Friday, February 15, 2013

AFGE Week in Review – House Lawmakers Vote to Deny Pay Raise for Federal Employees in 2013

Feb. 15, 2013
House Lawmakers Vote to Deny Pay Raise for Federal Employees in 2013: In another shameful display of disdain for workers who keep this country moving, the House of Representatives on Friday passed H.R. 273, a bill that would extend the pay freeze for federal employees for the rest of 2013. The pay freeze, which has been in effect since 2011, is scheduled to end in March. The 261-154 vote was largely along party lines.

“These lawmakers are not interested in creating jobs. They’re more interested in destroying jobs,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “And they have no shame in robbing the middle class so that their wealthy buddies can get a tax break.”

The Senate is not expected to pass a similar bill, but it’s still unclear whether the pay freeze language will appear in appropriations bills after the short-term continuing resolution expires March 27.
The White House issued a statement Wednesday night opposing the bill, arguing that federal employees have been subjected to a pay freeze since 2011. President Barack Obama has called for a 0.5% pay raise for feds for the remainder of 2013. He also proposed a 1% raise starting 2014.

“Federal civilian employees are central to the federal government’s success in serving the American people,” the statement said. “They assure the safety of this country’s food and airways, defend the homeland, provide health care to the nation’s veterans, search for cures to devastating diseases, and provide vital support to our troops at home and abroad.”

Our Future Is on the Line and Everyone Needs to Step Up: That’s the take home message for hundreds of AFGE leaders and members who gathered in Washington, D.C. for the union’s annual legislative conference on Feb. 10-13. As many in Congress have declared war on federal employees by cutting their pay and threatening their jobs, it’s up to every AFGE member to take on the job killers and let them know we’re not going to sit back and take the assaults. AFGE has more than 280,000 members across the country, but when we send out an action alert, only about 10 percent of the recipients respond.

“Our future doesn’t depend on me, President Cox or NST Hudson. It depends on you,” National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Thomas told the crowd.

“Our future is on the line,” said AFGE National Secretary Treasurer Eugene Hudson. “It’s time to rise to the occasion.”

And the time is now. As agencies are bracing themselves for the automatic across-the-board cuts scheduled to take place in March, federal employees are facing unpaid furloughs of 22 days, which equals a 20% pay cut, not to mention a third year of pay freeze, which will reduce their retirement income. Congress has so far robbed $122 billion from your pay and benefits so that big corporations can continue to get their tax breaks. These corporations and service contractors are not being asked to contribute a dime. It’s outrageous that federal employees are being punished for something they didn’t cause.

“Did federal pay raises cause Wall Street to go bankrupt and led to the financial crisis? AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. asked. “No! We need to stop the sequestration madness now!”

“We are a heavy-duty, all-purpose, scapegoat punching bag,” AFGE Legislative Representative John Threlkeld observed. “They don’t think our jobs are important. When they talk about no cuts to DoD, they talk about weapon contractors for the most part, not us.”

National Vice President for District 11 Gerald Swanke, who chairs AFGE’s Legislative Committee, said we need to better educate the public about the impact of federal employees’ jobs on every American and how cuts to, say, Border Patrol or Bureau of Prisons budgets are essentially attacks on national security.

“We need to get the public to care,” he said. “Unless we do that, Congress won’t care.”

Plan of Attack: NP Cox laid out a three-part plan of attack at the conference. He asked every AFGE member to see their lawmakers, explain to them what they do exactly – not “I’m a federal employee” but more like “I’m protecting you and our community from criminals; I’m protecting our borders; I won’t let people hijack the planes – and ask them to stop the cuts that would hurt everyone in America. NP Cox asked members to push for cuts from service contractors, who make hundreds of million doing the same work federal employees do but costing twice as much. Members should also fight at the bargaining table. If agencies want to furlough federal employees, make it the most painful for them; everybody needs to share the pain equally.

Cutting Service Contracts Could Yield 70-90% Savings under Sequestration: To come up with $85 billion this year, sequestration guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department has focused excessively on reducing federal employee costs —through firing of temps and terms, freezing hiring, incentivizing retirement, and planning for furloughs so aggressively that hundreds of thousands of federal employees could see their income reduced by 20%. It shouldn’t be that way, considering the huge workforce of service contractors who are doing the same jobs federal employees are doing but costing twice as much. The Defense Department alone spent almost $200 billion on service contracts in 2011.

Most managers want to cut back on service contracts but fear legal consequences. But according to Charles Tiefer, a leading expert in government contract law and University of Baltimore Law School professor, government contracting law provides managers with all the tools they need to reduce spending on service contracts. Agencies can generate between 70% and 90% of the savings required under sequestration by reducing their substantial spending on service contracts. Here are the four options managers should consider:
  • Pauses of task orders: An agency has complete discretion to decide not to award new task orders provided that minimum order quantities have already been acquired.
  • Partial terminations: Agencies have complete discretion to reduce current contracts and task orders through partial terminations for convenience of the government. For example, an agency may partially terminate a weekly janitorial contract so that services are rendered only in two of every three weeks, effectively terminating one-third of the contract.
  • Deductive changes: Or minor reductions. There are no hard or fast rules, but deletions of more than 20% of the work scope will likely be considered partial terminations while deletions of less than 10% will likely be considered deductive changes. The method of calculating a price adjustment differs between deductive changes and partial terminations. It also shifts under varying circumstances.
  • Bilateral modifications: Contracting officers and program managers have far more power than they realize. Instead of being subjected to involuntary partial terminations or deductive changes, most contractors would voluntarily agree to bilateral modifications for reductions, particularly if they can help to plan new arrangements.
You can read Professor Tiefer’s entire paper here. You are also encouraged to talk to management about these tools that are available under the law.

Tired of Being Hunted? Become the Hunter: AFGE Political Director Bob Nicklas said our success depends on the 282,000 AFGE members across the country. What we do makes a difference. For example, AFGE helped re-elected President Barack Obama. We also helped elect or re-elect pro-worker candidates, notably Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Tim Kaine (Virginia); Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin); Jon Tester (Montana); Chris Murphy (Connecticut); Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota); Joe Donnelly (Indiana); and Martin Heinrich (New Mexico).

Labor efforts in 2012 increased the pro-working family majority in the senate by five senators. But we are also facing an unprecedented attack over the last two years from many in Congress who are bankrolled by anti-union corporations. Besides the pay freeze extension, requiring feds to contribute more to their pension, a 10% cut to the federal workforce, elimination of official time, there’s legislation that has been introduced in the House and Senate to take away payroll deductions of union dues for federal employees.

“If that happens, we are gone,” Nicklas said. “It happened in Indiana and the public employee unions, the biggest of which is Lee Saunders’ AFSCME, have been decimated in terms of their union membership.”

Nicklas said AFGE can’t win this fight alone. We need to reach out to our allies such as central labor councils, state federation of labor, other unions, community organizations that rely on what we do and bring them up to speed on our issues and how we can work together to address them. We also need to make grassroots mobilization a priority. In March, AFGE plans to hold actions in all 435 congressional districts to call for an end to sequestration. Our goal is to put a human face on what we do, who we are and what the cuts would mean for families across the country.

“If you’re tired of lawmakers insulting you, if you’re tired of sacrificing which you have over the past two years, if you’re tired of being threatened with shutdowns and furloughs and lawmakers who won’t tax the rich and big corporations but will cut the hell out of federal budgets and the services we deliver, if you’re tired of that there’s a course of action. The wolf is at our door, right? Become the wolf. If you’re tired of being hunted, become the hunter.”

Don’t Negotiate with Hostage Takers: AFGE Legislative Director Beth Moten said federal employees are under attack today because of a manufactured crisis. No group of middle-class Americans has been asked to financially contribute the way federal employees have – $122 billion. As the economy is still broken, she said Congress needs to focus on jobs, not the deficit, debt ceiling or national debt. They need to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and education, raising wages, and increasing economic security for workers.

“Don’t negotiate with hostage takers,” she said. “There should be no negotiation – period – about whether to cause a default of the U.S. government.”
But if Congress wants to address the deficit, it should close tax loopholes for Wall Street, drug companies, and the richest 2% of Americans.

It’s Up to Us to Fix That: Speaking at the AFGE Legislative Conference on Sunday, Feb. 10, AFSCME President Lee Saunders expressed outrage over attempts to weaken unions at both state and federal levels, which have led to a decline in union membership and the race to the bottom. The right-to-work-for-less laws, for example, have been implemented in many states, including Michigan where the trade union was born.

“It’s up to us to fix that,” he said. “We’ve got to look very closely at ourselves, what we need to do to change, to think outside that box to push the movement and energize people.”

At the national level, Saunders singled out House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and a few others for wanting to silence unions for good as we have shone the spotlight on their connection with billionaires such as the Koch brothers. Saunders said we need leaders who respect workers and their unions, leaders who work with us and not against us.

“We’re sick and tired of friends who come to us during elections, stand with us behind closed doors but kick us to the curb in front of the cameras,” Saunders said.

Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere: Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., NST Eugene Hudson urged AFGE members to join private sector workers in the fight against right-to-work-for-less laws that are killing union jobs and the unions themselves.

“We must be right there in their trenches,” he said. “Solidarity is something we need to practice every day.”

Federal Employees Are the Best Deal in Town: It was Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s first appearance at an AFGE legislative conference, but the congresswoman from Hawaii wowed everyone with her deep understanding of unions, federal employees and the issues we are facing. The following are some of her most memorable quotes:

“Federal employees have been the topic of debate more than you should have been. Every time there’s a need for cuts, Congress expects federal employees to bear the brunt of that impact. I cannot support the balancing of the budget any more on your backs.”

“I agree that we need to ensure that we continue to pay the federal government’s bills responsibly, but the mandates that limit federal hiring and reduce benefits for federal employees are not the way to achieve a balanced budget. The current approach ignores the specific needs that we have from our federal workforce.”

“Let’s put everything in context. The federal government is the smallest it’s been in 60 years. The number of federal employees for 1,000 Americans has shrunk from 13 and 1,000 in 1962 to around 8 and 1,000 today. These are employees who go to work every day defending America from terrorists, tracking down and prosecuting child predators, maintaining infrastructure that our economy relies upon. But turning you, civil servants, into a political punching bag is a disservice not only to you but to the society and the American people.”

“The A-76 [outsourcing] process is flawed…Their objective is one thing: they want to reduce the size of the government.”

“Federal employees are the best deal in town. We get so much from you.”

“Congress should focus on making the government the employer of choice. We need the best and the brightest.”

2,000 AFGE, AFSCME Members Rally on Capitol Hill: About 2,000 government workers gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday with one simple message for Congress – Jobs, Not Cuts. As half of Congress appears to be willing to allow the irresponsible across-the-board cuts to happen, federal, state and local government employees who are AFGE and AFSCME members came to Washington to explain how the cuts would devastate America.

“Without inspectors, meat processing plants will be shut down,” said Trent Berhow, a USDA inspector and a member of AFGE from St. Joseph, Mo. Sequestration could force his agency to furlough 6,000 food inspectors for two to three weeks. “Consumers would experience limited meat, poultry and egg product supplies, higher prices, and food safety will be compromised. I am here today with you, my brothers and sisters, to send a message to Congress: End this sequestration madness now!”

Pam Baca, a Social Security Administration employee from Trinidad, CO, and an AFGE member, said 47 SSA offices have been closed in the past 18 months. The agency has also closed all 300 contact stations and has cut services by one hour four days a week. As of January this year, SSA offices close at noon on Wednesdays. If sequestration goes into effect, it’s going to hurt seniors and the disabled even more.

Mishell Warner, an AFSCME member and nurse from Miami, said many of her patients rely on life saving care through Medicare and Medicaid. Her own son was born prematurely with a heart condition, but because of Medicaid, he now lives a happy life.

“Congress can see the wealthy 2% but everyone else is invisible to them,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said. “We will not be invisible! We're the ones who make this nation great! We need leaders that respect workers and their unions!”

“One point five million jobs will be lost. We need to end sequestration madness right now!” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said sequestration is nothing but a word that hides a very bad idea that we can cut our way to prosperity.

“Our leaders have a choice,” he said. “They can either choose us and jobs or unemployment lines.”

Obama Proposes Raising Minimum Wage to $9: In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night,

President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 and indexing it to automatically rise with the cost of living. He said a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year, and it’s wrong that a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” the president said. “This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.”

Americans have overwhelmingly supported raising the minimum wage. A national poll conducted last year found 73 percent of likely voters support increasing the minimum wage to $10 and indexing it to inflation.

This Week in Labor History: Feb. 11, 2011: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announces he will call out the National Guard, if necessary, to deal with any "unrest" among state employees in the wake of his decision to unilaterally end nearly all collective bargaining rights for the workers.

Hot on WWW: Watch Dr. Michelle Washington, an AFGE member, discuss on CBS how she has been punished for speaking out. AFGE is currently fighting for whistleblower protections for the post-traumatic stress disorder specialist who continues to face intense retaliation for testifying before Congress about mismanagement and lack of mental health care access for vets.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for a special presentation from the union’s Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Feb. 15, is now available on demand. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii) detailed federal employees’ value as the government’s best investment and the long-term consequences of freezing federal pay. Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, addressed the importance of union organizing and why unions are needed now more than ever. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders then detailed the need for workers to voice their concerns to Congress, while Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe shared his vision to improve transportation systems and education in Virginia. Lastly, union members from across the country joined Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. and others on Capitol Hill at AFGE’s joint rally for jobs with AFSCME.

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: At the AFGE Legislative Conference on Monday, Feb. 11, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said one thing about federal employees that people rarely think of:

“Most public employees work in jobs where perfect performance is expected, and they get attention only when something goes wrong.”

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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