Jan. 13, 2012
AFGE President John Gage Responds to Obama’s Agency Consolidation Plan: AFGE National President John Gage today issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s proposed consolidation of business and trade agencies:
“I welcome President Obama’s decision to reinstate the Small Business Administration’s status as a Cabinet-level agency – a position it held during the Clinton administration. This signifies the president’s confidence in Administrator Karen Mills and the thousands of hard-working federal employees who serve America’s small business owners.
AFGE represents employees at four of the trade- and commerce-related agencies and offices that I understand would be consolidated under the Obama administration’s plan. We represent 2,200 employees at SBA, nearly a hundred each at the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and about two dozen at the Trade and Development Agency.
We are eager to review the details of the president’s consolidation plan and determine how it will impact the employees we represent and the services we deliver to the American people. I do take issue, however, with the notion that most of government is inefficient and that cutting federal workers will somehow solve the problem. Federal employees and supervisors are only carrying out the work that has been created by Congress and elected officials, who have mandated these various layers of bureaucracy largely for political gains.”
AFGE President John Gage Responds to Proposed 0.5% Raise: AFGE National President John Gage has issued the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s proposed 0.5% federal employee pay raise for 2013:
“After freezing federal employee’s salaries for two years, the Obama administration is proposing a miniscule half-percentage point increase in their wages next year. It’s less than half of the 1.2% nationwide adjustment employees are entitled to next year under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, which was signed into law by the first President Bush in 1990. The proposal also effectively freezes locality pay for another year. The fact is, this increase is well below the rate of inflation of 3.6%, and will be wiped out by higher costs for health care, groceries and other essential needs.
“Federal employees aren’t overpaid government bureaucrats. They are the aircraft mechanics and commissary workers at local military bases, the nurses at the local VA hospital, the men and women guarding our borders and the claims representatives who process Social Security and disability benefits. Especially in these tough economic times, we must ensure that all workers are provided with fair and meaningful wage increases to prevent them from falling further behind. I urge Congress to approve a meaningful pay raise that will allow these employees to provide for their families.
“Having said that, we’re hopeful that this is a positive step that spells an end to the barrage of attacks on pay and benefits for working people and serves as an acknowledgement that attacking the jobs we have won’t create the new jobs we need.”
AFGE Urges DoD to Shift Budget-Cutting Focus to Contractors: AFGE is urging the Defense Department to take a balanced approach to spending reductions that subjects private contractors to the same cost-cutting scrutiny that has already been placed upon the civilian workforce. The Pentagon has pledged to cut $450 billion in spending during the next decade. In addition, the department may have to cut another $500 billion during the next decade to comply with a sequestration mandate. DoD has arbitrarily capped the civilian workforce at 2010 levels, which means cutting tens of thousands of civilian positions. It is also pursuing cuts in military retirement pay and other employee benefits. At the same time, defense spending on service contractors is growing at an alarming rate. The department spent $121 billion on service contracts in fiscal 2010, nearly twice as much as originally budgeted, according to an inventory of service contracts cited in a recent letter from several members of Congress on the House Appropriations Committee to the Pentagon.
“We understand that the law requires sacrifices, but it is wrong for civilian workers to shoulder the entire burden,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “Tens of thousands of civilian jobs are slated for elimination, despite strong evidence that having civilians perform these jobs is the most cost effective strategy. Meanwhile, the department continues to increase spending on contractors, even though they are more costly and less accountable. There is no budgetary or strategic rationale for excluding DoD’s vast contractor ‘shadow workforce’ from the cost-cutting measures that the military and civilian workforces are facing.”
“The main issue this country is facing is a lack of jobs. Cutting military and civilian jobs and hacking away at their benefits hurts the economy and does nothing to spur job creation,” Gage added.
Inmates Assault BOP Officers in Seattle, Coleman: AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals (CPL) today reiterated its call for more resources and manpower following two inmate assaults on officers the first week of the new year. The first incident occurred Jan. 3 at the Federal Detention Center – SeaTac in Seattle, Wash., when two inmates attacked and assaulted a correctional officer who was working alone during morning rounds. The officer, an Iraq war veteran, has been hospitalization for treatment. The FBI is investigating the incident. The assault in Seattle was followed up by another incident days later at the United States Penitentiary – Coleman in Florida where two correctional officers were assaulted by inmates inside the facility. CPL pointed to BOP’s inadequate staffing and funding levels as a major reason for the uptick in violence throughout the nation’s prison system.
“We’re outraged to learn of more assaults against staff,” said CPL President Dale Deshotel. “Sadly, these types of attacks – one where a staff member is unarmed and frequently working alone – happen far too often throughout the federal prison system. This is a safety issue and must be addressed immediately.”
BOP correctional officers and other staff members inside federal prisons are unarmed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by inmates with homemade weapons. For years, AFGE and CPL have fought not only for additional staffing and funding at BOP but also for protective equipment such as stab-resistant vests. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country. A correctional officer can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 inmates at once and is unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence – something AFGE says cannot continue.
AFGE Fights Proposed Closure of Historic Hot Springs VA Hospital: AFGE strongly objects to the proposed closing of the historic Hot Springs, South Dakota VA Medical Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed shuttering this facility, which is part of the Black Hill Health Care System, covering South Dakota, and portions of Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The dismantling of this facility would force veterans to attend other facilities in the network that are between 50 and 100 miles away or be pushed to private sector health care centers that may lack the expertise in treating veterans.
“Hot Springs is a veterans’ town and our VA facility has served America’s heroes for more than 100 years. The proposal by the agency to close the doors of this veterans’ care center, on top of its already diminished capacities, is an outrage,” said Patrick Russell, president of AFGE Local 1539. “This has become a pattern with the VA, where we are finding the agency systematically closing its in-patient care facilities, in order to solely operate outpatient clinics and be in the business of managing contracts with the private sector. This is no way to care for our nation’s vets.”
AFGE members, the American Legion, veterans, community members and other supporters have mobilized grassroots efforts in Hot Springs to petition the agency to keep the facility open to area veterans. The historic facility has been the ideal location to treat those with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions, given its small town atmosphere.
Obama Recess Appoints Labor Board: President Barack Obama has recess-appointed Sharon Block, Terence Flynn, and Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), bypassing the approval of right-wing lawmakers in the Senate who would likely stall the nominations as they previously did with other nominations. The three NLRB appointees will allow the five-member board to continue on with a quorum after board member Craig Becker’s term came to an end last week. The independent labor board conducts union elections and investigates unfair labor practices.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “We commend the President for exercising his constitutional authority to ensure that crucially important agencies protecting workers and consumers are not shut down by obstructionism. Working families and consumers should not pay the price for political ploys that have repeatedly undercut the enforcement of rules against Wall Street abuses and the rights of working people.”
Obama’s recess appointments infuriated right-wing lawmakers despite the fact that President George W. Bush made a total of 171 recess appointments and President Obama had made only 28 recess appointments as of December 8, 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Obama Taps OMB Chief to Become White House Chief of Staff: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew has been tapped by President Barack Obama to become the White House chief of staff. Lew, who was Bill Clinton’s OMB chief, will replace Bill Daley, former banker and Clinton’s commerce secretary, at the end of this month.
AFGE Wins Ground Rules Agreement, Ready to Move Forward with Contract Negotiations at TSA: AFGE is one step closer to bringing home a collective bargaining agreement for 44,000 TSA officers after the union on Wednesday won an agreement with TSA on ground rules that govern the actual contract negotiations.
AFGE and TSA negotiators signed the ground rules agreement at about 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 11, paving the way for contract negotiations. This was a major step forward after TSA had been reluctant to adopt standard ground rules and practices used across the government. AFGE insisted that TSA do the right thing and our persistence paid off when management finally agreed to our proposals. For example, management originally refused to provide AFGE with advance notice of changes to work rules subject to bargaining, saying they couldn’t ensure they would always be able to do that. Other agencies, of course, readily agree to such a provision and comply without difficulty. But not TSA. After endless debate over how quickly they could provide such notice, they finally agreed to give notice “as soon as practicable.” It may seem like a small point, but it should give TSOs a sense of why TSA foot-dragging delayed the ground rules.
TSA Relents on Radiation, AFGE Proposes Joint Committee to Provide Dosimeters: After years of pressure from AFGE, TSA management finally relents and makes plans for issuing radiation dosimeters for TSA officers. Members around the country have expressed concerns for years about the level of radiation they are exposed to from screening equipment. The European Union recently banned certain types of scanners due to radiation concerns. Thanks to AFGE’s advocacy about this issue from the beginning, we will finally be able to give the officers what they really need – concrete information on the level of radiation exposure they are experiencing at work.
AFGE is also proposing a joint union-management committee to implement TSA’s new radiation monitoring program following the agency’s announcement of its plan to purchase personal and area dosimeters to be used at certain federalized airports. Specifically, TSA is seeking vendors who can provide individual and area dosimeters as part of the agency’s ongoing study to detect ionizing radiation and assess risk to employee health and safety. It will be a two-year contract worth $150,000.
“We would like to see TSA implement a comprehensive radiation safety and monitoring program to provide dosimeters to assess employee exposure over time as well as provide training and education on radiation and its possible health effects,” said AFGE President John Gage in a Jan. 11 letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole.
Application Period Now Open for AFGE’s JNS Family Scholarship: Each January, AFGE members and their dependents are eligible to apply for the John N. Sturdivant (JNS) Family Scholarship. This scholarship, administered by the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA), offers twenty five awards in the amount of $2,000 each on a yearly basis.
Applicants must be enrolled or plan to enroll in an accredited college or university in a course of study that will lead to a two-year, four-year or graduate degree and have at least a 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Applications are accepted from January - March of each year and completed application packages must be postmarked no later than March 30, 2012. For other requirements and to access the JNS Family Scholarship Application Form, click here. Please note that those attending the National Labor College will not qualify for the JNS Family Scholarship as AFGE offers a separate scholarship program for this institution.
For more information, contact Carolyn Williams at 202.639.6406 or visit the AFGE Education website at http://education.afge.org.
AFL-CIO to Host Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance in Detroit: Hundreds of labor and civil right activists are expected to gather at the AFL-CIO’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance and National Conference to honor Dr. King’s legacy in Detroit, Michigan on Jan. 12-16. Featured speakers and awardees include Rep. Hansen Clarke, Rep. John Conyers, national radio host Joe Madison, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, UAW Pres. Bob King, U.S Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker. A series of workshops will be provided on important issues like voting rights, protecting public education, and organizing for job-creating legislation. Click here for more information.
Tweet of the Week: “Measured in dollars, fuel was America's top export in 2011. We're selling it because the price is good: an avg. $95 a barrel last year ~ WestWingReport
Brangelina Meets Obama: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt stopped by the White House Wednesday to chat with the president.
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE´s "Inside Government" for a special discussion with Americans for Democratic Action National Director Michael J. Wilson. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Dec. 30, is now available on demand. Wilson addressed the benefits of collective bargaining and cited the recent four-year labor agreement between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers as proof that the process works.MSNBC´s Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show," and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass were then featured as two of the program's top interviews of 2011. Schultz discussed the need for a strong middle class and proposed ideas to get Americans back to work, while Bass shared her views on the U.S. job market and celebrated the work of public servantsnationwide.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online atwww.federalnewsradio.com.
Quote of the Week:
AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Dale Deshotel on the union’s repeated calls for more resources to adequately fund and staff federal prisons:
“We’re outraged to learn of more assaults against staff. Sadly, these types of attacks – one where a staff member is unarmed and frequently working alone – happen far too often throughout the federal prison system. This is a safety issue and must be addressed immediately.”