Wednesday, November 27, 2013

AFGE Week in Review: Nov. 27, 2013 - Bill Introduced to Give Blue-Collar Workers Same Raises as GS Employees

Nov. 27, 2013
  • Bill Introduced to Give Blue-Collar Workers Same Raises as GS Employees
  • Sen. Tim Kaine Urges Budget Conferees Not to Target Feds
  • Poll: 2013 College Students Prefer Work in Private Sector Than Government
  • 170,000 Veterans Could Lose Food Stamp Benefits under House's Farm Bill
  • AFGE President Cox Receives Labor Leader Award from Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  • NVP Augusta Shot Back at Boehner over His Remark about LGBT Law
  • Walmart Workers, Supporters Plan Black Friday Protests at Walmart Stores Nationwide
Bill Introduced to Give Blue-Collar Workers Same Raises as GS Employees: An AFGE-backed bill has been introduced to give blue-collar workers the same pay raises as General Schedule employees. President Barack Obama has proposed a 1% raise for GS employees this January. As he doesn't have authority to set pay levels for wage grade workers, separate legislation is required.
"The inconsistency in wages between WG and GS employees is inequitable," said Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania who introduced the bill. "It hurts a group of Americans that can least afford a fourth year with no increase at all. For this reason, I am proud to introduce this legislation which would benefit a group that has been particularly impacted by a four year pay freeze, the recent Defense furloughs and the government shutdown."
The Defense Department employs more wage-grade employees than any other agencies – 174,000. Other agencies with significant numbers of wage-grade employees are the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Prisons.

Sen. Tim Kaine Urges Budget Conferees Not to Target Feds: Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia has asked budget conferees not to target federal employees as they look for ways to reduce the deficit. In a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray, Kaine said federal employees have already been hurt financially and morally by furloughs, a three-year pay freeze, a government shutdown, and an increase in new hires' contributions to their pensions. He said he supports the goal of replacing sequestration cuts, but federal employees should not be a target for further cuts.

"I believe repeatedly targeting federal employees in deficit reduction effort is having an effect on morale, employee retention and talent recruitment," Kaine wrote. "I raised this very issue during an Armed Services Committee hearing with Department of Defense officials on October 10. Each DoD witness unequivocally reiterated that sequestration and furlough have had a negative toll on morale for civilian and non-civilian federal employees. They testified that vital workers are questioning their value and considering the private sector as a result of an uncertain future."

Poll: 2013 College Students Prefer Work in Private Sector Than Government: A 2013 poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that only 5.7% of graduating seniors plan to work in government, compared with 35% who plan to work in the private sector. Nearly 24% plan on going to graduate or professional schools. Even though the number of graduating seniors who plan on working for government is slightly higher than last year – 5.7% v. 5% – the yawning gap between their public and private preferences suggests that government is not an employer of choice among younger workers, who make up only 8% of the federal workforce. Coupled with pay freezes, furloughs, and daily fed bashing by some lawmakers and TV pundits, the government is likely to continue to have a tough time recruiting the best and the brightest. 

170,000 Veterans Could Lose Food Stamp Benefits under House's Farm Bill: The House version of the farm bill would cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by nearly $40 billion over 10 years, which means 170,000 low-income veterans could be kicked out of the program starting next year. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 900,000 veterans receive SNAP assistance each month, but the figure is likely understated as Census data do not include homeless veterans. Besides veterans, the people who would be impacted by the bill are 1.7 million unemployed with no kids, 2.1 million low-income families and seniors, and other poor, unemployed parents who want to work but can't find a job. Both the House and Senate have passed their version of the farm bill. They are in negotiation over how much to cut between the Senate's $4 billion and the House's $40 billion.

AFGE President Cox Receives Labor Leader Award from Rainbow PUSH Coalition: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. received the Dr. Martin L. King Jr./Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. Labor Leader Award during a ceremony in Los Angeles last week. The award was presented to Cox by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund, during the 15th Annual Awards Dinner in Beverly Hills.

"I am honored by this award and humbled to be recognized as a leader in the fight for equal rights and protections for all working people," Cox said. "We have come so far as a country but there is still so long to go. AFGE will stand firm in defense if our rights as citizens from the workplace to the ballot box."

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, founded by Rev. Jackson, is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity.

NVP Augusta Shot Back at Boehner over His Remark about LGBT Law: AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Thomas said House Speaker John Boehner is out of touch with today's reality when he told reporters there is no need for legislation that protects the employment rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of our society and that such law would only provide a basis for "frivolous lawsuits".

"I would like to personally invite the Speaker to join me in meeting with LGBT workers so that he can hear, directly, their experiences. We have witnessed the continued denial of promotions to otherwise qualified workers for no apparent reason until one digs slightly beneath the surface and discovers the demon of homophobia. Much of the bullying that we hear about regularly in today's workplaces is both directly and indirectly motivated by fear and homophobia.  For Speaker Boehner to suggest that there will be a flood of "frivolous lawsuits" not only speaks volumes to his lack of understanding of the reality of today's workplaces for LGBT workers, but it also suggests that he believes laws against other forms of discrimination have, somehow, led to flurries of frivolous lawsuits as well," Thomas said. "Instead, I would suggest to Speaker Boehner, that it has been with and through historic civil rights legislation along with the existence of strong unions, that many segments of our population who have faced systemic discrimination have gained opportunities that they would otherwise have failed to achieve."

The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate earlier this month, but its path to become law is still uncertain as it needs to pass the hostile House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner strongly opposes the bill, saying "People are already protected in the workplace" even though there are 29 states where a worker can be fired because of his or her sexual orientation.

Walmart Workers, Supporters Plan Black Friday Protests at Walmart Stores Nationwide: Walmart made $17 billion in profits last year. It paid its top executives and board members $66.7 million, including $23.3 million paid to Walmart CEO Mike Duke. Yet the company has refused to pay their workers a living wage, forcing workers to live on less than $25,000 a year. That's why this upcoming Black Friday, the workers and supporters are planning mass protests at Walmart stores across the country to call for a living wage and highlight corporate greed.

Walmart pays its workers so little that many have to rely on food stamps and Medicaid funded by taxpayers. Walmart employees receive $2.66 billion in government assistance every year, or $420,000 per store. The world's largest retailer is effectively shifting its labor costs onto the American taxpayers as it has consistently sat on top of the list of companies with the most employees relying on government's safety net programs.

This Week in Labor History: Nov. 25, 1952 - George Meany becomes president of the American Federation of Labor following the death four days earlier of William Green.

This Week's Tweet: Former Wal-Mart Exec Leads Shadowy Smear Campaign Against Black Friday Activists ~ @lhfang

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE's "Inside Government" for a special broadcast from the union's National Veterans Affairs Council Convention. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Nov. 22, is now available on demand.
  • AFGE VA Local 1273 Vice President Travis Riggs discussed the dangers of low staffing and contracting out at the VA. Riggs also shed light on how the union has helped him during his career.
  • Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner recognized the commitment and sacrifices made by America's veterans and shared ideas to spur job creation in the middle class.
  • John Bradley, a former senior staffer on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees, then detailed legislation impacting veterans and VA workers and also discussed advances the VA has made in research and medicine.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. ET on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at For more information, please visit

Quote of the Week: Pope Francis denounced growing economic inequality and trickle-down economic theories:

"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

***Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!***

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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