Monday, June 17, 2013

AFGE Week in Review - Federal Government Shed 45,000 Jobs Since Sequestration Hit

June 18, 2013

Federal Government Shed 45,000 Jobs Since Sequestration Hit: The unemployment rate is stuck at 7.6% with nearly 12 million Americans unemployed. Among them are 4.4 million who are considered long-term unemployed – those looking for a job for more than six months with no luck. Instead of helping to create jobs, Congress, through sequestration, is destroying them. Last month, the federal government shed 14,000 jobs, bringing the total cut to 45,000 since sequestration took effect. The economy has added 466,000 jobs during that period of time, but for every 10 private-sector jobs created, the federal government shed one. As sequestration is expected to cost 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone, the government is supposed to be helping, not making it worse.
“This is no time for austerity. Our priority must be economic growth, the kind of growth that leads to strong and stable job creation,” said Heather Boushey, chief economist at the Center for American Progress.”
Even former Mitt Romney economic advisor Kevin Hassett acknowledged the federal government needs to either start hiring or subsidize it – to minimize the human toll of unemployment and save taxpayer’s money in the long run.
"If you look at what [unemployment] does to people’s lives, I have a friend who’s a priest, and he said long-term unemployment is a bigger pastoral care challenge than a death in the family. A death in the family, there’s this impulse of incredible negativity, but then people start to recover. A person, say a 55-year-old who’s always the breadwinner in his family, if he loses his job, every morning it gets worse....If somebody’s 40 years old, and not employed for 25 years, that costs governments lots of money, and if we think rationally about reducing spending, maybe it’s worth it to pay for their first year at a private employer. Direct hiring, or a direct subsidy for hiring, could save taxpayers a fortune. And it could save a life."
So far, these calls for action have fallen on deaf ears as some lawmakers are still holding on to the false belief that deficit reduction is the priority, not people’s lives. In fact, budget analysts have predicted sequestration is likely to stay in effect through 2014.

AFGE Defeats House Measure to Lift A-76 Ban: Thanks to AFGE activists, an amendment to the 2014 Defense Authorization bill that would have lifted the ban on the privatization process at DoD was defeated last week. The measure, offered by anti-federal employee Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, was voted down 177-248. Opposition to the amendment was led by Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah and Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii. They were very ably assisted by Reps. Matthew Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Walter Jones of North Carolina, and Chris Stewart of Utah.

Congress outlawed the use of the A-76 privatization process during the Bush administration after findings by the DoD Inspector General that it was biased against federal employees and GAO that the costs of conducting the studies often exceed the guesstimated savings. OMB and DoD, formerly A-76’s biggest boosters, both oppose striking prohibitions against the A-76 process until various problems have been fixed.

DoD Admits Contractors Are More Expensive Than Federal Employees: Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois last week got Defense Comptroller Robert Hale to admit that contractors are more expensive than federal employees and that almost any long-term job should be performed by civilian employees.

“Mr. Hale, do you dispute this finding that the average contract employee costs two to three times as much as the average DOD civilian employee?” Sen. Durbin asked during a hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2014 budget request.

“No, it sounds about right,” Hale responded. “…if you're going to have a job over a long period of time, probably better off, it's probably cheaper to have a civilian government employee do it.”

Durbin expressed his concerns over the size and cost of the contractor workforce in light of the NSA leaks and sequestration. He said contractors make up 22% of the DoD workforce but account for half of the department’s personnel-related costs. Hale said he didn’t have the exact number of service contractors but estimated that there are about 700,000 of them. He said sequestration will likely result in fewer contractors. DoD has about 800,000 civilian employees.

OPM Processing Fewer Pension Claims, Thanks to Sequestration: Sequestration has forced the Office of Personnel Management to halt overtime for pension claim processors and as a result, retirees have to wait even longer to get their full retirement paychecks. In May, OPM processed 10,954 claims, 546 fewer than expected. Until April, OPM had been making progress in clearing the backlog of unprocessed pension claims.
NO MORE RUDE, ALL CAPS MESSAGING IN THE NAVY: After 160 years, the Navy has finally given up its all-caps messaging as the system now has the ability to transmit messages in lower case.

Officials said using lower case letters make it easier to read and is less likely to TICK OFF YOUNGER WORKERS WHO MIGHT THINK THEY’RE BEING YELLED AT.

White House Cancels Presidential Rank Awards for 2013: Citing budgetary constraints, the White House this year suspended the prestigious Presidential Rank Awards which carry bonuses worth 20% of the winner’s annual salary. The awards, one of the highest honors a civil servant can receive, are given to members of the Senior Executive Service with distinguished accomplishments, even though one of this year’s awards – along with a $62,895 bonus – went to Veterans Integrated Service Network 4 Director Michael Moreland, under whose leadership five veterans died due to his failure to respond to the legionnaire’s outbreak at a Pittsburgh VA hospital in a timely manner.  
Save with MetLife Auto & Home Insurance: Average savings is $504 for members who switched. Click here to find out how to get a free quote.

Congratulations! The following AFGE members are graduating from the National Labor College on June 22: Darryl Cofield, Union Leadership & Administration – District 12; Octavia Hall, Labor Studies – District 14; Ramona Hawkins, Labor Education – District 14.

This Week in Labor History: June 10, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy signs a law mandating equal pay to women who are performing the same jobs as men (Equal Pay Act).
This Week’s Tweet: “Credit ratings are just the output of a bloke with a spreadsheet. Real prob is how regs encourage banks/funds to treat them as gospel.” ~ Robin Harding ‏@RobinBHarding 

Hot on YouTube: Baby sea lion jumps on boat, snuggles with human.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” as AFGE members discuss staffing and sequestration concerns from the union’s recent Midwest Regional Training in Spearfish, S.D. The show, which originally aired on Friday, June 14, is now available on demand.

  • AFGE Department of Veterans Affairs Local 390 President Matthew Hokenson addressed low caregiver staffing levels at the VA and the impact on patient care. Heather Luis, treasurer of AFGE’s National Meat Graders Council 200, then provided a look inside the Department of Agriculture’s meat grading process.
  • AFGE Department of Defense Local 2955 member Bill Austin reacted to DoD furloughs and the effect on employee morale and the local economy.
  • Lastly, AFGE Field Mobilization Director Tucker McDonald discussed AFGE’s field mobilization plan to fight back against sequestration and federal employee furloughs.

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: Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois on the size and cost of DoD service contractors in light of the NSA leaks and sequestration:

"Well I have found … a sense of disdain toward DoD civilian employees and a sense of benign neglect when it comes to contract employees," Durbin said. "And I think if there’s going to be sacrifice, it has to be across-the-board, if we’re going to save money, it shouldn’t be at the expense of those who are willing to work in the civil service."

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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