The informational blog for Michael Meserve, Vice President, Western Region, Council of Prison Locals
Friday, August 30, 2013
AFGE Week in Review - AFGE National President Arrested in St. Louis
Aug. 30, 2013
AFGE National President Arrested in St. Louis
President Obama Issues Executive Order to End Pay Freeze, Give GS Employees a 1% Raise
AFGE Marches on Washington
Pentagon Should Reduce Contract Spending, Not Civilian Workforce
3,400 DoD Medical Workers Quit Due to Sequestration
Sequestration Forces Nearly 1 in 5 Scientists to Consider Leaving US to Pursue Career in Another Country
AFGE Keeps Legionnaires' Outbreak Issue Alive in the Media
Cash-strapped FEEA to Halt Loans to Furloughed Feds Next Week
AFGE National President Arrested in St. Louis: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. and AFGE Strategic Political Initiatives Director Bob Nicklas were arrested this week in St. Louis, Mo. as they stood in solidarity with members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in their fight to protect the health care benefits of retirees of the Peabody Energy and Arch Coal companies. The protest took place on Aug. 27 in St. Louis where Peabody and Arch are headquartered.
"Here I am getting arrested -- that's right -- arrested with my hands tied behind my back -- in St. Louis with my brothers and sisters in the United Mine Workers," NP Cox said. "We are using civil disobedience because the Peabody and Arch are trying to take advantage of bankruptcy laws to renege on their health care obligations. The corporate strategists who come up with these schemes to steal mineworker benefits ought to be behind bars! Some things are so important to take a stand on that you have got to be willing to put it all on the line. Standing up for mineworkers' hard-earned health care benefits is one of those things!"
Peabody and Arch set up a dummy corporation, Patriot Coal, to get rid of their health care benefit obligations to the retirees who gave a lifetime of service to these companies. Patriot then filed for bankruptcy and has been authorized by a St. Louis judge to abandon its collective bargaining agreement with UMWA. This is corporate greed. If they get away with this scheme, other companies will try to do the same and it will eventually trickle down to everyone. The federal bankruptcy laws need to be changed to protect people rather than corporations.
President Obama Issues Executive Order to End Pay Freeze, Give GS Employees a 1% Raise: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement regarding President Obama's Executive Order ending the pay freeze for General Schedule employees with a one percent salary increase for 2014.
"Although the one percent is a pitiful amount that doesn't begin to compensate for the furloughs and three years of frozen pay, it is a welcome development. We are working with Congress and the administration to make sure this raise will be extended to federal blue collar workers as well. To call this raise inadequate is an understatement, but it is good news all the same."
AFGE Marches on Washington: A solid contingent of AFGE members were among the crowd as AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. on Aug. 24 addressed tens of thousands of marchers at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. The event commemorated the 1963 March when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to hundreds of thousands of civil rights activists on the national mall about his dreams for equality and economic justice. Busloads of AFGE leaders and members from across the country attended the 50th Anniversary March. Cox addressed the rally, noting that although much progress on civil rights has occurred in the five decades since King exhorted the nation to end legal discrimination, the economic justice that King sought to bring about by joining the struggle for democracy at the ballot box to democracy at the workplace has not been realized.
"The same forces that fought so bitterly and violently against civil rights are behind today's efforts to deny collective bargaining rights and to suppress voting in state after state," NP Cox said. "We will not let them succeed. Failure is not an option. We must organize so that our movements are too big to fail, too big to ignore, and too big for anyone to even consider taking on."
Pentagon Should Reduce Contract Spending, Not Civilian Workforce: "When DoD says it's going to fire 6,300 federal employees in FY14 to accommodate sequestration, don't believe it. Experience tells us that those workers will be replaced by far more expensive military and contractor personnel whose costs will be so high, the department will end up laying off more people in a vicious cycle of irrationality and dishonesty," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. in response to news reports that the Defense Department is planning to dismiss 6,300 federal employees next year if sequestration cuts $42 billion from its budget.
DoD spending for service contracts has doubled from $72 billion in 2000 to more than $150 billion in 2012. This is where cuts and savings should take place. Agencies need to cancel the furloughs and Congress needs to end this absurd sequestration, NP Cox said.
3,400 DoD Medical Workers Quit Due to Sequestration: The Pentagon has so far lost 3,400 doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers and other health care workers after implementing furloughs. According to a USA Today report, most of these highly-skilled workers who either retired or left to work somewhere else were in the Army.
The furloughs "had a very emotional impact," said Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho. "And that's the piece, as the commander of Medcom (Army Medical Command) that if I could have avoided it, I would have. Some of our civilians are feeling very devalued."
Sequestration Forces Nearly 1 in 5 Scientists to Consider Leaving US to Pursue Career in Another Country: Sequestration cuts are undermining the country's medical and scientific research so much so that 18 percent of scientists surveyed are considering leaving the U.S. to pursue their scientific careers in another country, according to an online survey by 16 science organizations. The U.S. is the world's leader in scientific breakthroughs due to its vibrant culture of curiosity and a strong federal investment in scientists. GPS, smart phones, MRI, and satellite TV are only a few examples of the federal investment in scientific research. Medical breakthroughs have led to a 1% drop in the yearly cancer mortality rate, saving the U.S. $500 billion per year in health care costs. But all of this is about to change due to budget cuts in recent years coupled with massive sequestration cuts that are starving research labs across the country. The National Institutes of Health, for example, was forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget this fiscal year. This means 700 fewer grants the agency can give out. This is disheartening as more than 80% of NIH's budget goes to more than 300,000 researchers at 2,500 universities and research institutions across the country. Sequestration and budget cuts have also eliminated jobs for scientists. Two thirds of scientists do not have the funds to expand their research operations. More than half of respondents have turned away promising young researchers.
"These trends must be reversed in order for American scientists to continue to make the discoveries that improve our lives," the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said in the report.
AFGE Keeps Legionnaires' Outbreak Issue Alive in the Media: Since it became known that the leadership of the VA hospital in Pittsburgh was aware of the Legionnaire problem that killed five veterans and sickened 21 others one year before they disclosed it to patients and employees, AFGE has successfully pushed the issue in the media and kept it alive. AFGE also has been pushing for the removal of Veterans Integrated Service Network 4 Director Michael Moreland, under whose leadership the Pittsburgh VA hospital failed to respond to the outbreak in a timely manner.
Cash-strapped FEEA to Halt Loans to Furloughed Feds Next Week:The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) this week announced it will likely have to stop giving out new loans to furloughed federal employees next week as it's running out of cash. The organization has so far distributed $330,000 in interest-free loans to more than 550 feds in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It still has a backlog of several hundred applications with more pouring in daily. FEEA is able to provide loans this week because it received donations last week from the BlueCross/BlueShield Association, GEICO, and GEBA. But more is needed if it is to continue to provide assistance after Labor Day.
"We hear new stories every day of feds who have had [Leave without Pay] for medical reasons in addition to furlough days or were already behind on bills due to a child's illness or a divorce," the organization said. "Others have spouses who have lost their jobs or are the only breadwinners in multi-generational family units."
FEEA is asking for donations. If you would like to donate via credit card, visit FEEA's website. Donations made via check can be sent to FEEA Headquarters, 3333 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80227.
This Week in Labor History: August 28, 1963: 250,000 people participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. The march—initiated by A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters—was organized by a coalition of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations. It was here that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
This Week's Tweet: The quality of employees will be directly proportional to the quality of life you maintain for them." — Charles E. Bryan #UpChat ~ @upworthy
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE's "Inside Government" for highlights from the union's Human Rights Training Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Aug. 30, is now available on demand.
State Sen. Lena Taylor from Wisconsin, keynote speaker at the Y.O.U.N.G. AFGE Training Summit, discussed the importance of the labor movement and encouraged union members to get involved and take action on issues important to them.
Eddie Eitches, president of AFGE's Housing and Urban Development Council 222, gave an inside look at negotiations with HUD management to reduce furlough days.
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.and Local 1345 Steward Tracy School, who participated in the union's rally to protest furloughs, highlighted the importance of federal service and fighting back against budget cuts.
Former Clinton White House spokesman Bob Weiner discussed the consequences of sequestration and the impact on public service delivery.
Quote of the Week: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. on being arrested in St. Louis as he stood in solidarity with UMWA in its fight to protect the health care benefits of retirees:
"We are using civil disobedience because the Peabody and Arch are trying to take advantage of bankruptcy laws to renege on their health care obligations. The corporate strategists who come up with these schemes to steal mineworker benefits ought to be behind bars!"