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

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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.

Union Member and Correctional Counselor Stands for Safety at Federal Prisons

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AFGE member Nathan McCasline stresses need for safer work conditions at federal prisons in latest AFGE documentary

WASHINGTON – Correctional officers inside federal prisons carry no weapons. Most are not even allowed to have pepper spray, and officers only recently won the right to wear protective vests. They often work alone – just one officer for every 130 to 150 inmates.

That’s why the top concern for correctional counselor Nathan McCasline is the safety and security of his fellow officers and staff. Nathan is president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 510, which represents Bureau of Prisons employees at Federal Correctional Institution-Edgefield, a medium-security prison near the South Carolina-Georgia border that houses more than 1,700 male inmates.

“As a union official, it is my duty and it is an obligation to do all I can to make sure that the workplace is as safe as possible so that at the end of the day, that officer can go home to his family,” Nathan says.

Nathan shares his story in the latest documentary produced by AFGE, which represents Nathan and more than 37,000 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers, nurses, teachers, and other staff. 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.

“Our correctional officers put their lives at risk every day they go to work, and unfortunately some have lost their lives while in the line of duty,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They should not have to fear going to work, and their families and loved ones should not have to worry that they might not come home. That is why AFGE and our Council of Prison Locals have launched the Safe Prisons Project to improve working conditions for Bureau of Prisons employees. They watch over some of America’s most dangerous inmates; the least we can do is watch out for their safety.”

The Safe Prisons Project has three main goals:

  • Increase funding for the Bureau of Prisons to address chronic understaffing issues that put officers in danger;
  • Expand the Pepper Spray Pilot Program to all federal prisons so correctional officers can defend themselves; and
  • Support mandatory sentencing reform by backing the Smart Sentencing Act of 2013 (S 1410 and HR 3382) to reduce overcrowding of our prisons.

“What the union does, it gives us the opportunity to be able to get the equipment we need, to try to fight to get the staffing we need,” Nathan says. “The union also helps us get our voice up on Capitol Hill to let them know we need additional people to be able to come and work this job.”

Nathan’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.

“AFGE represents tens of thousands of law enforcement officers at the Bureau of Prisons and other federal agencies who put their lives on the line every day,” President Cox said. “They and all other government employees have dedicated their careers to serving the public. This campaign is our way of thanking them for their service and reminding Americans of the valuable work they do.”

Los Angeles TSA Officer Shares His Story in Debut “I Am AFGE” Documentary

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AFGE member and LAX Officer Victor Payes recalls harrowing Nov. 1 shooting, threats to TSOs and flying public

WASHINGTON – An American Federation of Government Employees member who serves as a Transportation Security Officer at Los Angeles International Airport and witnessed the aftermath of the fatal Nov. 1 shooting there shares his story in the debut video for AFGE’s documentary series, “I Am AFGE.”

Victor Payes raced to the airport as soon as he heard the news that a gunman had opened fire at the airport, fatally shooting his coworker Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other TSA officers and a civilian. Victor wasn’t scheduled to report to work for another three hours but he knew he had to be there to support his colleagues and serve his country.

“The shooting had happened at 9 a.m. By four o’clock we were back to business,” Victor says in the AFGE video, which is being released today.

The shooting was a stark reminder to Victor and his colleagues of the reason why TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: to protect the American public from harm. It also highlighted the threats that security officers face every day in doing their jobs.

“As time has gone on, unfortunately that threat has not just developed to the American public, it’s developed as a threat to us as well,” Victor says. “That serves as a reminder and a reinforcement to us that we’re there for more than just a paycheck. We’re there truly to provide a service to the public.”

A son of immigrants, Victor Payes takes pride in his job because it allows him to provide for his family while giving back to America.

“As an AFGE member, working at TSA, I know millions of people count on us to make sure they make it to their destination safely, and I’m proud to say that we do our job to make sure they get there safely,” he says.

Victor’s story is the first to be featured in AFGE’s year-long campaign to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day. The centerpiece of the “I Am AFGE” campaign is 15 short-form documentaries that will be released every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees like Payes who carry out important work across the country.

The campaign kicked off last week with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve.

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

In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).

“AFGE is proud to represent the more than 45,000 TSA officers who protect our skies each and every day under demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They and all other federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters.”

AFGE Issues Top 10 List of Actions Obama Should Take to Help Federal Workers

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Union issues response to President’s call to action in State of the Union address

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WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, has outlined 10 issues President Obama can address today through executive order to improve the federal government’s workforce.

The Top 10 list comes in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he pledged to act without legislation “wherever and whenever” possible to expand opportunity for American families.

“These are concrete actions President Obama can take right now to address inequalities that currently exist in the federal workforce, while improving accountability and saving taxpayer dollars,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The list:

1.      Align locality boundaries so hourly and salaried federal employees who work in the same location are treated the same when it comes drawing local pay area boundaries.  No private firm that pays geographic pay differentials treats its hourly and salaried employees differently in this respect and the federal government should follow suit.  The disparate treatment of federal workers who work side-by-side for the same employer is unfair and unproductive.

2.      Extend to Transportation Security Officers the same disciplinary appeal rights enjoyed by most federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration managers. Currently, TSOs are limited in their ability to appeal adverse actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board, instead having to rely primarily on an internal disciplinary review board within TSA.

3.      Immediately stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from downgrading low-wage positions, many of which go to veterans and disabled veterans. These downgrades, dubbed a “reclassification” by the agency, cut thousands of dollars annually from already paltry salaries, and when applied to current workers, cause reductions in salary and retirement benefits and degrade services to veterans.

4.      Free agencies from the Office of Management and Budget’s arbitrary constraints on the size of in-house workforces, so that they can instead manage by budgets and ceilings. If agencies have work to do and money to spend, there is no reason why federal employees cannot be used. Currently, these performance decisions are being dictated by arbitrary workforce caps and cuts.

5.      Provide agencies with a long-awaited costing methodology to govern the insourcing process and encourage them to look for opportunities to save money through intelligent insourcing.

6.      Direct agencies to expedite compliance with inventories of service contracts and integrate them into budget processes, so agencies have the same control over service contract spending that they have already over federal employee spending and can systematically identify bad contracts or contracts that cost too much.

7.      Direct the Department of Defense to stop using borrowed military manpower, which is resulting in scores of hard-working civil servants – many of them Wounded Warriors – being replaced with more expensive, less experienced military personnel.

8.      Ensure that the administration is ready to issue a rule to implement the statutory reduction in the annual cap on taxpayer subsidies on contractor compensation. In June, the cap will be reduced to $487,000 assuming the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council has issued the necessary rule.

9.      Support allowing Bureau of Prisons correctional officers who work in highly dangerous areas of federal prisons to routinely carry pepper spray to defend themselves if physically attacked by violent inmates.

10.  Order the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw its proposal to radically overhaul the federal poultry inspection system by removing most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turning over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained plant employees. The cost-cutting plan would endanger the health and safety of employees and the American public by allowing plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute. This means the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line would have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

Head of Largest Federal Employee Union Blames Congressional Policies for Low Morale at Government Agencies

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Federal employees feel “devalued, dispirited and discouraged” due to budget cutbacks, AFGE leader says 

WASHINGTON – Federal employee morale is at an all-time low according to a new governmentwide survey, and the leader of the nation’s largest federal employee union faulted Congress for pushing policies that favor spending cuts over economic growth.

“Pay freezes, furloughs and budget cutbacks are the reasons why federal employee morale is in the dumps, and lawmakers who have been leading the charge to slash government spending with abandon have no one to blame but themselves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

A report released today by the Partnership for Public Service, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” says 57.8 percent of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs, which is the lowest it’s been since the survey began in 2003. The Partnership report is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of the government’s more than 2 million workers.

Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and many lost a week of wages this summer due to sequestration-related furloughs. New federal employees are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit. Meanwhile, budget cuts due to sequestration have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies.

“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,” Cox 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.”

Rather than targeting federal employees and services for harmful cuts, Congress should focus on reforming our broken tax system and investing in programs and projects that will create good-paying jobs and restore the U.S. as an economic leader in the 21st century, Cox said.

“Slashing government spending for vital programs that benefit millions of Americans won’t create a single new job, and going after the pay and benefits of federal employees won’t make the government more efficient,” Cox said. “Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call to members of Congress.”

Unions Praise The End Of The Government Shutdown That Should Never Have Happened.

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For the last two weeks federal workers across the country have been waiting for Congress to take action and reopen the government.  While the government shutdown is over, union leaders appear guarded.  They are all happy to see the end of the Government shutdown and make a plea to never let this happen again.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the 670,000 federal employees represented by AFGE, I am thrilled that a deal was reached to put our members back to work and restore the services American taxpayers count on. But make no mistake about it, this is not a happy day for federal employees. The Senate deal is simply a brief reprieve from the suffering federal employees and their families have endured for the past sixteen days. We cannot accept another government shutdown in just a few short weeks; federal workers and the public they serve have suffered enough….”

“….I am glad that lawmakers were able to come together to end this crisis without giving in to a radical group of hostage takers. Particular credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who exhibited extraordinary leadership during this trying time and held firm to his convictions.  But those who perpetrated this inexcusable catastrophe on the American people should be turned out of office in 2014.

“In the coming weeks AFGE will fight all attempts to cut federal pay, retirement, or health care as Congress hashes out FY 14 spending levels. Federal employees are nobody’s bargaining chip. Our message to lawmakers is clear: No more cuts, no more furloughs, no more sacrifices on the backs of hardworking Americans. We will also fight to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits from any reductions, including cuts from the so-called chained CPI.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders stated:

“For two weeks, Republican congressional leaders were derelict in their duty. They allowed a fringe element in their party – one vastly out of step with American values and priorities — to shut our government down and bring the country to the brink of defaulting on its financial obligations. Their actions demonstrated a callous disregard for this nation’s citizens, businesses and the economy.

The agreement reached is by no means perfect because it continues the Draconian cuts in public services until the next deadline in January. But after 16 days, this shutdown ordeal has come to an end. It should never happen again. The hardworking women and men of this country deserve better.” Via Facebook

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released a statement after the debt deal was announced.

Finally — after more than two weeks of government shutdown, with hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work and billions of dollars in avoidable losses — Republican leaders have stood down.  While it is good news that we have avoided a crisis, we all know that it should never have happened.  No party or faction inside a party should hold our economy hostage to extract political gains.   We commend President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and the leadership of the Democratic party for standing firm and resisting extortion….

“….We desperately need to create an economy that works for all.  The across the board sequester cuts hamper that effort and must be repealed.  We need to focus on big ideas and the future – rather than getting bogged down in petty political battles.

Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – issued the following statement:

“Thousands of LIUNA workers who have been furloughed due to the Republican government shutdown can breathe a brief sigh of relief. But the mere functioning of our democracy won’t be enough to avoid the economic brinksmanship we’ve witnessed over the past several weeks from those on the Tea Party fringe. Rebuilding America’s future will take more leaders with the moral courage to rebuild American bipartisanship. The partisan circus has to end because our tax dollars pay for both Republicans and Democrats to do their job of passing legislation that invests in our crumbling roads, bridges and waterways and reforms our broken immigration system, so that every worker has a chance to realize the American Dream.”

Even Congressional members chastised the GOP in holding the country hostage and forcing the government shutdown.  The shutdown cost taxpayers billions, all for nothing.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter stated:

“The shutdown cost our economy $24 billion, and it costs thousands of Americans access to vital government services. We cannot continue to govern by crisis. It hurts small businesses, working families, and America’s economic standing in the world.

“Going forward, Congress must work out a long-term budget to reduce the deficit, invest in job creation, and strengthen the middle class. I am hopeful that cooler heads will prevail in that debate and that our country will benefit from more common sense.”

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan echoed Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s sentiments.

“While I am pleased that Congress finally reached an agreement to end the federal government shutdown and avert a catastrophic default, this entire episode was reckless and unnecessary, and it caused real harm to New Hampshire’s families and economy. 

“With today’s agreement, there are new deadlines in place, but the days of Washington operating by showdown must end. The uncertainty caused by each successive confrontation hurts our economy and puts senseless strain on families.”

Even Senator Ayotte (R-NH) agrees that we need to stop jumping from crisis to crisis. 

Americans are rightfully tired and frustrated, and we owe it to them to stop governing by crisis and start working together to solve problems.”
(From the Union Leader)

This debit ceiling deal means the total economic collapse was avoided.  The deal also means that federal workers will return to work immediately and will receive back pay.  There is also another little piece of good news for federal workers.

Federal workers will received a “1 percent pay raise beginning Jan. 1.  It would be the first across-the-board pay raise for feds since 2010. ”

Where do we go from here? Do we need to start a new countdown clock till this continuing resolution expires in January and we hit the debt ceiling again in February?  This type of legislating from crisis to crisis must end.  This is one of the reasons why our national economy is still struggling to recover.  Every time things start moving forward, up pops another crisis.

The GOP is in for a rude awakening in 2014 if they do not start working with Democrats in the House and Senate.  The American people are pissed off at Congress at a whole but most of the blame falls squarely on the Republican leadership in the House.

 

Only 89 Days (or less) till the next crisis.

GOP Hissy-Fit Hurts Federal Workers And Their Families

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Today is day three of the official government shutdown.  No, this is not a government slowdown or slim down, this is a government shutdown.  There are thousands of workers who are forced to go to work knowing full well they may never be paid for their work.  One example of this is our nations air traffic controllers.

Think back a minute to what happened when the air traffic controllers were furloughed as part of the sequester.  Just furloughing 5% of the controllers per day resulted in massive delays throughout the country.  Now imagine what would happen if all of those air traffic controllers were told not to come in because the government is closed?  No airplanes would be flying, people would be stranded throughout the world, and our economy would grind to a halt.   This is why even though the government is shutdown air traffic controllers and others must continue to work.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi condemned Congress for forcing the shutdown:

“It is unacceptable that thousands of our aviation safety professionals have been forced to stay home due to partisan posturing in Congress.”

“I implore Congress to reach an agreement to end this shutdown, which is hurtful to our nation’s aviation system, our economy and the American people.”

During the shutdown, air traffic controllers are working without pay, but essential support staff specialists have been furloughed.  Rinaldi said this is akin to a surgeon performing an operation without any staff to prep the room, clean the equipment or provide support during the surgery.

This is not the case for the 25,000 federal LIUNA construction workers. Although most military men and women have not been sent home, LIUNA’s National Guard District Council represents over 5,000 dual-status technicians, military and civilian, are subject to furloughs. Several thousand more LIUNA members working for the Indian Health Service have also been furloughed.

Below are some links to local press about LIUNA members being sent home due to the government shutdown:

All of these workers and hundreds of thousands more are now sitting at home waiting for Congress to get their act together and reopen the government.  All of this could have been avoided if the House would have sent the Senate a clean continuing resolution.  Instead the House decided to shut the government down.  There is no doubt that this shutdown is the fault of those in leadership in the U.S. House.

Right now millions of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.  The GOP Leadership in the House has determined that federal workers can go without.   They shut down the entire government because they want to repeal a law that has already gone into effect.  It is truly sad that our elected leaders are putting working families into potential financial ruin over an ideological debate they cannot win.

At a sit-in style protest at Speaker Boehner’s office, Melissa Roseboro a federal contract worker at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, had this to say:

“As it is, I am barely able to pay my rent and put food on the table with what I make at McDonald’s in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.”

“I am forced to rely on public assistance to get by.  But this shutdown is making it impossible for me to even scrape by. Every day the government is shut down is another day I don’t have any money to feed my family. So we are here to ask House Republicans, who continue to get paid while playing politics with my job and my wages, to help us pay our bills.  My rent was due yesterday. It’s not right, and I need Congress to end this shutdown and let us work.”

AFGE President David Cox released this statement on the GOP obstructionism over the Affordable Care Act:

“The seriousness of refusing the fund the government seems to elude the members of the House who maneuvered us into this lockout.  It’s anybody’s guess what their real goals may be:  Do they enjoy creating chaos?  Do they enjoy inflicting additional hardship on the working- and middle-class employees who provide services to the American public?  Do they hate the notion of letting the uninsured buy affordable insurance, or just hate the idea that the government is helping them do so? “

“Or is this just an elaborate way to destroy the most popular and successful government programs, Social Security and Medicare? “

“President Obama has promised that he will not negotiate to end this crisis, and we strongly support that position.  Recent similar standoffs have been resolved largely on the backs of federal employees, taking away our pay, retirement, and jobs.  This time, we expect the administration to hold firm, and resist the temptation to give in by cutting federal retirement or Social Security.  There is no justification for using federal employees to pay ransom.”

The longer this government shutdown goes on the harder it will be to forget as we move into the next election.

With This Decision I Thee Wed: Labor Celebrates The Death Of DOMA

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Discrimination comes in many forms. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated on the basis of their sex.  We all agree that discrimination is wrong.  Today our nation took a giant leap forward against the discrimination of the LBGT community.

“As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.

AFT President Randi Wiengarten highlighted the role that labor played her statement.

“We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation. We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU highlighted the benefits of defeating DOMA in her statement.

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law. This ruling means that gay and lesbian couples will have access to federal benefits and protections that they have been denied for too long, such as the right to access healthcare, pension and Social Security survivor benefits.”

Todays Supreme Court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal Government from recognizing the legal marriages of millions of gay couples.  This means that while some states are still trying to fight against the equal rights movement, the federal government will now except them with open arms.

Since the equal rights movement began members of the LBGT community have been fight at the state level to win the right to be married.  They have made great advances in these fights. Now nearly one-quarter our great country gives LBGT couple the freedom to marry.  Until today, the federal government rejected their marriage.  They could not file joint taxes, costing them thousands in extra taxes.  More importantly they could not receive the same benefits from their employers, as heterosexual couples.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees have been barred from adding their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, we expect the federal government to move swiftly in changing its rules and regulations to ensure that all federal employees are afforded the same rights and benefits, regardless of whom they choose to marry,” Self said.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) showed his strong support for the LGBT community in this statement after the verdict was announced.

“The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes—marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.”

Today’s verdict was also an enormous win for the state of California.   Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO recognized how important this decision is for workers in California and throughout the country.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU comments on the impact of the SCOTUS rejecting Prop 8 in California.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss California’s Proposition 8 for lack of standing is another major victory for gay and lesbian couples and for equal rights. By affirming the lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, now all Californians will have the right to marry whomever they choose.

“Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.”

President Henry is correct, the fight is not over.  With only twelves states legally recognizing the freedom to marry, we have much work to do.  As usual, labor will be there to help push for equality for all workers, regardless of their sexual orientation.

AFGE president blasts Defense secretary for rejecting call to end furloughs

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Requiring all services, agencies to furlough workers will undermine readiness, increase costs 

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is expressing his disappointment at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for rejecting a bipartisan call from lawmakers to end the arbitrary furlough of civilian employees.

In an April 30 letter to Secretary Hagel, President Cox said he was “surprised and disappointed” that Hagel continues to insist that nearly all DoD civilian employees be furloughed across the board, even though some components are able to absorb the budget cuts required under sequestration without furloughing employees.

“Such an arbitrary approach neither promotes national security nor fairness,” Cox wrote.

On April 24, 126 House members from both parties sent a letter to Hagel, urging him to review the Pentagon’s plans to furlough nearly every civilian employee for 14 days, systematically fire temporary and term employees, and freeze new employee hiring.

In the letter, the lawmakers highlighted the injustice of applying civilian furloughs equally across all of the services and Defense agencies, since some components say they can avoid furloughs by making offsetting cuts in other areas or generate their own revenue.

But Hagel’s written response indicated that there is no plan to alter the Pentagon’s one-size-fits-all approach. “In reallocating resources throughout the Department to the highest national security priorities, we will strive for consistency and fairness across the Department,” Hagel wrote on April 26.

In his letter, Cox noted that furloughs will increase costs, reduce productivity, and undermine readiness.

“Components and agencies should clearly not be forced to take the same number of furlough days. If components or agencies have come up with offsetting sequestration cuts or generate their own revenues, they should not be required to impose furloughs. That’s not a radical proposition. Rather, that’s competent leadership,” Cox wrote.

A copy of the letter is available at http://bit.ly/14QbLxU.

AFGE Calls For Pentagon To Cancel Furloughs Now!

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Services, Defense agencies have enough flexibility to avoid disruptive furloughs

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is calling on the Department of Defense to do the right thing for its employees and the country by cancelling the planned furlough of civilian workers.

“We are encouraged to hear that Pentagon leaders may be rethinking their foolish and reckless policy to furlough nearly every civilian employee for 14 days,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“Many of the services and Defense agencies say they can reduce or eliminate the number of furlough days for their workers, and they should be allowed to exercise this flexibility,” Cox said. “Forcing all employees off the job without pay for the same number of days out of some misguided notion of fairness is damaging to employees and undermines mission.”

Defense initially proposed furloughing more than 700,000 civilian employees for 22 days due to budget cuts required under sequestration. In March, it announced that it would reduce the number of days employees would be forced off the job without pay to 14 days. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Pentagon is considering further cutting furloughs to 7 days.

AFGE has already demonstrated to the department that furloughing any employee for any length of time is unnecessary and would disrupt the military mission that civilian employees help carry out each and every day.

“This game that DoD is playing with the lives and livelihood of civilian employees is a travesty,” AFGE Defense Conference Chairman Don Hale said. “The morale of our workforce has never been lower. Morale is lower than it was during the A-76 outsourcing competitions and when DoD tried to replace existing pay and performance management policies with the National Security Personnel System.

“Employees feel as though they have no control over their future. Hell, they can’t even plan their work schedules for the next few months because of the unknown that DoD has created,” Hale said. “DoD has continuously said that they want to minimize the adverse impact that furloughs have on civilian employees, but what they are doing is having the opposite effect.”

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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