The informational blog for Michael Meserve, Vice President, Western Region, Council of Prison Locals
Saturday, March 9, 2013
AFGE Week in Review - March 8, 2013
March 8, 2013
House Lawmakers Vote to Cancel 0.5% Raise for Federal Employees: Destroying jobs and attacking federal employees, nearly half of whom are veterans, must be the House of Representatives’ specialty as it just passed a bill that would deny these employees the measly 0.5% pay raise that was proposed by the Obama administration and was supposed to take effect next month. The $982 billion spending bill funds the government at last year’s levels for the rest of fiscal 2013. But instead of cancelling the job-killing sequestration cuts that will hurt everyone in America, the bill makes the funding subject to sequestration. This means hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be forced to take a pay cut of 20% because of the unpaid furloughs.
21,000 Petitions from AFGE Members Sent to House Speaker Boehner: More than 21,000 AFGE members from across the country signed a petition demanding that Congress stop holding working families hostage. Online petition signatures were sent to House Speaker John Boehner last Friday, the day the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration took effect. We shipped physical signatures to his office this week. The petition specifically asked Boehner and Congress to cancel the devastating cuts, oppose cuts to federal employee pay, health insurance and retirement, oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, close tax loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2%, and cap outrageous compensation for government contractors.
Role of AFGE during Sequestration: Don’t miss this excellent interview of AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon on C-SPAN's national call-in program, "Washington Journal". Simon discussed sequestration and the role of AFGE during this sequestration period. She also debunked several misconceptions about federal employees, unions, and social safety net programs.
The show aired live on Monday, Mar. 4, but you can watch it here.
Senators Urge Senate Appropriations Panel to Cap Taxpayer Subsidies for Contractor Compensation: Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia this week urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to use the fiscal 2013 funding measure to lower the obscenely high cap on taxpayer subsidies to compensation for contractors.
“Most Americans would be shocked to know that under current law, government contractor employees can charge taxpayers $763,029 per year for salary reimbursements,” the bipartisan trio wrote to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and Ranking Member Richard Shelby. “The current compensation limit has more than doubled since 2000 and has grown more than 55 percent faster than the rate of inflation. The maximum amount of taxpayer dollars being paid to reimburse contractor employees for salaries not only increased more than $70,000 from the previous year’s limit, it is now nearly double the salary earned by the President of the United States.”
NP Cox Calls on Agencies to Adopt Pentagon’s Insourcing Process: In a testimony before a public meeting conducted by the Office of Management and Budget on the need to finally develop a methodology that would allow agencies to insource in order to save money, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. called on federal agencies to adopt the Defense Department’s process for cost-based insourcing which Pentagon officials acknowledge has led to significant savings. NP Cox said agencies also need to put an end to an arbitrary cap on the size of the civilian workforce as reducing the number of federal employees without reducing the workload will only lead to the use of expensive contractors, which should be used for short-term work only. Work that must be done by federal employees because it’s so important or sensitive should not be subject to a cost comparison.
AFGE Calls for Increased Staffing, Pepper Spray Use Throughout Bureau of Prisons: AFGE and its Council of Prison Locals this week called on the Obama administration, Congress and the Bureau of Prisons to immediately increase the bureau’s staffing and expand the use of pepper spray for correctional officers in order to protect staff from a dangerous spike in violence throughout the federal prison system. The call for action comes as the union mourns the loss of a correctional officer killed in the line of duty. Eric Williams, 34, died on Feb. 25 after being assaulted by an inmate with a homemade weapon at the United States Penitentiary– Canaan in northeastern Pennsylvania. In the wake of Williams’ death, BOP has agreed to expand its pepper spray pilot program to all high security institutions – an increase from the seven facilities currently testing the program.
“The expansion of the pilot program is a good first step and something we’ve supported for years, ”AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “But it’s outrageous that an officer had to lose his life in order for the change to take place.”
AFGE Calls for Removal of VA Regional Director Moreland: Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) 4 Director Michael Moreland and his culture of employee retaliation need to go. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. last month asked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to fire Moreland for repeatedly retaliating against employees, most recently a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist at the Wilmington, Del. VA facility who continues to face intense retaliation for testifying before Congress about understaffing and lack of mental health care access for vets. On the eve of her testimony to Congress, Dr. Michelle Washington, who for years had been rated as an outstanding performer, was rated as “needs improvement”. As part of this retaliation scheme, VA transferred her neuropsychological testing duties to the Coatesville VA, forcing veterans to travel substantially further for diagnosis which can and has been done by Dr. Washington. Her duties as the Evidence Based Treatment Coordinator have also been removed.
“It’s time for you to send a clear message and restore Dr. Washington’s evaluation and her duties,” NP Cox wrote in a Feb. 26 letter to Secretary Shinseki. “Your continued failure to address this issue sends just the opposite message. Lack of action from the highest levels of the VA is perhaps contributing to a management culture in which a management official at the Pittsburgh VA felt emboldened to tell our Local President Kathi Dahl that she could simply (and falsely) tell Congress she was sick and not testify [about the Legionnaire’s outbreak].”
FAA to Close 173 Air Traffic Control Towers April 7: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has plans to close 173 of its 251 air traffic control towers operated by contractors at smaller airports on April 7 in response to the sequestration cuts. The FAA would consider removing towers from the list on a case by case basis if the operators can give them a good reason to keep the towers open, according to Spenser Dickerson, executive director of the U.S. Contract Tower Association.
AFGE Joins Legal Brief Against Defense of Marriage Act: In a friend of the court legal brief filed this week, AFGE joined with the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The case under review, Windsor v. United States, involves New York resident Edie Windsor. Ms. Windsor sued the federal government after DOMA caused her to receive unequal tax treatment because of her same-sex marriage. DOMA forbids the federal government from treating married same-sex couples the same as other married couples with regards to taxes and many other benefits.
Unions, Hotels Join Forces to Train Workers for Jobs on Las Vegas Strip: It’s hard to break into the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. That’s why 26 properties have partnered with the Culinary Workers Union/United Here Local 226 and Bartenders Union/United Here Local 165 to offer vocational classes to prepare students for jobs on the Strip with good wages, opportunities for career advancement, and health and retirement benefits. The partnership, known as The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, has offered classes ranging from Vocational English for speakers of other languages to food preparing, serving, and catering. The academy has trained more than 35,000 people since its beginnings in 1993. For the list of classes and tuition info, click here.
This Week in Labor History: March 4, 1801 - In his inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson declares: “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
This Week’s Tweet: “The final report is in: The U.S. wasted *billions* rebuilding Iraq http://thkpr.gs/ZfSr4B” @thinkprogress
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” as the union’s members speak out on the dangers of sequestration. The show, which originally aired on Friday, March 1, is now available on demand.
AFGE Housing and Urban Development Council 222 President Eddie Eitches detailed the devastating impact sequestration would have on formerly homeless, low income and disabled individuals and also discussed the council’s work with management to negotiate benefits for employees.
Joe Gonzales, president of Department of Defense Local 2142, then addressed sequestration’s effects on DOD, the civilian workforce and military.
AFGE Bureau of Prisons Local 1112 President Mike Schnobrich and Steward April Bennett discussed health services staffing concerns throughout BOP.
Transportation Security Administration Local 778 Executive Vice President Bobby Newsome provided a closer look at AFGE’s collective bargaining agreement with TSA and some of the contract’s top benefits for employees.
Quote of the Week: A new definition of ‘less government’? Seven lawmakers in the Iowa House have introduced a bill to prohibit parents with children under 18 years old from getting a ‘no fault’ divorce – a divorce that doesn’t require any evidence of wrongdoing from either party. The bill’s biggest cheerleader, Rep. Tedd Gassman, believes wholeheartedly in the idea behind the bill as his daughter and son-in-law have just divorced and that could turn his granddaughter into a promiscuous young girl.
"There's a 16-year-old girl in this whole mix now. Guess what? What are the possibilities of her being more promiscuous? What are the possibilities of all these other things surrounding her life that a 16-year-old girl, with hormones raging, can get herself into?"
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