Friday, January 11, 2013

AFGE Week in Review – Jan. 11, 2013

Jan. 11, 2013
Panetta Warns DoD May Have to Furlough 800,000 Civilian Employees: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon may be forced to furlough nearly 800,000 civilian employees if the second fiscal cliff were to happen in March. Panetta said the Pentagon has begun planning for the triple crisis: across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, the expiration of the continuing resolution that keeps the government funded, and the default of its debt if the debt ceiling is not raised.  

“I’d like to believe that ultimately, Congress will do the right thing,” Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon. “My fear in talking to members of Congress is that this issue may now be in a very difficult place in terms of their willingness to confront what needs to be done to de-trigger sequester. So all those reasons, plus the uncertainty about what happen on the CR, the debt ceiling, put all that together, and we simply cannot sit back now and not be prepared for the worst.”

But he added: “No amount of planning we can do can fully offset the harm that would result from sequestration, if that happens.”

Besides civilian personnel, military readiness would be hard hit if the cuts were to happen. The Pentagon expects a 20 percent cut in the readiness budget, including a 30-percent cut for the Army.

“If we’re required to do these cuts, suddenly we’ve got to achieve these levels of savings, how do you protect the war-fighters, those involved in Afghanistan, those areas that are critical to our national defense? So where do you go? You go to readiness, you go to maintenance, training, this is where the cuts are ultimately made, and when that happens, it makes us less ready,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said.

NP Cox on How Upcoming Budget Battles Affect You: In a video message to AFGE members, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. explains the new tax deal reached last week to avert the fiscal cliff and postpone the across-the-board cuts for two months. The video is an excellent explanation of the upcoming budget battles and how it will affect AFGE members.

NP Cox also asks members to sign up for AFGE action alerts and provide home email addresses to keep themselves informed of urgent issues affecting their federal career. As AFGE will be sending out action alerts on the budget battle in the coming weeks, NP Cox, in a rare request, asks that members open the emails and not just delete them.

Mass Transit Subsidy Goes up to $240: Federal employees’ mass transit subsidy will go up from $125 to $240 through 2013 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012. The increase is part of the fiscal cliff bill that was signed into law last week. This brings the transit subsidy, which was reduced in 2011, in line with parking benefits that went up to $240 in 2011.

Mileage Reimbursement Rates Slightly Go up: The General Services Administration has increasedmileage reimbursement rates for federal employees who use their own vehicles for federal business. Effective Jan. 1, federal employees will be reimbursed 56.5 cents per mile, a one-penny increase, if they drive their own cars; 24 cents per mile, also a one-penny increase, if they choose to drive their own cars when a government vehicle is available; and 53.5 per mile, an increase by one cent, if they ride a motorcycle.

AFGE Applauds Confirmation of FAA Administrator: AFGE congratulates Michael Huerta on his recent confirmation to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. The 112thCongress confirmed Huerta on Jan. 1, just before the congressional session expired. Huerta has served as FAA’s Acting Administrator since December 2011. During this time, he has successfully managed FAA’s workforce of 47,000 employees during a trying period of budget shortfalls and hiring freezes.

“On behalf of all of the members we represent at AFGE, I congratulate Mr. Huerta for his well-deserved appointment and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead to ensure a positive work environment for all of FAA’s employees,” AFGE National PresidentJ. David Cox Sr. said.

AFGE’s largest concentration of FAA employees is at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, where about 1,400 employees work. AFGE Local 2282 President Greg Brooks, who is co-chair of the FAA Labor-Management Forum, said his Local has developed an open and professional relationship with Huerta that he looks forward to continuing.

“The newly confirmed administrator has proven to us that he is willing to listen to our concerns and will work on outcomes based on solutions, not delusions,” Brooks said.

AFGE also represents about 360 bargaining unit employees at the William J. Hughes Technical Center, which is housed at the Atlantic City International Airport. AFGE Local 200 President Gary Baca said employees there look forward to working with Huerta during the next five years.

“I’ve only been in this position less than six months but, in this short period of time and serving as a charter member on the Labor-Management Forum, I’ve recognized Administrator Huerta’s commitment and dedication to the aviation industry and the people who work for FAA,” Baca said.

Obama Nominates Jack Lew to Be Next Treasury Secretary:President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be the next Treasury Secretary succeeding Timothy Geithner. Before becoming Obama’s chief of staff, the budget whiz led the Office of Management and Budget where he was its chief from 1998 to 2001 during the Clinton administration.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Announces Resignation: As the Obama administration is beginning its second term, Labor Secretary Hilda Solisis stepping down. Solis didn’t specify her next move, but news reports suggest she might be running for office back in her state of California, possibly the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“After much discussion with family and close friends, I have decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life,” Solis said in a letter to employees.

Thanks to AFGE, Sacramento Board of Supervisors Withdraws Approval for Airport Privatization:AFGE and our TSA Local 1230’s swift actions led to the Sacramento Board of Supervisors rescinding its authorization to allow the Sacramento International Airport to replace TSOs with a for-profit company under TSA’s controversial Screening Partnership Program (SPP). The board last year authorized the airport to apply for participation in SPP, but this week it voted 4-1 not to proceed with the privatization plan that could have opened up fliers to security risks and led to job losses and de-professionalization of airport screening.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. recognizes the four board members who did the right thing for America and Sacramento with their vote. He also recognizes AFGE TSA Local 1230 President James Mudrock for working hard over a long period of time and for skillfully educating the board members on the facts and benefits to the Sacramento community of the continued TSA role.

“We are pleased that the board recognizes the value in a federal workforce at TSA and has revoked its previous approval for privatization,” NP Cox said. “Airport security at Sacramento or any other federal airport is not broken. In fact, it has proven itself 100% successful. That means privatization is all about money. It is being pushed by private contractors seeking to make a profit from national security.”

After Uproar, AIG Won’t Sue Government: AIG decided not to sue the government after all, thanks to public uproar, including a suggestion that its former boss Maurice "Hank" Greenberg should be shot into space. Remember when AIG ran the company into the ground and was about to go bankrupt when the government bailed it out? The insurance giant took the money, paid its executives millions of dollars in bonuses, and until Wednesday was considering suing the government for bailing it out and causing harm to its shareholders. Even though it now decided not to go with the plan, even considering that option is a display of greed at its best.

This Week’s Blog: In Sandy Shows Disaster-Relief Funding Is a Disaster Bloomberg View blogger Evan Soltas argues that FEMA spending should be reclassified as mandatory instead of discretionary:

“One doesn’t have to be from New Jersey or hold rigid fiscal conservative views to see that the way the federal government funds disaster relief is a disaster unto itself. The U.S. can make sure that something like this never happens again. All it needs to do is treat natural disasters as predictable and do what every insurance company does: predict damage in advance and allocate sufficient money to cover the payments.

The federal government currently treats disasters as unanticipated emergencies because it chronically underbudgets the programs that are meant to do the insuring, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. After leaving these programs short of money, Congress is forced to provide additional relief funds whenever disaster strikes.”

This Week’s Rant: On the Absurdity of the Debt Ceiling Debate. Lawmakers should serve and protect Americans, not throw them under the bus. But that’s exactly what they are doing. While millions of Americans are still unemployed and the economy is not fully recovered, lawmakers in Washington are engaged in absurd discussions on whether to raise the debt ceiling. It’s a known fact that raising the debt limit is not authorizing new spending but rather allowing the government to pay for things that Congresses have approved and bought. It doesn’t make any sense that some lawmakers would cite ‘fiscal constraints’ and threaten to default on the debts they themselves created – unless the government drastically reduces assistance to seniors, children, the sick, the poor, and the American public. Previous rounds of agency budget cuts have already led to layoffs and hiring freezes, which only worsens unemployment and hurts the economy.

We already breached the debt ceiling on Dec. 31.The Treasury is now doing its magic tricks, including not issuing new securities for federal employees’ Thrift Saving Plan funds to stay below the debt limit. To effectively force Congress to stop using the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device, the White House has a few options, including citing the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid. Or the government could mint a trillion dollar platinum coin and deposit it at the Fed, which sounds really silly but clearly demonstrates how the government gets its money (like when it created trillions out of thin air to bail out Wall Street).

Considering the fact that the U.S. cannot be forced to default since it is a sovereign country that issues its own currency and has debts in its currency, the debt ceiling ransom in exchange for spending cuts is absurd. In former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s own words: “[A] government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency. A fiat money system, like the ones we have today, can produce such claims without limit.” Greenspan and other leading economists also have argued for the elimination of the debt ceiling. Greenspan on Meet the Press: “Why do we have a debt limit in the first place? We appropriate funds, we have tax law, and on reasonably adept at arithmetic can calculate what the debt change is going to be. The Congress and the president have signed legislation predetermining what that number is. Why we need suspenders and belts is something I've never understood.”

George W. Bush’s first treasury secretary Paul O'Neill agreed. “It is hard to make a rational argument for the debt ceiling as it is now structured. Basically, the debt ceiling gives the Treasury the authority to borrow money to pay debts we already owe. As you know it doesn't authorize new spending.”

This Week’s Tweet: “Fox News joins the @NRCC in not understanding how coins work: … ~ @mattyglesias

This Week in Labor History: Jan. 8, 2003 - The George W. Bush administration declares federal airport security screeners will not be allowed to unionize so as not to "complicate" the war on terrorism. The decision was challenged by AFGE and eventually overturned in 2011.

Hot on YouTube: Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #2

Inside government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for more on the union’s efforts in defeating an airport privatization initiative in Sacramento. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Jan. 11, is now available on demand. AFGE Transportation Security Administration Local 1230 PresidentJames Mudrock discussed the union’s year-long campaign that resulted in the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voting to rescind its approval of the privatization of Sacramento International Airport. Mudrock also addressed the security risks associated with airport privatization. But first, Women’s Campaign Fund and She Should Run President and CEO Siobhan “Sam” Bennett discussed potential female presidential candidates in 2016 and the importance of encouraging women to run for public office at all levels of government. Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel then analyzed the labor market, unemployment rate and wages and the danger of losing jobs in the public sector. Lastly, AFGE Member Benefits Coordinator Mark Williams detailed the union’s robust member benefits program, including scholarships, the AFGE credit card and discount electricity benefit.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at For more information, please visit

Quote of the Week
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas calls for another 1995-style government shutdown:

“What would happen if the debt ceiling isn’t raised is it would be a partial government shutdown. We’ve seen this before, we saw this in 1995, when [we] in the House shut down the government… If we hold strong we can do that again.” 

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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