Friday, January 25, 2013

AFGE Week in Review – Jan. 25, 2013

Jan. 25, 2013

House Postpones Pay Freeze Vote: The House this week postponed a vote scheduled to take place Jan. 23 to extend the pay freeze for federal employees until the end of 2013. AFGE expects the House to take up the pay freeze issue again soon, but we thank our members who made hundreds of phone calls to their representatives urging them to oppose the pay freeze extension bill. Your calls made a difference. AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten also wrote to members of Congress last week to voice our strong opposition to H.R. 273, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The bill was an unfair attack on federal employees.

“This vote is about whether the working and middle class Americans who take care of our veterans, who guard our borders, who maintain our military’s hardware, and who keep our environment and our workplaces safe and healthy should receive a belated and modest 0.5% pay increase after a freeze of more than two years,” Moten wrote. “It’s time for Congress to reduce federal spending by finally requiring service contractors to make sacrifices.”

Since 1998, the compensation cap on government contracts has more than doubled. While federal employees were under a pay freeze last year, federal contractors received a 10% raise. Defense contractors can now charge taxpayers annually up to $763,029 for the compensation of a single employee. In non-DoD agencies, only the five most highly compensated executives at each contractor are held to this cap. Other contractor employees can be and are frequently reimbursed by taxpayers for more than $763,000. 

House Extends Debt Limit: House lawmakers knew that the debt ceiling would need to be raised so that the government could pay the bills that Congresses and administrations have racked up. But because they had spread misinformation about how bad it would be to raise the debt limit and had used it as a political weapon to force even more devastating cuts to government services, the lawmakers would have to come up with a way to allow more borrowing without actually raising the current $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. And so on Wednesday they approved a measure that would ignore the debt limit altogether, thereby sparing themselves from having to vote to raise it but at the same time allowing the government to pay its bills through May 18. And now they’re turning their attention to another manufactured crisis – government spending.

Even though lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke against the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, more people are now inclined to let the dangerous and irresponsible cuts take effect as they try to appease the misguided tea-party extremists.

“I think it should,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn said when asked if he believed sequestration would take effect in March. “It’s the one sure cuts we know we can bank.”

“I certainly do not want the sequester to go away. Or at least, let me put it this way, the amount of reductions that are in sequester I do not want to go away,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

It’s important to note that sequestration came into existence because of a made-up crisis. Congress in 2011 passed the law that triggered the $1.2 trillion sequestration after the right wing took the economy hostage and threatened to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, just like they did this year. And now they are demanding that the country accept either sequestration or cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It’s curious that they are not demanding that the tax loopholes that allow so many U.S. corporations to get away with paying nothing in taxes be closed. In fact, the fiscal cliff deal reached earlier this month didn’t raise enough revenue and didn’t make big corporations pay more in taxes.

NP Cox Receives ‘At the River I Stand’ Award: As hundreds of workers and civil right activists gathered in Philadelphia for the annual AFL-CIO Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance last weekend, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. received the ‘At the River I Stand’ award for his dedication and commitment to improving the lives of workers throughout his lifetime. At the River I Stand is an award given to a national leader who has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and workers’ rights. The award is named in honor of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers who stood at their “river” and made the decision to stand against unsafe working conditions and racial discrimination and for the freedom to form a union.

In accepting the award, NP Cox reflected on growing up in segregated, anti-union North Carolina, choosing to find ways to unite, not divide, to lift everyone up, not bring them down.

“I came to see service, and public service in particular, as one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to bridge our gaps, heal our wounds, lift up working families and fulfill the promise of our nation,” NP Cox said. “As Dr. King said and I quote: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Sisters and brothers, serving others is indeed the highest calling we can aspire to. That’s why I went to work at the VA as a registered nurse to serve those who sacrificed for our country in Vietnam and other wars. That’s why I became active in AFGE to serve our hard-working members and why I do everything I can to organize and make our union stronger.”

DFAS, Air Force Materiel Command Announce Hiring Freezes, Spending Cuts: Defense Finance and Accounting Service Director Terri McKay has ordered significant hiring restrictions along with reductions in travel and overtime as well as other cuts beginning Jan. 27, 2013. The measure is in response to possible sequestration or if the continuing resolution expires.

“Currently, Pentagon leadership discussions are considering what additional actions such as furlough will have to be taken in such a worst-case situation,” McKay said in an email.
Air Force Materiel Command Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger issued a directive Jan. 24 calling for an immediate freeze to civilian hiring and other budget cutting measures. All temporary duty travel that is not mission critical will be cancelled.

The Army, Air Force and Navy each have issued memorandums ordering an immediate freeze on civilian hiring and other cutbacks to address lingering budget uncertainties. The Defense Logistics Agency, meanwhile, has put employees on notice that they may be furloughed for up to 22 days because of the budget crisis. The memos follow a directive issued Jan. 10 by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter authorizing the services and defense agencies to take various steps to help the Pentagon address ongoing budget challenges stemming from the continuing resolution and potential for severe cuts due to sequestration. The Pentagon directive allowed the services and defense agencies to freeze civilian hiring, reduce base operating funding and curtail a range of spending in such areas as facilities maintenance, travel, training, conferences and administrative expenses.

Union Plus Scholarship Deadline is Jan. 31: You still have time to apply for 2013 Union Plus Scholarships. Apply online before 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday, January 31, 2013. For the past 20 years, Union Plus has awarded union members and their children over $3.2 million to help make college affordable. These are scholarships of $500 to $4,000 that do not require repayment.

This Week in Labor History: Jan. 26, 2009 – A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what has become known as the Great Recession.

This Week’s Tweet: “Pelosi says she will attend Super Bowl and only the Harbaugh parents have a tougher divide than her.” ~ @LukeRussert

Hot on YouTube: Piano stairs and the fun theory. By making it fun to use the stairs, 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator. 

Inside Government:  Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for a preview of the union’s 2013 Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Jan. 25, is now available on demand. AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten discussed the event, which will be held Feb. 10 – 13 in Washington, D.C., and key legislative wins as a result of the union’s grassroots mobilization efforts. AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Dale Deshotel then discussed the overcrowding and underfunding crisis in the Bureau of Prisons and the community safety risks associated with understaffing. Lastly, AFGE National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals PresidentWitold Skwierczynski addressed the council’s efforts to resolve outstanding articles in its collective bargaining agreement with the Social Security Administration. Skwierczynski also discussed the union’s preferences on who should become the next SSA commissioner.

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: Rep. Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is rooting for the sequestration axe to fall on federal employees:

“With all due respect to people who want to save federal employees, the fact is that making cuts in the number of employees is what we should be doing.”

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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