Friday, August 23, 2013

AFGE/EPA Negotiations Lead to EPA Cancelling Another Furlough Day

Aug. 23, 2013
  • AFGE/EPA Negotiations Lead to EPA Cancelling Another Furlough Day
  • AFGE to Seek Supreme Court Review of Due Process for Employees in ‘Sensitive Positions’
  • Arkansas Senator Urges Senate Panel to Include Measures Blocking DoD Furloughs in 2014
  • AFGE Activists Protest Sequestration in Pittsburgh
  • 87 Chief District Judges Urge Congress to Spare Court System If Sequestration Continues
  • AFGE Continues to Engage Young Workers
  • VA Headquarters Dispatches Medical Investigators to Interview Pittsburgh Employees on Legionnaire Outbreak
  • Lunch with Labor
AFGE/EPA Negotiations Lead to EPA Cancelling Another Furlough Day: The Environmental Protection Agency this week announced it’s cancelling a furlough day scheduled for Aug. 30. This is the second time EPA has reduced planned furlough days from 10 to seven and now six since sequestration took effect in March. AFGE EPA Council 238 President Karen Kellen said the change “came about as a result of the efforts of EPA’s unions and EPA management working together to reduce the impact of sequestration on its workers.”  

“While this announcement is great news for EPA employees, it does not eliminate the harmful short and long term impacts from sequestration on EPA employees and the American public,” Kellen said. “Employees are still struggling to have the resources to do their job of protecting human health and the environment efficiently. While EPA employees continue to work diligently to protect the American public from environmental hazards, these draconian cuts decimate the EPA’s ability to ensure that America’s water is safe to drink, our air is safe to breathe and that our lands continue to sustain us.  It is time for all Americans to stand up for the safety and security of our children and our lands and demand an end to sequestration.”

AFGE to Seek Supreme Court Review of Due Process for Employees in ‘Sensitive Positions’: In a 7-3 decision released this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that federal employees who have no access to classified information, don’t have a security clearance but are deemed to be in national security sensitive positions don’t have the right to challenge their terminations, demotions, or other type of discipline with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The case involved two Defense Department employees who sought to take their cases to the MSPB after being suspended and demoted when DoD determined that they were not eligible to occupy a sensitive position. The ruling will have a profound effect not only on the 200,000 employees in sensitive positions at DoD but the entire federal workforce in similar positions. AFGE denounced the court’s ruling.

“Due process rights are the very foundation of our civil service system,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “That system itself has been undermined by the court today if this ruling is allowed to stand. AFGE's attorneys are evaluating the lengthy opinion and we expect to seek Supreme Court review. AFGE will leave no stone unturned in this litigation as long as the appeal rights of our members are at stake.”

Arkansas Senator Urges Senate Panel to Include Measures Blocking DoD Furloughs in 2014: At the urging of AFGE, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas wrote to Richard Durbin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, urging him to include two provisions in the Senate version of the 2014 Defense appropriations bill that would block furloughs of all DoD civilians and those paid through working capital funds. Both measures have been approved by the House of Representatives.
“Instead of identifying functions that are no longer necessary or that can be scaled back, Pentagon officials cut staffing for every function by the same amount,” Sen. Pryor wrote.  “Across-the-board furloughs ultimately cost more than they save because of lost productivity, workplace disruption, and broken morale.”

AFGE Activists Protest Sequestration in Pittsburgh: During AFGE’s Human Rights Training Conference in Pittsburgh this week, federal, D.C. government employees, and labor activists rallied outside the Moorhead Federal Office Building on Tuesday to protest sequestration and federal budget cuts. They chanted “Stop sequestration” and held signs that read “I want to work,” “Stop the furloughs,” and “Don’t undermine economic recovery.” Furloughs have profound financial impacts on hundreds of thousands of workers and their families like Ned George, an AFGE member from Local 1647 at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania.

“Three years ago my wife gave birth to twin sons,” he told the crowd. “Unfortunately they were four and a half months premature and weighed less than two pounds. One son passed away the first day. Our surviving son spent seven months in NICU before he could be allowed to come home. At the time my wife had to quit her job to stay home with him due to medical difficulties of his premature birth. Under my life insurance I received a small payout for my son’s death. My wife and I decided to put this money aside to start a college fund for our surviving son to connect the two of them in some small way. Unfortunately we have had to cash in that policy to help keep our heads above water financially. Just one more victim taken by the sequester and an unnecessary furlough.”
Joining the protesters were Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny Central Labor Council President Jack Shea, Pennsylvania State Fed President Richard Bloomingdale, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and AFGE National Vice President for Women's and Fair Practices Augusta Thomas.

87 Chief District Judges Urge Congress to Spare Court System If Sequestration Continues: Eighty seven chief district judges from across the country are calling on the House and Senate to provide necessary funding for the court system as their workload doesn’t go down when their budget is cut. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden, who is also president of the Senate, the judges said sequestration cuts of nearly $350 million in 2013 have severely hurt the court operations nationwide. The courts lost 2,100 employees between July 2011 and July 2013 and incurred 4,500 furlough days between March and June 2013. An additional 4,100 furlough days are expected by the end of September. Because of furloughs, the federal defender office in New York had to postpone the trial of alleged terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. Some district courts in New Mexico, Texas, and New York have stopped scheduling criminal matters on alternating Fridays because of staffing shortages. When district attorneys are furloughed, cases have to be transferred to private attorneys, increasing costs rather than reducing them. Sequestration cuts also put public safety at risk. The courts have lost 600 probation and pretrial officers who monitor individuals released from prisons and criminal defendants awaiting trials. The judges said the courts can no longer absorb more cuts if they have to carry out their constitutional and statutory duties. The judges ask that Congress approve the Senate’s version of the judiciary spending bill that would provide an increase of $496 million for fiscal 2014.
“A second year under sequestration will have a devastating, and long lasting, impact on the administration of justice in this country,” they wrote.

AFGE Continues to Engage Young Workers at Our 2nd Y.O.U.N.G Training Summit: During the Women’s and Fair Practices Departments’ Diversity Week this week, 150 young union activists and mentors were welcomed to the city of Pittsburgh for a weekend of training and networking by District 3 National Vice President Keith Hill. Participants attending the 2nd Annual Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation (Y.O.U.N.G.) Training Summit engaged in training courses including understanding Equal Employment Opportunity, reasonable accommodations, leadership, union/work/life balance, labor history, collective bargaining, organizing young workers and community/political engagement. Participants also met with other activists in their districts to develop regional action plans to get younger workers more involved in the union.
The opening session included a panel of guest speakers, who addressed issues of economic disparity among younger generations, the economic impact of transgender transitioning, and the power of young people to create social, political and community change. These presentations were delivered by Sarah Lewis, policy expert with the AFL-CIO; Whit Kathner, political organizer for SEIU; and Carmen Berkley, civil rights director at the AFL-CIO. Summit participants also received messages from AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Thomas, and Wisconsin state Senator Lena Taylor. Before the start of the conference, Y.O.U.N.G. representatives from each district attended a day-long meeting to discuss the function of the committee and address the final details of the training summit.
“It is critical that we continue to engage our young people in the labor movement,” said NVP Thomas, who has been instrumental in the advancement of the program. “If we are to continue to grow and thrive, we must value our young workers who have the passion and determination to continue with the progress we’ve made. As mentors it is our responsibility to take our brothers and sisters under our wing, and continue to strengthen our organization.”

VA Headquarters Dispatches Medical Investigators to Interview Pittsburgh Employees on Legionnaire Outbreak: More than 40 employees at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System were interviewed this week by medical investigators from Washington, D.C. in the latest of seven government investigations into the deadly legionnaire outbreak that killed six veterans and sickened 16 others at the Pittsburgh VA, once one of the world’s leading research centers for Legionnaires’. AFGE represents many of the employees who were interviewed.

“It seems they’ve been directed to find out how the abatement process has been working or not,” said AFGE Assistant General Counsel J. Ward Morrow. “That’s what they’re doing, although they’re not doing it as widely as deeply as might be helpful. They are talking to a lot of people. Whether they’re asking all the questions they possibly could ask, that’s not clear.”

A public hearing will be held Sept. 9 in Pittsburgh to examine the VA's nationwide efforts to stop preventable deaths and medical errors.

Lunch with Labor: Join us online for AFGE’s Lunch with Labor series. This two part series consists of a one-hour program that provides AFGE members with an opportunity to learn more about the labor movement and pose questions to the guest speaker. Part one of this two-part series will begin on Friday, August 30 at 1:00pm EST with Bill Fletcher as the guest speaker.  Bill will talk about central labor councils and state federations. To register for part one of this series, send an email to by August 28 in order to receive log-in information. Space is limited so RSVP today.

This Week in Labor History: August 22, 1945 - Five flight attendants form the Air Line Stewardesses Association, the first labor union representing flight attendants. They were reacting to an industry in which women were forced to retire at the age of 32, remain single, and adhere to strict weight, height, and appearance requirements. The association later became the Association of Flight Attendants, now a division of the Communications Workers of America.

This Week’s Tweet: As the fight over voter ID laws rages, a new report says 2012 was the worst year ever for voting rights  ~ @thedailybeast

Hot on WWW: Meet the heroic woman who prevented a mass shooting at an elementary school.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about new benefits available to AFGE members. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Aug. 16, is now available on demand.

  • AFGE National Benefits Coordinator Mark Williams highlighted new AFGE member benefits as well as changes to the mortgage and credit card benefit programs.
  • First Command Financial Services District Advisor Bob Hill offered financial tips for furloughed federal employees and also detailed the Roth Thrift Savings Plan option now available to federal workers.
  • Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, discussed the local impact of Social Security and within each congressional district.
  • Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale addressed the importance of organized labor building stronger relationships with community organizations.
Quote of the Week: AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Thomas at the AFGE rally against sequestration in Pittsburgh:
“Our fight is only as strong as you make it.  We are only as powerful as you are active.  This is a fight all of us must wage together in solidarity.”

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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