The informational blog for Michael Meserve, Vice President, Western Region, Council of Prison Locals
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,”
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
“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:
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.”
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.”
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
“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!”
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.
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
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 FederalNewsRadio.com. For more information, please visit
InsideGovernmentRadio.com. 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.”
Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492 | www.afge.org