Friday, November 22, 2013

AFGE Week in Review: Nov. 22, 2013 - AFGE Supports Border Patrol Pay Reform

Nov. 22, 2013
  • AFGE Supports Border Patrol Pay Reform
  • Budget Conferees under Pressure to Strike Budget Deal
  • AFGE Voices Grave Concerns about Loss of Rights for Employees in Sensitive Positions
  • Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital under Spotlight for Illegal Outsourcing
  • AFL-CIO Opposes Sen. Baucus’s Corporate Tax Reform Proposal
  • CEOs Pushing for Cuts to Social Security Sit on Massive Retirement Funds
  • Senate Voted to Eliminate Filibusters on Presidential Nominees
  • Will You Make a Donation to Help Typhoon Haiyan Victims in the Philippines?
  • Fraud Alert for Veterans
AFGE Supports Border Patrol Pay Reform: AFGE National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd this week testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform National Security Subcommittee in support of the Border Patrol Pay Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 3463), a bill that would reform the agents’ pay system for the first time in 40 years.

According to Judd, the new pay system outlined in H.R. 3463 would save up to $1 billion for the taxpayers over a ten-year period while also improving our nation’s border security. In his testimony, Judd noted that more staffing is needed on our nation’s borders to address the threat of increasingly well-organized, well-funded, and heavily armed drug cartels. If passed, the measure would be the equivalent of hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, increasing both border security and agent safety. The legislation would guarantee proper staffing and stability at each of the nation’s borders without selectively limiting staffing only to locations with high volumes of illegal activity.

“The primary reason the agents support the legislation is that it guarantees the manpower we need in the field to accomplish our mission,” said Judd to committee members. “I learned early in my career that manpower and agent safety are linked. It was true when I started 16 years ago. It’s even more true today, with the domination and spread of sophisticated drug cartels on the border.”

AFGE is the exclusive representative of 17,000 Border Patrol Agents nationwide.

Budget Conferees under Pressure to Strike Budget Deal: Congress remains at gridlock over how to fix the phony deficit crisis. With pressure to further slash government spending to reduce the deficit, which will throw even more people out of work and damage the already depressed economy, Congress digs themselves into a hole with each option more bleak than the next. While playing down the possibility of another government shutdown, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who co-chairs the Budget Conference Committee with his Senate counterpart Patty Murray, earlier this week said either the conference committee would come up with a deal or Congress would approve another stopgap bill to fund the government at the current levels. Ryan and Murray are still far apart on whether to ask the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes or to cut benefits for the seniors and the disabled. Passing another short-term spending bill means keeping in place the current sequester and other devastating cuts.

Even though sequestration is not popular among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been telling budget negotiators to keep it, never mind that keeping sequestration in place through 2014 would cost the country up to 1.6 million jobs. His preferred plan would shift the cuts from the Defense Department to other government programs – education, transportation, research, social safety net, etc., – whose funding will reach the historic low by 2017. Lawmakers, many of whom claim job creation is their top priority, continue to fuel the fake deficit fire even when economists agree that slashing spending kills jobs and hurts the economic recovery.

AFGE Voices Grave Concerns about Loss of Rights for Employees in Sensitive Positions: Hundreds of thousands of federal employees could lose their right to a third-party review of agency actions that could cost them their jobs if a recent court ruling and proposed regulations are allowed to stand, AFGE General Counsel David Borer testified before Congress this week. At issue is the designation of positions as national security sensitive. Employees in these positions are not required to hold security clearances and do not have access to classified information. However, the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Kaplan v. Conyers expands a narrow exemption that limits Merit Systems Protection Board review of security clearance determinations to cover agency determinations for sensitive positions.

“In other words, an agency may now designate any position, no matter how absurd, as a national security position,” Borer told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce. “An agency may then go on to find an employee ineligible to occupy that position for any reason, including an invidious or illegal reason, and at the same time shield its action entirely from third-party review by the MSPB.”

Compounding the court’s decision, a proposed rule issued jointly by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would enable agencies to vastly expand the positions designated as national security sensitive. The proposed regulations are so broad that the Department of Defense could designate every civilian employee as sensitive, Borer said. If both Conyers and the proposed regulations are allowed to stand, the likely result will be that Executive branch agencies will have the unchecked power to deprive hundreds of thousands of employees of the protections and rights that Congress gave them in the CSRA (Civil Service Reform Act of 1978). To counter this loss of due process rights, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced HR 3278 to clarify that workers or applicants are entitled to be heard by the MSPB, even if it implicates a sensitive position determination. AFGE strongly urges introduction of a companion bill in the Senate with the bipartisan support shown in the House.

Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital under Spotlight for Illegal Outsourcing: AFGE is seeking congressional intervention after a number of jobs at the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune have been illegally turned over to contractors or inappropriately transferred to military positions. At the urging of AFGE, three North Carolina House lawmakers wrote Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, urging him to investigate and bring back in-house the illegal and inappropriate conversions of jobs at the hospital. AFGE Local 2065 has been dealing with an out-of-control management, which isn’t even aware that laws and DoD guidance prohibiting such conversions exist.

AFGE National is working with DoD’s Office of Personnel and Readiness to address our concerns. AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr. also has sent detailed correspondence to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus detailing our concerns.
AFL-CIO Opposes Sen. Baucus’s Corporate Tax Reform Proposal: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus this week issued the long-awaited proposal to overhaul corporate tax code, but it quickly got shot down by many including the AFL-CIO. The U.S. top corporate tax is supposed to be 35%, but U.S. companies’ overseas profits are not taxed until they are brought home. As a result, many companies park their profits overseas, estimated at about $2 trillion, to avoid paying their fair share while waiting for another tax holiday. They create dummy companies in low-tax countries and shift earnings there, saving themselves $90 billion in U.S. taxes every year. The Baucus plan, among other things, would tax the current profits held offshore at 20% and allow them to spread payments over eight years. It would limit income shifting through intangible property (copyright, trademarks, patents, etc.) transfers. Baucus also wants to lower corporate tax from 35% to below 30%. But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the Baucus plan falls short.

“While it does close some of the most egregious tax loopholes that lead companies to shift profits and send jobs overseas, it still leaves too many of those incentives intact,” he said. “Moreover, while the Baucus proposal generates tax revenue temporarily with a one-time-only tax (at a reduced rate) on the earnings that U.S. companies are holding outside the country, it does not generate any tax revenue over the long term.  Instead, it uses the tax revenue generated from closing loopholes to lower the corporate tax rate, an approach that was supported by only 9% of respondents in a recent poll. Unless corporate tax reform generates significant amounts of tax revenue over the long term, working people will have to pay the price, one way or another.”

CEOs Pushing for Cuts to Social Security Sit on Massive Retirement Funds: Remember the CEOs who are members of the “Fix the Debt” coalition and the Business Roundtable that have been calling for cuts to Social Security benefits for seniors, the disabled, and veterans? They themselves have amassed massive retirement funds with accounts averaging $14.5 million – more than 1,200 times as much as the $12,000 median retirement savings of Americans nearing their retirement age. According to a new report by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies, Honeywell’s David Cote, a leading spokesperson for both Fix the Debt and Business Roundtable, is sitting on $134.5 million in retirement assets.  Walmart CEO Mike Duke has $113.2 million in his retirement accounts, compared to his workers’ average 401(k) balance of $15,000. While many CEOs don’t even offer their employees any pension plans, those who do have allowed massive deficits of $4.9 billion to $22.6 billion in their employee retirement funds. And they continue to widen the income gap between themselves and everybody else. According to the report:

“Over the past several decades, chief executives have slashed retirement benefits for their employees. Traditional defined-benefit corporate pensions covered 38% of private-sector workers in the early 1990s, compared with just 18% today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of companies providing traditional pension plans has dropped from just over 112,000 in 1985 to 22,697 in 2013.”
Senate Voted to Eliminate Filibusters on Presidential Nominees: Following a recent abuse of the filibuster that many have characterized as attempts to deny President Obama’s his constitutional powers to appoint judges, the Senate this week voted 52 to 48 to eliminate the use of the filibuster against presidential nominees except those to the Supreme Court. That means from now on executive and judicial nominees can be approved by a 51-vote majority. The change would not affect legislation, which would still need 60 votes if filibustered.

Will You Make a Donation to Help Typhoon Haiyan Victims in the Philippines? Join the $10,000 for the 10,000 campaign to raise a minimum of $10,000 by Dec. 7 to support the more than 10,000 Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines. More than 4 million people were displaced when the storm smashed into the Philippines two weeks ago. Food, water, and medical supplies are still very much needed in many areas. 100% of your donations go to Gawad Kalinga-USA (GK) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). GK's relief teams are on the ground now clearing roads to get food packs in the devastated areas. NAFCON is promoting grassroots relief and rehabilitation with partners in the Philippines. The $10,000 for the 10,000 campaign was launched by Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO, and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement. Click here to make a donation.
Fraud Alert for Veterans: The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a fraud alert about a marketing scam that is targeting veterans who misdial the VA National Call Center (800-827-1000) or the GI Bill Call Center (888-442-4551) phone numbers. A marketing company created two phone numbers that differ from the real VA numbers by one digit. If a veteran misdials and calls the bogus number, the answering party will offer a gift card and try to obtain sensitive personal data, to include credit card information. Please note that the VA will “never” ask for credit card or banking information over the phone.

The two bogus numbers are 800-872-1000 and 888-442-4511. The bottom line is make sure you know who you are talking to before providing personal information over the phone. The VA has notified law enforcement authorities. For a list of toll-free VA phone numbers, go to the VA’s Inquiry Routing & Information System webpage here.

This Week in Labor History: Nov. 20, 2008 - The Great Recession hits high gear when the stock market falls to its lowest level since 1997. Adding to the mess: a burst housing bubble and total incompetence and greed—some of it criminal—on the part of the nation’s largest banks and Wall Street investment firms. Officially, the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but unemployment still hovers around the 7 percent mark today.

This Week’s Tweet: “McDonald's advice to underpaid employees: Sell your Christmas presents for cash ” @thinkprogress

Hot on WWW: Federal employees' pay, benefits, and jobs are suffering because millions of corporations refuse to pay their fair share of taxes. Check out these nine little places where corporations create dummy companies to avoid paying taxes.

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: Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the need to expand Social Security:
The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. This is about our values, and our values tell us that we don’t build a future by first deciding who among our most vulnerable will be left to starve. We don’t build a future for our children by cutting basic retirement benefits for their grandparents…The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values. It is a conversation about who we are as a country and who we are as a people.”

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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