Friday, February 8, 2013

AFGE Week in Review – Lawmakers Name Programs Expected to Get Hit under Sequestration

Feb. 8, 2013

Lawmakers Name Programs Expected to Get Hit under Sequestration: Members of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday issued a primary report detailing government programs that would get hit if the $85 billion across-the-board-cut for fiscal 2013 were to take effect on March 1. As lawmakers still disagree on whether or how to avert the automatic spending cuts, the likely results are as follows:

  • Food Safety: USDA would furlough federal meat and poultry inspectors for weeks (6,000 to be furloughed, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). Slaughterhouses and processing plants would be forced to shut down or operate fewer hours as they cannot operate without inspectors.
  • U.S. Coast Guard: The agency’s operations would be reduced by 25%, jeopardizing the safety of the country’s water ways.

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Border Patrol agents and CBP officers would be furloughed for up to two weeks, jeopardizing the security of the nation’s points of entry.

  • Law enforcement/BOP: About 1,300 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers and 1,000 federal law enforcement agents would be furloughed, endangering everyone in the communities.

  • Air Traffic Control: 4,000 FAA employees would be furloughed, resulting in delays and economic losses.

  • Medical research: More than $1.6 billion would be cut from the National Institutes of Health’s research projects aimed at finding treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes.

  • Disaster relief: More than $1 billion would be cut from FEMA’s disaster relief fund. Sandy assistance that has been approved would be cut by an additional $1.9 billion.

  • Maternal and child care: Head Start and Early Head Start would drop 70,000 children. Up to 30,000 working parents would lose child care services. More than 600,000 poor children would be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Program, which would see a $353 million cut in funding.

  • Embassy security: U.S. diplomats and embassies around the world would be less safe as they would face $168 million in cuts.

  • Military operations: DoD’s operating budgets would be reduced by 20%, hurting the military’s operations and readiness. The department would also have to delay payment to TRICARE providers as its health program is facing cuts of $3 billion. 

“This across-the-board cut will slow economic growth and job creation while cutting services and investments critical to the American people,” House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey and her colleagues said in the statement. “Sequestration comes on top of $1.5 trillion in discretionary cuts already enacted, the single largest cause of the economic contraction in the 4th quarter of 2012.”

Anti-Job Lawmakers Push Bill to Cut Federal Workforce to Avoid Sequestration: Lawmakers in the House and Senate this week introduce a bill that would require federal agencies to hire only one employee for every three who leave the government as a way to avoid sequestration. The 2013 Down Payment to Protect National Security Act, which also calls for a 10 % cut in the federal workforce through attrition, would worsen the country’s unemployment, fatten defense contractor cronies, and unfairly put a burden on workers who have to shoulder more workload. Federal employees are once again being used to pay for a made-up crisis.

The bill was introduced in the House by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California. The Senate version was put forth by Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. At a press conference where they introduced the bill, McKeon and Ayotte were joined by a few other anti-job lawmakers including Sen. John McCain, who authored separate legislation that has since become law and required DoD to cut thousands of civilian jobs.

Contrary to the lawmakers’ false claims, the federal governments overall workforce, particularly in DoD, consists mostly of more expensive contractors. Over the last decade, DoD spending for service contracts has more than doubled, from $72 billion in fiscal year 2000 to more than $150 billion (not including spending for overseas contingency operations), while the size of the department’s civilian workforce has remained essentially unchanged.

“If members of Congress want to reduce DoD, they should take on their weapons contractors cronies by reforming how we buy their products, reduce excessive layers of management bureaucracy, cap at $200,000 annually taxpayer subsidies to contractor compensation, and substitute reliable and experienced federal employees for ruinously costly contractors,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “If lawmakers want to end sequestration, they should work together and with the president on revenue-raising offsets.”

AFGE Seeks to Testify on Sequestration’s Effects on Federal Employees: AFGE has requested to testify on the impact of the irresponsible across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, on federal employees during a Feb. 12 hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The voice of federal employees has been too infrequently heard in discussions about how the department will adjust to new geopolitical and budgetary realities, which make significant downsizing inevitable,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. in a Feb. 5 letter to committee chairman Carl Levin. “The result is bad law and bad policy, which impose uniquely arbitrary constraints on the size and abilities of civilian employees, thus increasing costs to taxpayers at precisely the time the department must maximize the value of its precious dollars.”

NP Cox laid out issues he would like to discuss at the hearing: arbitrary downsizing of the civilian workforce; excessive spending on service contractors; possible illegal civilian-to-contractor conversions; extensive furloughs that equal a 20% pay cut for nearly every single civilian employee; expensive civilian-to-military conversions; additional arbitrary 5% cut in the civilian workforce; and excessive taxpayers-funded contractor paychecks.

More Feds Retire in 2012 Than Previous Years: 2012 saw the largest exodus of federal employees from the civil service in years. As some lawmakers continue to force deep government spending cuts based on manufactured crises yet resulting in real hardship for federal employees – pay freezes, hiring freezes, cuts in retirement benefits – federal employees have had enough and decided to leave the civil service in droves.  At the end of 2012, 106,550 federal employees put in their retirement papers, compared with 104,810 in 2011 and 84,427 in 2010.

“Attacking federal employees is not the way to recruit and retain the best and brightest,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “Yet some members of Congress continue to scapegoat federal employees, cut their pay and eliminate their jobs to fund tax breaks for big corporations. If this is not an outrage, I don’t know what is.” 

AFGE Blasts OMB for Targeting Feds and Not Contractors: In response to a memo issued this week by the Office of Management and Budget that targets federal employees in the event of sequestration, AFGE J. David Cox Sr. said OMB has served up a buffet of cuts for agencies to make to the federal workforce while giving service contractors a free pass.

“With respect to civilian workers, it seems that everything is on the table: hiring freezes, furloughs, terminating temporary or term employees and encouraging our most seasoned workers to separate or retire,” NP Cox said. “Yet OMB still hasn't given agencies any useful or explicit guidance for reducing spending on service contracts. According to this latest memo, OMB is still examining contracts, grants and other expenditures to determine where spending reductions might be made.”

Cox said the Defense Department has already ordered the services and defense agencies to freeze civilian hiring and curtail a range of spending on administrative expenses, and AFGE fully expects other federal agencies to take similar steps. But OMB hasn’t ordered any companion cuts on the contractor side of the house, such as a freeze on new service contracts, freezing the exercise of contract options and freezing approval of contract modifications.

AFGE to Hold Annual Legislative Conference and Your Attendance Is Crucial: AFGE is holding our annual Legislative Conference on Feb. 10-13 in Washington, D.C. and your attendance is critical in our fight against attacks on your pay, benefits and pensions. Besides various workshops on important workforce issues, we will march on Capitol Hill and hold lawmakers responsible for their vote to eliminate your job and cut your pay. It’s your chance to let your representatives know it’s not okay to scapegoat federal employees.

Also at the Conference: The Women’s and Fair Practices Departments will be holding an AFGE Pride meeting for the first time. AFGE Pride is a new national program that is designed to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender membership as well as their allies and to educate all of AFGE on the issues facing this community within AFGE and the Labor Movement. The AFGE Pride Meeting will be held on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 6-8 pm.

AFGE will again be hosting Y.O.U.N.G. AFGE (Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation) events at the 2013 conference. There will be a Y.O.U.N.G. meeting held on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 5-7:30 pm. We will discuss how to effectively build a mentoring program to encourage political and legislative action among young federal and D.C. government workers. The meeting will be followed by a happy hour at 8:30 pm.

New Poll Shows Voters Want Higher Taxes for Richest 2%, Big Corporations: As Congress and the administration are drafting budget proposals that will affect everyone in America for decades to come, two in three Americans told pollers they want the richest 2 % and large corporations to pay more in taxes. The new national poll by Hart Research shows that 66 % of voters want the top 2 % to pay more in taxes while 64 % want big corporations to pay more. Fully 73 % of voters disapprove of allowing corporations to not pay any U.S. taxes on profits they earn overseas.

Sixty six percent of voters want to use the tax revenue raised from closing tax loop holes and limiting deductions for the rich to reduce the deficit and invest in jobs, roads, bridges, schools. A majority of voters also reject by 54% to 38% a cuts-only approach for dealing with the deficit.

“This poll shows voters are clear about what they want from Congress: Make sure the next budget agreement raises a lot more tax revenue from wealthy Americans and big corporations by closing tax loopholes and special-interest tax breaks. And do not use those savings to lower the tax rates of the richest 2 percent and big corporations,” said Frank Clemente, campaign manager of Americans for Tax Fairness which commissioned the survey.

6,000 Food Inspectors Could Be Furloughed If Sequestration Hits: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters this week that the across-the-board cuts could force the USDA to “furlough over 6,000 food inspectors for two to three weeks.” This would lead to chaos in the meat industry and higher rates of food-borne illnesses and diseases especially in children, pregnant women, older people and those with weak immune systems.

USDA is responsible for the safety of domestic and imported meat, poultry, and egg products. It has about 8,400 employees inspecting 6,300 slaughtered houses and processing plants across the country.

AFGE Local President Testifies before Congress Despite Threat of Retaliation: AFGE Local 2028 President Kathleen Dahl on Tuesday came to Washington to testify
on the Legionaires’ outbreak at a VA medical center in Pittsburgh even though management had suggested she could ‘get sick’ in order to keep from testifying. The outbreak of the Legionaires’ disease has killed five veterans of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System since 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Speaking before the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Dahl said she became aware of the outbreak of the disease on Nov. 16 but quickly realized that management might have learned about the outbreak much earlier than the union and employees were notified. As a result, preventive measures such as bottled water for patients and staff, and masks and other personal protective equipment for plumbing staff were not provided in a timely manner, violating OSHA requirements and VA policy. Upon learning of the outbreak, her Local immediately sprang into high gear to make sure that all employees were notified and encouraged to get tested by Employee Health and to ensure that management took steps to protect the plumbing staff and help front line nurses and other clinicians care for their patients under difficult water restriction conditions. Local 2028 also met with management a few days later to raise concerns over the delayed notification to the union and employees as well as management’s failure to link Legionella with employees diagnosed with pneumonia or exhibiting other respiratory symptoms.

“I also asked [Chief of Staff] Sonel why management had not surveyed employees over recent absences and illnesses as required by OSHA. His reply was troubling and dismissive. He stated that employees were more likely to be exposed to Legionella in their own homes,” Dahl told lawmakers.

VISN 4 Network Director Michael Moreland admitted at the hearing that he knew about the problem in the fall of 2011, which is more than a year before he informed staff about the outbreak.

Rep. Mike Coffman, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was outraged at VA’s ‘culture of complacency’.

“VA officials admitted under questioning that these deaths were preventable, and as testimony today from witnesses inside and outside VA made clear, it was a culture of complacency within VA at multiple levels that was the culprit,” he said.

Coffman added that the subcommittee had requested the testimonies of VA officials directly involved in handling the outbreak, but VA refused to make them available.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. praised Dahl for her courage to bring to Congress’ attention VA’s mismanagement on the issue.

“Our members risk intimidation and retaliation when testifying before Congress or speaking to the media, but the union is here to protect them every step of the way,” NP Cox said. AFGE is currently fighting for whistleblower protections for a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist at the Wilmington, Del. VA facility who continues to face intense retaliation for testifying before Congress about mismanagement and lack of mental health care access for vets.

AFGE 2012 ‘Heck of a job’ Award: The award goes to VA’s VISN 4 Network Director Michael Moreland who admitted that he knew about the Legionaires’ problem at a VA hospital in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2011 but did not inform staff or patients until November 2012. Five veterans have died of the disease. 

This Week in Labor History: Feb. 5, 1993 - President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency.

This Week’s Tweet: “This was the tweet in question he fired his spokesman over. He deleted it 14 seconds later.”  ~@BuzzFeedAndrew
(Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho fired his spokesman Phil Hardy for tweeting 'Me Likey Broke Girls' from the congressman’s account during the Super Bowl)

Inside Government: Tune in now
to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for highlights from the Families USA Health Action 2013 Conference. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Feb. 8, is now available on demand. Common Cause President and CEO and former Rep. Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania discussed efforts to reform the Senate filibuster and the need to balance the budget, reform the tax code, and invest in infrastructure. Bob Weiner, former spokesman in the Clinton White House, then analyzed the recent GDP decline and important provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Newsweek and The Daily Beast contributor Eleanor Clift also addressed the future of health care reform and its implementation at the state level. Lastly, Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack detailed Medicaid’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act and the role of insurance companies going forward.

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: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on sequestration:

“If Congress stands back and allows sequester to take place, I think it would really be a shameful and irresponsible act.”

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492 |

No comments:

Post a Comment