Friday, January 18, 2013

AFGE Week in Review – Jan.18, 2013

Jan. 18, 2013

AFGE Mourns Passing of 14th Dist. NVP Dwight Bowman: AFGE mourned the loss of our 14th District national vice president Dwight Bowman, who passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning.
“It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a union brother, effective leader and dear friend,” AFGE National President J. David Cox said. “Our thoughts are with his wife, Gwendlyn, and the rest of his family.”

Bowman was serving his third term as national vice president of AFGE’s District 14, which covers Washington, D.C., Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Arlington and Fairfax counties and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. He had been an AFGE activist for close to four decades, beginning his career as president of AFGE Local 2463, Smithsonian Institution. During that time, Smithsonian employees were not protected by federal EEO or labor relations laws and regulations. Bowman was successful in establishing unity within Local 2463, persuading another Local to merge with his Local, and in 1979, they successfully negotiated a master contract agreement which covered those areas under EEO and labor relations laws.  

Bowman held many other positions within AFGE and throughout the Labor movement, including president of AFGE’s National Capital Area Council 1, Labor Representative on the District of Columbia’s Nuclear Freeze Board, member of the Executive Committee of the Minority Coalition, and National President of the Society of Federal Labor and Employee Relations Professionals. Bowman most recently sat on the Board of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, the Metropolitan Washington Central Labor Council, and the Partnership Council for the District of Columbia.  

He is survived by his wife, son, mother, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

AFGE Condemns House’s Attempt to Freeze Federal Pay for Rest of 2013: AFGE denounces a bill sponsored by a group of anti-federal employee lawmakers in the House of Representatives to freeze federal pay for the rest of 2013. H.R. 273, introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida, would cancel President Obama’s 0.5% proposed raise for federal employees that will take effect at the end of March. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.

“Federal pay should not be politicized in this way,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “Federal employees had no part in the financial crisis and the ensuing recession, and they should not be forced into penury to reduce a deficit they had no part in creating.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland called the attempt to freeze federal pay “the same short-sighted and counterproductive campaign against federal employees.” 

“Those who execute our laws and provide much-needed services to communities across the nation deserve our gratitude for their diligence during these hard times – not continued disparagement resulting from a partisan agenda,” he said.  

84% of Country’s Top Economists Agree Debt Ceiling Is Not Necessary: A new survey of the nation’s leading economists supports earlier calls for the elimination of the debt ceiling. According to the IGM Forum survey at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, 84 percent of the country’s top economists either agree or strongly agree that a debt ceiling is not necessary since all federal spending and taxes need to be approved by Congress and the White House. As raising the debt limit is not authorizing new spending but rather paying for programs that Congresses and administrations have already approved, having a debt ceiling only creates unneeded uncertainty that could harm the economy. 

“Deciding whether or not to pay the debts incurred to fund the previously approved tax and spending is nuts,” said Chicago Booth professor Anil Kashyap.

“This is a second chance to gridlock,” said Darrell Duffie of Stanford University. “A budget passed by Congress already authorizes the necessary funding.”

The Initiative on Global Markets (IGM) at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business periodically asks its economic experts panel about major public policy issues. The panel comprises about 40 top economists with differing backgrounds and political inclinations at MIT, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Princeton, Chicago, and Stanford.

Federal Employees, Veterans, Won’t Get Paid If Debt Ceiling Is Not Raised: President Barack Obama on Monday detailed what will happen if lawmakers are allowed to commit fiscal massacre and continue to refuse to pay for programs they previously approved. Besides throwing the economy back into recession, federal employees won’t get paid. Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed.

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners," he said. "Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn't get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.”

The president said lawmakers have two choices: pay America’s bills or put the country through another economic crisis.

More House Lawmakers Are Calling for Government Shutdown: There are so many Tea-fueled House lawmakers that are eager to shut down the government and the services it provides that a House leadership advisor told reporters that House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system” and “We might need to do that for member-management purposes.” Way to run the country, congressmen. The last time the government was shut down in 1995 and 1996, it cost taxpayers $1.25 billion. Here’s what happened to Americans when then House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his allies threw a tantrum:
  • More than 800,000 government employees were furloughed during the first shutdown (Nov. 13-19, 1995) and 284,000 were sent home during the second shutdown (Dec. 15, 1995-Jan. 6, 1996);
  • 400,000 seniors who were newly eligible Medicare participants were turned away;
  • The government lost $400 million of revenue from the shutdown of the IRS Enforcement Division;
  • Social Security claims from 112,000 applicants were not processed. About 212,000 people didn’t get their Social Security cards issued or renewed. 360,000 office visits were denied. 800,000 toll-free calls for information went unanswered;
  • 368 national parks, museums and monuments were closed, resulting in local businesses losing 2 million visitors and $14.2 million per day in tourism revenues;
  • New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health. Hotline calls were not answered;
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped its disease surveillance;
  • Toxic waste clean-up work stopped at 609 sites across the country as the EPA sent home 2,400 of its workers;
  • The National Science Foundation couldn’t carry out its research and education activities. Grants were not processed;
  • Veterans medical care and financial benefits were delayed;
  • Hiring freezes in effect for federal law enforcement, including the cancellation of the hiring of 400 border patrol agents;
  • Work on more than 3,500 bankruptcy cases were suspended;
  • Delinquent child support cases were delayed
  • 200,000 Americans couldn’t travel as their applications were not processed. About 20,000-30,000 visa applications by foreigners were not processed each day. These two resulted in millions of dollars in losses to hotels, airlines and tourist industry;
  • Government-backed mortgage loans worth more than $800 million to more than 10,000 low-and-moderate-income working families were delayed;
But the pain that the whole country will have to go through if the government shuts down is the least of these House lawmakers’ concerns.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told reporters. 

“If it requires shutting down certain portions of the government, let’s look at that,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said. “Let’s put these options on the table, be very thoughtful, but get this spending pattern broken.”

Forget about the Absurd Debt Ceiling Debate. Here’s What Congress Needs to Do: AFGE and other affiliates of the AFL-CIO believe that the White House and Congress should fix the economy first. The most serious economic challenge facing America is the continuing jobs crisis, not the deficit or the national debt. When the economy is still depressed, we’re supposed to run deficits, which will eventually come down when the economy recovers. More budget cuts will only hurt jobs and the economy. So here’s what they need to do:
  • Cancel sequestration. Like President Obama said, these across-the-board cuts were never intended to happen. There is no need to meet the arbitrary deficit reduction target since the economy is still broken and unemployment is still high. We need to invest to put America back to work. We need to put money in their pockets which will immediately boost the economy.
  • Protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal pay, health insurance and retirement.Working families need MORE economic security, not less. The financial crisis was caused by Wall Street, not the middle class. If right-wing lawmakers were serious about reducing the deficit, they would not be demanding tax cuts for the richest 2% and corporations, which historically didn’t create jobs as claimed.
  • Close tax loopholes for Wall Street. Tax loopholes allow many U.S. corporations to get away with paying nothing in taxes. Of the 30 major American corporations, 26 paid no federal income taxes despite bringing in billions in profits between 2008 and 2011. The top 30 companies dodged $78.3 billion in taxes over four years, costs that are passed on to American taxpayers. Talk about welfare queen.    
  • Close tax loopholes for sending jobs overseas. A loophole in the tax code allows U.S. corporations to lower their effective income rate by sending jobs overseas. Eliminating this tax incentive would raise $583 billion in tax revenue over 10 years.
  • Close tax loopholes for drug companies. When Congress enacted the Medicare part D drug benefit in 2003, it prohibited Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with drug companies. Closing this loophole could save Medicare more than $200 billion over 10 years.
  • Close tax loopholes for the richest 2% of Americans. Any proposal to close tax loopholes or limit tax deductions should apply only to the richest 2% of Americans, as President Obama proposed in the recent austerity crisis negotiations. They’ve already benefited the most from the Bush tax cuts and have enjoyed low tax rates on dividends and long-term capital gains.
South Carolina Lawmaker Wants to End Your Mass Transit Subsidy: Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina was willing to provide disaster relief to people affected by Superstorm Sandy but he wanted the money to be paid for by ending federal employees’ mass transit benefit. Fortunately, the House Rules Committee rejected his ill-advised proposal, which was an amendment attached to the Superstorm Sandy relief bill. The committee also rejected another amendment he proposed to impose and across the board cut of 1.63 percent for all federal agencies. 

The House Tuesday night approved the $51 billion-plus Sandy relief package. The bill is expected to sail through the Senate.

EEOC Budget Cuts Hurt Victims of Job Discrimination: Potential budget cuts from sequestration would devastate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ability to enforce laws that protect American workers from job discrimination. The sequestration scheduled to take place in March would slash an estimated $23 million to $30 million from EEOC’s $360 million annual budget, which amounts to a cut of between 6.5% and 8.2%. Given that the bulk of EEOC’s budget goes to pay employee salaries and expenses, EEOC would have no choice but to lay off workers without pay for extended periods of time.

“EEOC simply cannot absorb a cut of this magnitude,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “This cut would cripple the agency’s ability to enforce laws that protect against workplace discrimination. EEOC cannot enforce laws without frontline staff allowed to be on the job.”

EEOC already has been suffering under the second year of an unprecedented budget cut, which has reduced its budget each year by $7 million. Because EEOC is a small and historically underfunded agency, even this “haircut” has meant the loss of 9% of the agency’s staff. To make matters worse, these cuts are occurring at a time when workload is way up. EEOC has seen historically high charge filings during the past three years, receiving 99,412 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal 2012 alone. EEOC continues to struggle with an unacceptable backlog of 70,312 cases and average processing times exceeding nine months.

CWA Launches Ad Campaign to Stop Silent Filibuster: The Communications Workers of America has recently launched an ad campaign to call on the Senate to eliminate the silent ‘filibuster’ in which a senator can anonymously block and kill legislation. The campaign began with cable TV ads “The U.S. Senate Is Broken But We Can Fix It” that run throughout the week of Jan. 14. The ad will also run during the Jan. 20, Sunday talk shows ABC’s This Week, CBS’s Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press. CWA will also run online ads, which highlight how the silent filibuster blocks important issues such as job creation, climate change and immigration reform.  

CWA, AFGE and the AFL-CIO support the filibuster reform proposal introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, which would require senators to actually stand and speak on the floor if they want to filibuster a bill. 

This Week’s Blog: Laura D’Andrea Tyson on why the unemployment rate is so high:

“During his first term, President Obama proposed several initiatives to reduce long-term unemployment, including more flexibility for states to use unemployment funds for training and placement programs, a tax credit to businesses to hire workers out of a job for more than six months, and an $8 billion fund to support training and job placement at community colleges. These programs failed to win Congressional approval, and they have dropped out of the debate as Washington’s focus has shifted from job creation to debt reduction.

The economic evidence is compelling. The high unemployment rate is the result of weak demand, not structural mismatches. And the longer workers are unemployed, the more their skills, contacts and links to the labor market atrophy, the less likely they are to find a job and the more likely they are to drop out of the labor force. As a result, what is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate and a permanent and costly decline in the economy’s potential output. That’s what the Federal Reserve is worried about. It’s too bad that more members of Congress don’t share this concern.”

Read the entire piece here.

Laura D’Andrea Tyson is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and served as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton.

This Week in Labor History: Jan. 15, 1929 - Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

This Week’s Tweet:  “White House unilaterally raises the (petition signature) ceiling: .” 
~ ‏@GDebenedetti

Hot on WWW: The Power of Selling Out: Your Customers As Political Capital (satire)

Hot on YouTube: Kido the Cat and his amazing shell game skills

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

Quote of the Week: Outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner urging lawmakers to pay the bills Congresses have already racked up:

“It must be understood that the nation’s creditworthiness is not a bargaining chip or a hostage that can be taken to advance any political agenda; it is an essential underpinning of our strength as a nation. Threatening to undermine our creditworthiness is no less irresponsible than threatening to undermine the rule of law, and no more legitimate than any other common demand for ransom.”

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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