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Federal Union Leader: 2016 GOP Platform ‘A Hostile Takeover of the Civil Service System’

Leader of largest federal employees’ union blasts proposals to cut pay and benefits, privatize government services, and politicize the workforce

AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr.WASHINGTON – In response to the release of the 2016 Republican Party Platform, J. David Cox, Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, representing 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees across the country, issued the following statement:

The 2016 Republican Platform makes clear the GOP has moved so close to the extremes that it opposes the very government it seeks to lead. The platform advocates such profound changes to the terms of government employment that, if enacted, it would bring to end the merit-based, apolitical civil service system. Without Constitutional due process rights and free unions to provide accountability and transparency to government employment, government employment would cease to be a professional civil service. What would ensue is quite predictable and occurs wherever there is an absence of the rule of law: a government staffed with cronies and political protectors that will fail to provide quality services to the American people. A spoils system staffed by those hired because who they know, not what they can do.

AFGE_Logo_high+resThe platform’s ignorance and misrepresentation of the facts about federal pay and benefits should be an embarrassment. The truth is that federal pay lags the private sector and state and local governments by an average of 35% according the Federal Salary Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And federal benefits only look generous when compared to the shameful practice of private employers who provide nothing or next to nothing for their employees in the way of pensions or insurance. Federal compensation has always been modest, but three years of frozen pay and substantial pension cutbacks enacted over the last several years in the name of deficit reduction have impoverished thousands of federal employees and their families. The notion of dragging a border patrol agent or a VA nursing assistant’s living standards down even lower is despicable.

The Republican platform also shows a horrible irresponsibility for the public interest in its embrace of privatization. Handing over the government’s work to profit-hungry contractors at the expense of public safety and health is a guarantee of scandal. Dismantling the veterans’ health care system by closing down hospitals and clinics and telling veterans to find their own care through a privatized insurance system is a disgraceful and outrageous abrogation of the promise our nation makes to those who have worn our nation’s uniform. Today veterans can walk into any VA hospital and access seamlessly integrated primary/specialty care in addition to financial, educational, housing, vocational, and other benefits. Closing down the VA would mean more than just dangerous degradation in their health care. It would also mean missed opportunities for direct employment and job assistance, obtaining an education, and help with overcoming addiction or homelessness.

The platform’s plan to privatize TSA would also be a dangerous and expensive disaster, throwing away a decade and a half of reliable airport security and returning us the pre-9/11 model that failed to such devastating effect. Instead of dismantling the TSA, the platform should demand that the agency receive the funding and staff it needs to do its jobs safely and efficiently, which a Republican-led Congress has failed to do for years.”

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Preventing Workplace Violence: National COSH and Local Groups Join Call for OSHA Standard for Health Care and Social Service Workers

NCOSH 300X250San Diego – In solidarity with labor unions representing millions of American workers, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH) and other local COSH organizations have endorsed petitions calling for a comprehensive federal standard to prevent workplace violence in the health care and social assistance sectors.

“With an issue like workplace violence, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, how can you stop a person who wants to hurt somebody?’” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “But that’s just wrong and ignores documented best practices. If you address issues like adequate staffing and lines of communication, worksite security, proper training and safety protocols, there’s no question you can reduce the risks faced by health care and social service workers.”

Workplace violence is a problem across all sectors of the economy. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than two million workers each year report that they are victims of violent incidents on the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported more than 400 workplace homicides in 2014, making homicide the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.

Health care and social service workers are among those most at risk. Fifty-two percent of victims of workplace violence, according to the BLS, are health care and social service workers.

On July 12, a coalition of unions filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Labor, calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a “comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard to protect all workers in healthcare and social service settings.” The coalition of labor unions includes the AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Government Employees; Communications Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Service Employees International Union; the United Steelworkers and National Nurses United.

“Like other on-the-job hazards, workplace violence can be prevented – in health care, social services and in other sectors” said National COSH Senior Organizer Peter Dooley. “To be effective, a workplace violence prevention standard must be part of a comprehensive, systems approach to workplace safety, with workers involved in every step of the process.  That includes evaluating risks, assessing remedies, reporting incidents without fear of retaliation, and design of rigorous training.”

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, National COSH and local COSH groups point to the proven effectiveness of prevention programs. “A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program,” the letter states, “reduced rates of assault at Veterans Health Administration hospitals between 2004 and 2009.”  The letter also notes that the states of California and Minnesota have recently passed legislation requiring health care employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs.

In addition to National COSH, local groups signing on to yesterday’s letter include:

  • Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health (ConnectiCOSH)
  • Fe y Justicia Worker Center (Houston COSH)
  • Maine Labor Group on Health
  • Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH)
  • Mid-State Education and Service Foundation
  • New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH)
  • New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC)
  • New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
  • NorthEast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENYCOSH)
  • Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (RICOSH)
  • South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
  • Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH)
  • Western Massachusetts Coalition for Workplace Safety and Health (WesternMassCOSH)
  • Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH)
  • Worksafe

Yesterday’s letter to Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary Michaels is available here.

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

Nation’s Largest Federal Employee Union Endorses Hillary Clinton

AFGE believes Clinton will be a strong advocate for government employees and the public they serve

AFGE_Logo_high+resWASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees throughout the nation, today announces its endorsement of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

AFGE’s National Executive Council voted this week to endorse Secretary Clinton after meeting personally with both her and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in November. None of the announced Republican candidates responded to AFGE’s information requests.

“Secretary Clinton shares AFGE’s vision for a strong and vibrant government workforce that has the necessary tools and support needed to deliver vital programs and services to the American public,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The American people count on government employees to keep their streets safe, deliver their Social Security checks on time, and care for our nation’s heroes at veterans’ hospitals, and AFGE can count on Hillary Clinton to help us get it done.”

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the American Federation of Government Employees and their 670,000 members,” Secretary Clinton said.  “AFGE members make America run—protecting our national security, keeping our families healthy through food inspections, and serving our military in civilian support roles. And for decades, AFGE members have helped build the American middle class by fighting for higher wages, safer working conditions, and the right to organize and bargain collectively.”

AFGE - Clinton EndorsementA poll of AFGE’s members conducted as part of the endorsement process found that the majority of AFGE’s members plan to vote for a Democrat in the presidential election. By a 2-1 margin, Secretary Clinton was the number one choice of respondents.

“In a Clinton White House, working families will have a powerful ally in the ongoing fight to raise wages, create good jobs, expand benefits, and preserve workplace rights and protections,” Cox said.

“As President, I will always stand up for workers’ rights, fight to keep workers safe on the job, and protect retirement security, including defined benefit plans and Social Security,” Clinton said. “I’m proud to stand with federal workers, including the men and women of AFGE, to continue making progress and build a better future for working families. Because when workers are strong, families are strong—and when families are strong, America is strong.”

AFGE represents government workers in virtually every federal and D.C. department and agency, including USDA inspectors ensuring our food is safe to eat, DoD civilians supporting our troops at home and abroad, border patrol agents fighting drug and human trafficking on the borders, healthcare and benefits professionals at the VA, and transportation security officers keeping bombs off of airplanes.

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Politicians are Trying to Sell Off Veterans’ Health Care

Veterans_defend_the_promiseIt’s just… wrong.

It’s SO wrong, I’m having a hard time writing about it.

Politicians want to get rid of the VA healthcare system, and replace it with a system of vouchers that veterans would use “to purchase their own health insurance in the private marketplace.”

And they’re justifying this by pointing fingers at the VA system’s waiting lists. Nevermind that the system has a severe staff shortage, with 41,500 unfilled health care positions. Nevermind the amount of medical care that veterans need, since more than one-quarter of them are disabled. The politicians say it’s all the VA’s fault, and they’re using it as an excuse to privatize veterans’ health care.

So… who’s going to profit from this?

Probably all those special-interest campaign donors. (The health care industry spent more than $142 million on the 2014 congressional elections. Plus another $487 million lobbying, last year.)

And… how is this going to work?

Somebody – probably Congress – is going to decide how much each voucher will be worth. And then veterans will have to find their own health care. And if that health care costs more than the vouchers are worth… well, that’s not something that Congress will have to figure out.

Because by that point, the VA will be dismantled. Gone.

And it’ll just be a problem for each individual veteran… how to cover the gap between what Congress will pay, and what their health care will cost.

— — — —

Here’s what I think:

The idea of dismantling the VA healthcare system… it’s just wrong.

The thought of private healthcare corporations profiting off our veterans… it’s wrong, beyond words.

Want to know more about profits in the health industry? Start with this piece by whistleblower Wendell Potter.

Want to know more about the Koch-founded astroturf group “driving the VA scandal” for political purposes?  Start here.

— — — —

Veterans_deserve_quality_healthcareThis past week, two polling firms – one Republican, one Democrat – joined together to poll veterans about what they want, in their healthcare system.

The results shouldn’t be a surprise: Veterans want to keep their VA health care system – but they want it fixed, and properly staffed.

Veterans want health care providers who are specialists in veterans’ health care. They need doctors, nurses and support staff who already know about the health impacts of their military service. They don’t want to have to explain themselves – explain the circumstances and the consequences of their military service – every single time they need medical care. They want health care professionals who already know.

And veterans need 100% of their care covered. If the VA is replaced by a voucher system, that won’t happen.

You can read the full poll here. If you’ve talked with any veterans recently, none of it will be a surprise.

— — — —

This morning I am remembering particularly

  • two children of a veteran who committed suicide. Suicide is one of the least-discussed “health impacts” of military service. The Veterans Crisis Line is available here.
  • the veteran with PTSD who I spent time with, last weekend. Where to Get Help for Veterans with PTSD is available here.

To all of our veterans, thank you for your service.

Helping Our Nation’s Veterans: AFGE Praises Passage of Wounded Warriors Bill

vcsPRAsset_525404_86074_c3b2c18d-97f1-4c58-b8a6-945681c4ccba_0Legislation provides additional service-connected leave to newly hired veterans

WASHINGTON – Veterans will have an additional 104 hours of sick leave to treat their service-connected issues during their first year of federal employment under legislation sent to President Obama for his signature.

The American Federation of Government Employees applauded Congress for swift passage of the legislation, called the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act. The House passed the bill on Sept. 28, and the Senate passed the House version on Oct. 26, sending it to the president for his signature.

“AFGE thanks Sen. Jon Tester of Montana for shepherding the bill through the Senate so quickly,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “This bill will make the federal government a more supportive work environment for veterans transitioning out of military service. Too often, veterans are unfairly removed from federal service during their probationary periods. This helps level the playing field for them.”

The legislation will provide veterans who are 30% or more service-connected disabled with an additional 104 hours of sick leave for treating their service-connected issues during their first year of federal employment.  Once the president has signed the bill into law, the Office of Personnel Management has nine months to implement it.

“Veterans should not have to face the difficult choice of missing a doctor’s appointment or risk losing their job,” Cox said.

The House bill, HR 313, was introduced in January by Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts with bipartisan support. The bipartisan Senate bill, S 242, was introduced in January by Tester and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Budget Cuts Could Make Arizona Town a “Welfare City” [VIDEO]

Sequestration hits home for Ft. Huachuca workers as cuts threaten community;
AFGE urges swift passage of recently-announced two-year budget deal

FT. HUACHUCA, ARIZ. – The threat of sequestration and further federal budget cuts has employees at Fort Huachuca and Army bases across the country bracing for the worst, as a new video from the American Federation of Government Employees illustrates.

Fort Huachuca, located near the U.S.-Mexico border in Sierra Vista, Ariz., already has lost 1,100 civilian positions during the past 18 months due to budget cuts, says Katie Rasdall, president of AFGE Local 1662.

In response to sequestration and ongoing budget cuts, the Army plans to cut civilian staff at Fort Huachuca and more than two dozen other bases by another 30% between now and 2020.

“If sequestration continues and we start to plan for the 2020 budget cuts, there won’t be anything left here,” Rasdall said.

Mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration would force the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to make more than a trillion dollars in automatic spending cuts to programs and services over 10 years. DoD leaders have warned that sequestration will erode the nation’s defense capabilities and put the nation at risk.

AFGE supports the bipartisan budget deal announced Monday that would suspend sequestration for the next two years and provide much-needed increases in military and domestic spending.

Fort Huachuca already is seeing the effects of the federal budget cuts on area businesses and service providers who depend on the base and its workers for their own living. Job cuts at the base have taken their toll on the housing and real estate markets in Sierra Vista, residents say.

Long-time residents like Fran Kosinski, a military retiree and current member of AFGE Local 1662, say families won’t be able to make ends meet if the cuts continue.

“We’re going to become a welfare city, basically,” Kosinski says.

For more information, visit www.afge.org/DefendOurJobs.

 

 

Largest Federal Employee Union Hits New Heights as AFGE Membership Hits 300K

AFGE Logo 2 “Remarkable achievement” amid political attacks on labor unions, working people, union president says

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees has reached 300,000 active members for the first time in modern history, a historic milestone that caps 24 consecutive years of membership growth. 

“This is a remarkable achievement, especially in light of the continued threats to labor unions in general and public sector unions in particular,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.  

“In a political climate that is becoming increasingly hostile to organized labor and the rights of working people to bargain collectively, federal employees understand that there is tremendous power in coming together in the workplace and speaking with one collective voice.” 

AFGE reached the 300,000 member mark on October 26, 2015 as an employee at the Federal Bureau of Prisons joined the union. AFGE reached 200,000 members at the end of 2002. The next benchmark is 500,000 members.  

“Everyone who is a member of AFGE joins because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Cox said. 

Cox encouraged federal and D.C. government employees who do not yet belong to AFGE to consider joining today. Employees can sign up at www.afge.org/join.  

“Being a union member means looking out for everyone in the workplace, not just your own self-interests. It’s about lifting up those individuals whose voices are otherwise silenced. It’s about joining together in solidarity to fight for better working conditions not just in your own workplace but in workplaces across the country and around the world,” Cox said. 

Growing the union is one of the four main objectives of AFGE’s Big Enough to Win plan, which is the union’s roadmap for the next decade. AFGE has added new organizers to help locals with recruiting efforts, held Organizing Institutes and train-the-trainer sessions to improve our organizing efforts, and held many recruitment drives at workplaces across the country. 

“We have gotten to where we are today by building a culture where organizing occurs every single day of the year,” Cox said.


The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Tamara’s Tale: Transgender Veteran Fights for Equal Rights at Work (VIDEO)

Tamara’s Tale

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) just released this powerful new video about one transgendered woman’s fight against workplace discrimination.

Since she was very young, Tamara Lusardi has been familiar with a life of service. She is a self-described “Air Force brat” who grew up to serve in the Armed Forces, and later, as a public servant. She’s a member of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1858 in Alabama and works as a civilian employee with the Department of Defense. She is also transgender.

Despite her disabled veteran status and career of public service, Lusardi was met with discrimination at the worksite. Her supervisor often refused to acknowledge her as she wished and she met resistance when trying to go about her day like any other employee.

But Lusardi didn’t back down or let others continue to tread on her dignity. In 2014, with the help of AFGE and the Transgender Law Center, she fought back against the workplace discrimination and won.

Her case set an important precedent in the federal government for other transgender employees. Learn more about AFGE’s advocacy for LGBT issues at the AFGE Pride 2015 page and read AFGE’s Women’s and Fair Practices Departments Federal Employees Transgender Model Policy.

Workplace discrimination of any kind is wrong and all workers deserve respect and dignity in the workplace.  Collectively we must work to strengthen our laws to ensure that members of the LGBTQ community are protected from workplace discriminations.

Video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1ee049xHmw&feature=youtu.be

 

Federal Union Leader Says Senate Budget Plan Cuts Wages for Working People

Federal employees would see 5.5% pay cut under proposal, AFGE president says

WASHINGTON – Federal employees would be on the hook for billions of dollars in cuts to their take-home pay and benefits under a budget plan issued today by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“Senate leaders have doubled down on the vicious budget cuts proposed a day earlier by their House colleagues,” President Cox said. “Their vision for the future means more financial pain and sacrifice for millions of hard-working Americans who serve the public day in and day out.”

Both the Senate and House budgets for fiscal 2016 would require federal employees to contribute substantially more of their wages toward their retirement without getting any additional benefits in return. This would result in a 5.5 percent cut in salary for most current employees.

That 5.5% pay cut would mean a $1,757 per year loss for a nursing assistant caring for veterans at the Sheridan VA Medical Center in Sen. Enzi’s home state of Wyoming.

“If Chairman Enzi wants to talk about helping working class people with a straight face, he needs to explain how someone caring for our nation’s wounded warriors is supposed to support his or her family when their senator is so focused on cutting their pay,” Cox said.

“Federal employees already have seen their wages and benefits slashed by nearly $160 billion under the guise of fiscal austerity,” Cox added. “When is enough going to be enough?”

“Slashing the wages and benefits of government employees who have devoted their lives to serving the public isn’t a plan for growing the economy. On the contrary, it’s a sure-fire way to lower the living standards for working class people who have already paid a steep price during the economic recession,” Cox said.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.


New Video: AFGE Women’s Coordinator Fights for Equal Rights

In latest documentary, AFGE member and D.C. Investigator Audrey Townsend discusses fighting for equal pay for women

AFGE VideoWASHINGTON – For Audrey Townsend, the fact that women get paid 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts isn’t just a statistic. It’s a call to action.

As a women’s coordinator for American Federation of Government Employees Local 383, Audrey serves as a spokesperson for all of the female District of Columbia government employees who aren’t receiving equal pay for equal work.

“My job is to represent them and to represent to the D.C. City Council that women deserve the same equal pay as men,” she says. “I would ask them, Would you want your daughter making less than her brother? It’s important that everyone have the same equal playing field, without gender being a factor.”

Audrey shares her story in the latest documentary produced by AFGE, which is the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees. The documentary series is part of AFGE’s year-long campaign, “I Am AFGE,” to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them every day.

Audrey’s passion for improving the quality of life for all people extends to her job with the D.C. Department of Human Services, where she investigates reported cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation involving vulnerable adults.

Through her job, Audrey helps protect the city’s most vulnerable residents from being left in a living situation that could result in abuse and possibly death.

“Members like Audrey not only perform a public service in their day-to-day jobs, but also by representing our union members to ensure equality in the workplace,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “The employees we represent in the District of Columbia touch every resident’s life in one way or another, fighting to ensure D.C. residents have a government that works for them.”

Audrey says she gets just as much from AFGE as she gives. AFGE provides her with regular training on workplace discrimination and equal employment rights, so she can pass on that information to other members.

“AFGE empowers me to be who I am so I’m able to represent other people. AFGE provides a platform for me to get up and to represent those who may not have a strong voice,” she says.

Audrey’s story is one of 15 short-form documentaries being released by AFGE through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country.

All of the videos are being posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also is being promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

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