Friday, December 20, 2013

AFGE Week in Review: Dec. 20, 2013 - AFGE Members Urged to Nominate Outstanding Co-workers for Service to America Medals

Dec. 20, 2013
  • AFGE Members Urged to Nominate Outstanding Co-workers for Service to America Medals
  • Federal Employee Morale Hits All Time Low, Thanks to Congress
  • EPA Faced Biggest Drop in Employee Morale
  • Senate Approves Budget Agreement
  • AFGE Urges Immediate Passage of Legislation Granting Pay Raise to Blue-Collar Federal Workers
  • Nearly 50% of Feds Eligible to Telework in 2012
AFGE Members Urged to Nominate Outstanding Co-workers for Service to America Medals (Sammies): AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. is encouraging AFGE members to participate in the 2014 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals by nominating talented co-workers who are AFGE members and whose high-impact accomplishments and professional contributions are a testament to the important work of the federal government. The prestigious Sammie awards – the Oscars of public service – recognize federal employees in eight categories: Federal Employee of the Year, Call to Service, Career Achievement, Citizen Services, Homeland Security, Management Excellence, National Security and International Affairs, and Science and Environment. Past winners include federal employees with high-impact accomplishments in protecting the environment, defending the homeland, caring for veterans, curing diseases, making scientific discoveries, responding to natural disasters, etc. Nominations, open until Jan. 17, 2014, can be submitted by anybody familiar with the nominee's work except for the nominee. 

"We know that AFGE members' work affects everyone in this country and around the world every day, but we need to make sure our work is recognized in a major way and at the highest level," said NP Cox, who sat on the 2013 Service to America Medals Selection Committee. "We need people to understand that our work directly contributes to America's security and prosperity and that a strong federal career workforce is vital to the country's well-being and her future."

All medal categories are open to both individual and team nominations. Finalists will be announced in late spring. Click here for eligibility requirements and here to submit a nomination.

Federal Employee Morale Hits All Time Low, Thanks to Congress: Three years of pay freezes, furloughs and Congress' policies favoring spending cuts over economic growth continue to take a toll on federal employee morale, which this year hit a record low. A report released this week by the Partnership for Public Service, "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government," says 57.8% of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs – the lowest it's been since the survey began in 2003. Last year job satisfaction was 60.8% compared to 65% in 2010. Besides the budget cuts that have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies, new federal employees also are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit.

"Politicians have been telling federal employees for years that they're not worth receiving a fair wage, that their jobs aren't worth funding, that the services they deliver to the American people aren't as important as continuing to subsidize Wall Street corporations with lucrative tax breaks," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "Should it come as any surprise that federal employees feel devalued, dispirited and discouraged? Federal employees join the government to serve their country and give back to the community, but some politicians have turned them into the enemy and made them the scapegoat for all of the country's problems."

EPA Faced Biggest Drop in Employee Morale: Of all the large agencies surveyed in the Partnership's Best Places to Work, the Environmental Protection Agency sat on top of the list of agencies with the biggest drop in employee morale – a decrease of 8.3 points to a score of 59.3. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s employee satisfaction score fell by 10.8 points – the largest decline among mid-size agencies. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board had the biggest decline among small agencies, a whopping 33.4 points.

Meanwhile, NASA remains on top of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government list for large agencies. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was ranked first among mid-size agencies while the Surface Transportation Board took home top honors for small agencies.

Senate Approves Budget Agreement: The Senate on Wednesday voted 64-36 to approve a budget agreement brokered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray. The budget deal, which was approved by the House last week, partially repeals sequestration for two years – $45 billion in 2014 and $20 billion in 2015. It requires federal employees hired after Dec. 31, 2013 to pay an additional 1.3% toward their pensions for a total of 4.4%. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program also will add a 'self plus one' option for couples with no kids. Current federal employees are not required to contribute more to their pensions.

AFGE Urges Immediate Passage of Legislation Granting Pay Raise to Blue-Collar Federal Workers: AFGE is calling on Congress to pass legislation granting the government's blue-collar workers the same pay raise other employees are receiving in January. White-collar employees in the government's General Schedule pay system will receive a 1 percent pay raise in January, ending an unprecedented three-year pay freeze. However, Congress must pass separate legislation to extend this pay raise to blue-collar workers under the Wage Grade pay system. Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced legislation in November that would provide Wage Grade employees the same pay raise General Schedule employees are receiving in January. This legislation has the bipartisan support of more than 20 representatives, but the House adjourned for the year without taking up the bill.

"Without immediate action by Congress, more than 200,000 employees at our military bases, veterans' hospitals, federal prisons and other worksites will be denied the modest pay raise being given to all other federal workers," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "Congress must take immediate action once the legislative session resumes in January to rectify this inequitable situation."

Nearly 50% of Feds Eligible to Telework in 2012: More federal employees were eligible to telework in 2012, according to a new report by the Office of Personnel Management. In 2011, 684,589 federal employees, or 32% of the workforce, were eligible to telework. The number went up to 1,020,034 in 2012, or 47% of federal employees. The number of telework agreements between agencies and employees also went up by 84% from 144,851 in 2011 to 267,227 in 2012.

The number of employees who teleworked in September 2012 went up to 209,192, compared to 168,558 in September 2011. More teleworkers – 32% v. 27% – were able to telework three or more days per week in 2012 compared to 2011. OPM finds that agencies used telework to maintain productivity during an emergency such as a weather event. Teleworkers are more likely to report higher job satisfaction than non-teleworkers. With turnover cost running between 90% and 200% of an employee's annual gross salary, "the strong relationship between telework and decreased turnover intentions in 2012 support the cost benefits of telework," the report finds.

"Ultimately, we want agencies to use telework strategically to drive results: ensuring continuity of operations, reducing management costs, improving our employees' ability to balance their work and life commitments, and increasing accountability for achieving individual work results," OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said. "The report shows that a growing number of agencies do use telework as a strategic tool."

The 2013 Status of Telework in the Federal Government report looked at telework in 90 agencies between September 2011 and September 2012

This Week's Essay: In an essay titled The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?, Jed S. Rakoff, a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, questions the government's reluctance to pursue fraud cases against high-level banking executives that led to the financial crisis in 2008. Rakoff argues that the Justice Department has failed to perform its duties of investigating and prosecuting those executives even though the stated opinion of many government agencies asked to look into the issue, including the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, is that the financial crisis was indeed a product of intentional fraud. While acknowledging the difficulty of proving the high-level executives' criminal intent, Rakoff argues that the department should make use of the "willful blindness" doctrine, which is well-established in criminal law and consistently approved by the Supreme Court. Rakoff also finds the department's "too big to jail" excuse – the fact that prosecuting these financial institutions could impact the national economy –unconvincing. He argues that the department should prosecute individual CEOs instead of the entire companies as prosecuting the institution itself is not fair to innocent employees and shareholders. 

Rakoff offers three possible factors that influence the government's reluctance to pursue the cases: 1) the prosecutors had other priorities, faced with budget limitations, and had little experience in investigating and prosecuting sophisticated financial frauds. 2) the government and Congress had a part in creating the conditions that helped allow frauds to take place, such as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in the investment business. And 3) prosecutors have shifted from prosecuting individual executives to prosecuting companies – a practice that Rakoff argues is not the best way to prevent future wrong doing as prosecuting companies often results in a settlement – internal control measures that "are often little more than window-dressing." 
"I do not claim that the financial crisis that is still causing so many of us so much pain and despondency was the product, in whole or in part, of fraudulent misconduct," Rakoff writes. "But if it was—as various governmental authorities have asserted it was—then the failure of the government to bring to justice those responsible for such colossal fraud bespeaks weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that need to be addressed."

This Week in Labor History: Dec. 20, 1970 – The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) takes effect today.

This Week's Tweet: 2013's top 5 wins for workers  ~@thinkprogress

This Week's Interview: AFGE Legislative Representative Marilyn Park appeared on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann to discuss the Ryan/Murray budget deal. Watch her excellent interview here.

This Week's Video: Scientists Discover One of The Greatest Contributing Factors to Happiness. And it turns out to be just a simple action – just in time for the holidays.

This Week's Holiday Gift: Looking for a stocking stuffer? How about this awesome MMT Coloring Book by Stephanie Kelton, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE's "Inside Government" as the union's president looks ahead to 2014. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Dec. 20, is now available on demand.
  • AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. outlined the union's 2014 agenda and discussed the impact of sequestration and the government lockout on federal employees. Cox also analyzed the Budget Conference Committee deal, which will require federal employees hired after 2013 to contribute more to their pensions.
  • Eric Young, president of AFGE's Council of Prison Locals, then detailed the work environment inside the Bureau of Prisons, dangers facing federal correctional officers and efforts to collaborate with other AFGE councils to strengthen the union.
  • Lastly, AFGE Department of Veterans Affairs Local 2778 Vice President John Adams discussed sequestration's impact on VA research and concerns about contracting out at the agency. Adams also shed light on the positive impact federal employees have on their communities and local economies.
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: Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO, on his organization's latest federal employee job satisfaction report:

"There is no doubt the three-year pay freeze, furloughs, budget cuts, ad hoc hiring freezes and continued uncertainty are taking their toll on federal workers. What it really means is that agencies aren't positioned to successfully meet the needs of the American people."

***Happy Holidays, everyone! AFGE Week in Review will return after New Year's***

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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