, she amended the EEOC case to include discriminatory removal and asked the MSPB to dismiss her case without prejudice, which retained her right to re-file a second time, for four months to allow the EEOC case to move forward.  But the EEOC procedure went on past the deadline and an EEOC judge terminated her case based on “bad-faith discovery conduct”. The judge sent her case back to the Labor Department, which ruled against her. She appealed her case to the MSPB, but the board threw it out as untimely. She then brought her case to Federal District Court, which dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The district court ruled that because the MSPB dismissed her claims on procedural grounds, not on merits, she should have sought the review in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. But the Supreme Court disagreed and unanimously reversed that decision.

“A federal employee who claims that an agency action appealable to the MSPB violates an antidiscrimination statute … should seek judicial review in district court, not in the Federal Circuit,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote on behalf of the majority. “That is so whether the MSPB decided her case on procedural grounds or instead on the merits.”

Kagan also noted that Kloeckner’s case showed that the system “has produced a complicated, at times confusing, process for resolving claims of discrimination in the federal workplace. But even within the most intricate and complex systems, some things are plain.”

“The Supreme Court has provided important guidance for federal employees in an area that Justice Kagan herself recognized as ‘complicated’ and ‘confusing,” said AFGE General Counsel David Borer. “This case had a unique set of facts that isn’t often duplicated, but the ruling clarifies a federal employee’s right to appeal from MSPB to U.S. District Court.”

AFGE Expresses Concerns over Legionnaires' Outbreak That Kills Veteran at Pittsburgh VA Hospital: AFGE this week expressed concerns over the Legionnaires' outbreak that has killed at least one veteran at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. Five VA employees contracted pneumonia the past several weeks and are being tested to see whether it was from Legionnaires’, which is a severe form of pneumonia.

“In recent months, five of our nation’s heroes have contracted Legionnaires' disease at the Oakland campus of the hospital, and one of which later died,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “The VA has just recently released this information, which we find to be unacceptable. AFGE is calling for an investigation from the highest levels to determine the origin of the outbreak and the implications for veterans down the road.”

“It is very troubling to us that this type of outbreak would occur at a facility that used to be a leader in Legionnaires research,” said AFGE District 3 National Vice President Keith Hill. “The researchers responsible for identifying the connection between the disease and the water systems were forced out of the VA, and their research destroyed, when VISN 4 Director Michael Moreland was the head of the facility. Now this issue resurfaces while he’s the regional director. He most certainly should be held responsible for the missteps and cover-up that are occurring.”

“It is time for VA leadership to be held responsible for the lack of oversight and inability to act quickly when first notified of this situation,” said AFGE National VA Council
President Alma Lee. “Ultimately the buck stops with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The lack of attention being paid to issues affecting patient care has our veterans paying the price. It’s time for Secretary Shinseki to step up and make serious strides toward getting to the bottom of what’s happening in the Pittsburgh VA medical system.”

Michigan Governor Signs into Law Right-to-Work-for-Less:Michigan Governor Rick Snyder this week signed into law the right-to-work-for-less bill that will put Michigan in the same category as 25 other right-to-work-for-less states that see eroding pay, benefits, health and safety for their workers.  

“Gov. Snyder showed his true colors today,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said after the bill was signed into law. “He’s a puppet of extreme donors, and he is willing to ignore and lie to his constituents. His action will undoubtedly please the Koch Brothers and corporate CEOs, but it will diminish the voice of every working man and woman in Michigan.”

“Governor Snyder and the lawmakers who are trying to enact this anti-worker bill before their terms expire at the end of the year know full well that what they are doing is immoral and unjust,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “They are not carrying out the will of the people; they are punishing the people who voted to replace them in the new year. Shame on every one of the Michigan lawmakers who participated in this undermining of democracy and voted to rob Michigan workers of their rights. On behalf of AFGE’s members in Michigan and throughout the nation, we denounce this despicable action and vow to work with our brothers and sisters to repeal this illegitimate and unjust law."

Right-to-work-for-less laws stop employers and employees from negotiating an agreement that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them. The laws are not fair to dues-paying members as they require unions to represent every eligible employee, whether he or she pays dues or not. The laws also weaken unions financially, leading to eroded union power to negotiate for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for workers. 

Americans Most Concerned about Social Safety Net Cuts in Fiscal Cliff Deal: What do Americans want in austerity bomb talks? Definitely not cuts to Social Security and Medicare. According to a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, Americans are most concerned that their Social Security and Medicare will get cut as Congress and the White House are negotiating a deal to avert the massive spending cuts and tax hikes at the end of the year. Most respondents, 35 percent, fear the social safety net cuts; 27 percent fear tax hikes, 15 percent fear the deal won’t reduce enough deficit, and only 13 percent fear it will allow for too much federal spending in the next few years.

House Leadership’s Latest Proposal Permanently Extends Tax Breaks to the Wealthy: House Speaker John Boehner’s latest proposal to deal with the nation’s fiscal cliff is to permanently extend tax breaks to the wealthy. Boehner and his allies are still pushing for cuts to social safety net programs to pay for tax breaks for the rich. This only shows how out of touch right-wing lawmakers are, considering the latest poll results above.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week rejected their proposal to raise Medicare age in the strongest term.

“Don’t even think about raising the Medicare age,” she said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol. “We are not throwing America's seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America. We have clarity on that.”

24 States Opt for Federal Obamacare Exchange: Twenty four states so far have decided to let the federal government run their insurance exchanges under Obamacare. States have until Friday, Dec. 14 to make a decision regarding the online shopping markets for millions of uninsured Americans to buy medical benefits. Pennsylvania is the latest state to opt out of state-based insurance exchange required under the new healthcare law that will extend coverage to 32 million people by 2019. States that refuse to set up their own exchanges will automatically hand over the authority to the federal government to do it for them. The majority of the states that have refused to set up their own systems are run by conservative governors. So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have declared state-based exchanges. Six are planning for partnership exchanges. Two – Utah and Florida – are still undecided. But Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Nov. 13 dropped his opposition to Obamacare saying he was willing to consider state-based exchange.

“The election is over and President Obama won,” Scott said. “I'm responsible for the families of Florida ... If I can get to yes, I want to get to yes.”

Coverage through the exchanges will begin in every state on Jan. 1, 2014, with enrollment beginning Oct. 1, 2013.

This Week in Labor History: December 10, 1948 - International Human Rights Day, commemorating the signing at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part: “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

This Week’s Blog: Dr. Aaron Caroll in The Incidental Economist argues that raising the Medicare eligibility age will harm Americans, especially blue-collar workers:

”Almost all of the arguments for raising the eligibility age coalesce around the idea that since life expectancy has gone up so much, we have to think about making people work a little longer...People are actually living on average less than 5 years longer today on Medicare than when the program was passed…But what's somewhat stunning is how much of a disparity there is in these gains. The top half of earners gained more than 5 years of life at age 65. The bottom half of earners, though, gained less than a year. If you raise the age of eligibility by two years, then you are taking away more years of Medicare than half the country gained in longer life. Moreover, we’ve already taken away these people’s Social Security. The Greenspan Commission in the early 1980s made it so that the retirement age is already 66. It’s scheduled to rise to 67. So those at the bottom half of the socioeconomic ladder have already lost more years of Social Security than they’ve gained in years of life expectancy at 65.”

Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS is an associate professor of Pediatrics and the associate director of Children’s Health Services Research at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research.

This Week’s Tweet: “Betting here on the hill is that potus makes susan rice natl security adviser. More inherently political and no confirmation required” ~ @DanaBashCNN

Hot on WWW: NASA explains why the world won’t end on Dec. 21, 2012

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for the latest on the union’s fight against Social Security cuts. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Dec. 7, is now available on demand. AFGE National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals President Witold Skwierczynski discussed a series of nationwide protests against cuts to Social Security as part of fiscal cliff negotiations. Skwierczynski detailed the impact cuts would have on benefits and services. Former Clinton White House spokesman Bob Weiner provided additional fiscal cliff analysis, including the impact on cancer research and his reaction to the right wing's counteroffer. Weiner also discussed what a potential deal could look like. Lastly, Bill Fletcher Jr., author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!: And 20 Other Myths About Unions,” dispelled myths about unions and the labor movement.

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

Quote of the Week
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rejects the right wing’s push to throw grandmas under the bus:

“As I have said, don’t even think about raising Medicare age. We are not throwing America’s seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America. We have clarity on that.”

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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