March 29, 2013AFGE Calls for Eliminating Furloughs for All Employees
AFGE Says DoD Reduction in Employee Furloughs Doesn't Go Far Enough: Responding to the Department of Defense's announcement that it will reduce the number of unpaid furloughs from 22 to 14 days, AFGE today said the Pentagon needs to eliminate furloughs entirely as the department's leaders have always had the flexibility to impose budget cuts from sequestration in any way they chose. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. on March 25 sent a letter to DoD urging the department to reconsider the furloughs. He appreciates that the Pentagon has partially heeded our message that furloughing civilian employees is damaging both to employees and the mission of the department. But the department keeps missing the rest of the story.
"They claim that the military mission is their number one priority, yet they continue to undermine that mission by forcing employees who actually support the warfighter to stay off the job for two full weeks," NP Cox said. "Meanwhile, the department's vast shadow workforce of service contractors continues to rack up huge profits at the expense of working class civilian employees."
NP Cox is calling for the elimination of furloughs for all employees.
BOP Not to Furlough Employees: Attorney General Eric Holder last week told Bureau of Prisons employees they will not be furloughed.
"Using my limited authorities to transfer and allocate existing funds from within the department, I provided $150 million to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to avoid furloughing correctional workers at our prison institutions," Holder said in a March 22 memo to Justice Department employees. "Absent this intervention, we faced the need to furlough 3,570 staff each day from the federal prisons around the country. The loss of these correctional officers and other staff who supervise the 176,000 prisoners at 119 institutions would have created serious threats to the lives and safety of our staff, inmates and the public."
But Holder cautioned that BOP is saved only through the end of this fiscal year in September as funding for next year is still uncertain. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. praised Holder's action and vowed to continue to pressure other agencies to do the same.
Senate Rejects Measure to Ban Automatic Union Dues Deduction: Efforts to take away workers' rights to belong to a union and the right to freedom of association failed in the Senate last week when a measure banning automatic deduction of union dues from federal employees' paychecks was shot down. The measure – introduced by staunch federal employee basher Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina – was rejected 43 to 56, largely along party lines. The measure was an amendment to the 2013 continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of the year. Automatic dues collection is important because it provides a reliable source of funds so that unions can effectively represent our members, be their voice and protect their rights. Without unions, workers can and will be disciplined or terminated at the whims and personal biases of managers. Morale will tank, which hurts the agency's mission.
"Scott and Co. have made it clear time and again that we, working people, are their enemies," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "They're using their national platform to declare war on us. They work hard every single day to destroy us. We need to remember that and respond in kind comes Election Day."
DoD Issues Guidance on Security Clearances and Furloughs: The Defense Department last week issued guidance to Defense security directors on how to handle the impact of furloughs on employees' security clearances. AFGE leaders had pointed out during negotiations that furloughed employees might not be able to pay bills and as a result could lose their clearances. In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the memo, DoD explains that there are many factors DoD considers before invoking clearances.
"Mitigating factors include whether or not the conditions that resulted in the concern were largely beyond the person's control and if the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances," the March 20 memo stated. "As a proactive measure, you may wish to contact your local Employee Assistance Program to see if financial counseling is available."
The memo went on, "When assessing the seriousness of financial issues, the cause of the debts and actions taken (or not taken) to pay debts are significant factors. Individuals should continue to pay their debts to the best of their ability and should remain contact with their creditors to make arrangements to pay their debts, even if this means delaying or reducing payments. You should also keep clear, written documentation of your financial situation, payments made and communications with your creditors so that you can provide this information if needed in assessing your clearance."
VA Hospital in Queens Cancels Plan to Outsource Laundry, Thanks to AFGE: The VA Medical Center in St. Albans, NY, had planned to outsource part of its laundry services to a contractor, but thanks to National VA Council 2nd District Rep and Local President Ena Thompson-Judd, the agency this week decided to scrap the plan. About 35 employees, 80% of whom are veterans, work at the hospital providing laundry services to seven VA facilities. The agency wanted to contract out laundry for one of the seven, which was exactly how other outsourcings began. The Local president immediately reached out to the AFGE National Office and we advised her it was illegal for them to do the direct conversion. The Local president subsequently informed the VISN 3 director that it was a violation of federal sourcing law to contract out the work. The director agreed to cancel the contract and told her that VA Central Office had confirmed that the outsourcing was illegal.
VA Claims Backlog Won't Shrink Unless Arbitrary Quotas and Staffing Issues Are Addressed: At a March 20 hearing of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, lawmakers and VA officials engaged in heated exchanges about the most effective way to reduce the VA's disability claims backlog and increase accuracy of claims determinations. Both lawmakers and officials from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) referenced recommendations from AFGE, the exclusive representative of VA employees processing veterans' disability benefits at regional offices across the country. In its written statement to the committee, AFGE focused on several critical workforce issues that are essential to the success of VBA Transformation, including an overhaul of arbitrary performance standards, an end to training shortcuts by management, and a new system for allocating resources to regional offices that supports, rather than punishes low performing offices.
"A huge barrier to processing claims in a timely fashion is the VA's practice of starving regional offices of the resources needed to get the job done," said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. "We have seen the agency send resources to other offices in order to boost numbers, or possibly to bring on more contractors; this needs to end. Federal employees within the VBA are dedicated to serving our veterans and making sure they receive the benefits they've earned. However, they cannot carry out their mission if the agency continues to play politics with valuable resources. Resource allocations should focus more on the demand for services by veterans in each community."
AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon Wins National Public Service Award: AFGE is thrilled that our very own Public Policy Director Jacque Simon is one of the winners of this year's prestigious National Public Service Awards. The awards, established by the American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration, are given to individuals who exhibit the highest standards of excellence, dedication and accomplishment at all levels of the public service.
Said AFGE Legislative Director Beth Moten, who nominated her for the award, "I have worked day in and day out with Ms. Simon in the past 23 years on every conceivable matter related to the financial wellbeing and job security of over 600,000 AFGE members. She is the consummate professional: she has a strong work ethic, a comprehensive mastery of the complex matters that comprise AFGE's legislative and policy portfolio, and a genuine respect and affection for the people who serve the national as public servants."
AFGE Sponsors 5K Race to Benefit Furloughed Feds, FEEA: AFGE is one of the sponsors for the upcoming Public Service 5K Run/Walk in Washington, D.C. The Public Employees Roundtable (PER) is kicking off this year's Public Service Recognition Week with a new event -- The Public Service 5K Run/Walk in Washington, DC. Local feds and their friends and families are encouraged to sign up for what promises to be a fun event in the newly renovated Anacostia Park. The race starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 5, and the $25 registration fee ($20 for feds/$15 for students) will benefit FEEA, a non-profit organization devoted to helping civilian federal and postal employees through scholarships and emergency assistance. This is a great way to support furloughed feds while having fun with friends and family. To register, click here.
National Labor College Now Offers Associate of Arts Degree: National Labor College (NLC) is now accredited to offer an Associate of Arts degree. An Associate of Arts degree is basically the first two years of college and will provide students with the foundation to succeed in NLC's bachelor's degree programs or at any other 4-year college or university. Applications for the Associate of Arts degree for the fall semester beginning September 3, 2013 will be available shortly. If you would like to be immediately notified when the applications are available, please click here.
In order to apply, union members, their families, and others must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Learn more about the Associate of Arts degree requirements here.
Hot on WWW: Worker Dies, Managers Refuse to Call 911: "It's just wrong, what happened. They were not thinking of him as a human being," said the 26-year-old son of Carlos Centeno, a temp worker who died three weeks after being showered with a 185-degree solution of water and citric acid inside a Raani Corp. Chicago factory which makes household and personal-care products. As Centeno screamed for help, managers refused to call an ambulance and the worker had to be taken to a clinic by a co-worker. By the time he was transferred from the clinic to a hospital, more than 98 minutes had passed since the accident took place and 80 percent of his body had been burned. He eventually died. But the factory bosses are blaming the worker for causing his own death, even though federal investigators later found several health and safety violations at the factory.
This Week's Member Benefit: AFGE members enjoy up to 25% in savings with rental car discounts from Union Plus and the discount car rental providers: Alamo Rent A Car, Avis Rent A Car, Budget Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz Rental Car and National Car Rental. Whether it's a car, van, SUV or truck rental, working families can get good rental car deals and drive in style for less. Discount rental car rates and savings vary depending on the type of car or vehicle, time of year, location and length of car rental reservation. Visit AFGE's member benefits page for more details.
This Week in Labor History: March 31, 1933 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months.
This Week's Tweet: "Dick Cheney places wreath on Tomb of the Unknown WMD: http://bit.ly/13883iE" ~ @BorowitzReport
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE's Inside Government for the union's latest efforts to fight sequestration. The show, which originally aired on Friday, March 29, is now available on demand.
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.
- AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. detailed the union's continuing fight against sequestration on behalf of federal employees. Cox also discussed the dangerous consequences of understaffing in the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Veterans Affairs as well as AFGE's response to a Transportation Security Administration policy change that would allow small knives on airplanes.
- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale then responded to initiatives in Pennsylvania to privatize various government services.
- Lastly, AFGE National Border Patrol Council Vice President Shawn Moran addressed sequestration's impact on border security and Border Patrol agents.
Quote of the Week: AFGE National President J. David Cox on furloughs at DoD.
"They claim that the military mission is their number one priority, yet they continue to undermine that mission by forcing employees who actually support the warfighter to stay off the job for two full weeks. Meanwhile, the department's vast shadow workforce of service contractors continues to rack up huge profits at the expense of working class civilian employees."
American 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
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