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AFGE President: Trump Budget Continues Assault on Working Class Families

Budget would freeze federal worker wages, slash benefits, undermine rights

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

“President Trump’s budget is nothing less than a roadmap for dismantling the career civil service and handing over our most sacred public institutions to political donors and party loyalists.

“Federal workers shouldn’t be hired or fired on the whims of political appointees whose allegiance is to their political party, not the country’s best interests. By stripping employees of their due process rights and firing those who reject his politics, President Trump is opening the door for rampant corruption, discrimination, and worker intimidation.

“No group has lost more to deficit reduction than the federal workforce, with a three-year pay freeze, two government shutdowns, unpaid furloughs, and huge benefits cuts. Yet President Trump is proposing even more drastic cuts to workers’ wages, retirement security, health insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, and even their basic right to join a union and bargain over their work conditions.

“The financial hit alone to federal workers would climb to $246 billion over 10 years if President Trump succeeds in freezing their wages next year. Meanwhile, corporations and the wealthiest individuals are receiving massive windfalls thanks to unwarranted and unpaid tax cuts.

“The women and men who serve our country deserve our support and respect, not calls for slashing their pay and benefits and politicizing their jobs.”

‘Accountability Starts at the Top’ Says Largest Federal Union in Response to State of the Union

AFGE: Public servants signed up to serve this country – not to become political fodder.

WASHINGTON – In Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, President Trump praised the VA Accountability Act passed last June, and asked Congress to weaken protections against politically-motivated firing of government employees. In his speech, Trump characterized this request as a means to “empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”

In response to the President’s stated intent to fire federal employees, and to his touting of the ill-conceived Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“What the President is actually asking Congress to do is give all of his Cabinet Secretaries the power to fire federal employees they consider not loyal to the administration and its political agenda.   Make no mistake: this is a plan to politicize federal employment and allow the administration to hire and fire on the basis of politics rather than merit.

“Our current system makes sure that federal employees are hired and fired solely on the basis of whether they have the knowledge, skills, and ability to do the job; and politics plays no role whatsoever in that evaluation.  The apolitical civil service is an important foundation of our democracy, and it represents a sacred trust with citizens that their taxes will not ever go to rewarding an administration’s friends or punishing its enemies.

“While the President praised the work of AFGE members who work for ICE and Border Patrol, he failed to mention his recent plan to eliminate 6,000 desperately-needed positions at the Bureau of Prisons and start sending more federal inmates to for-profit private prisons.

“And although the President, Secretary David Shulkin, and members of Congress love to point to their legislation passed last June to show improvements at the VA, they couldn’t be more off base. The reality is they are celebrating firing veterans and decreasing the access to and level of care our veterans have earned.

“The VA Accountability Act that the President bragged about has resulted in 1,442 firings at the VA.  Firing American workers is nothing to celebrate or be proud of. Consider that the majority of those this administration has kicked to the curb have been the lowest paid employees of the agencies, those who earned less than $30,000 annually, and many of these fired employees are veterans with service-connected disabilities.

“Meanwhile, only 14 supervisors were removed from their roles. Few acknowledge that the 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA was caused by bad managers gaming waitlists for bigger bonuses, and it was the frontline workers who blew the whistle. And now, we have an administration targeting frontline workers for termination. Only .009 percent of removals have been the managers causing the kind of problems that advocates of the VA Accountability Act claimed to care about.

“Accountability starts at the top. President Trump must be accountable to the American taxpayer for the negative consequences of the hiring freeze, and the budget impasse that led to the shutdown we had this past month. Secretary Shulkin must be accountable for failing to fill the 49,000 vacancies that are the real reason veterans are forced to wait for care at too many VA facilities.

“A recent survey shows that 58 percent of citizens – the highest percentage reported in the last year twenty years – want more government services, not less; instead of politicizing the civil service so you can staff the government with your cronies, and robbing the American public of the services they want the government to provide, please work with Congress to fund the government and allow federal employees to perform the jobs they were hired to do on behalf of the American people.” 

AFGE Supports Reviving Federal Labor-Management Partnerships

New law would revive panels disbanded by President Trump

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees fully supports legislation introduced in the House and Senate that would establish in law a national council overseeing labor-management relations in federal agencies.

The Federal Labor-Management Partnerships Act would create both a national labor-management council and individual labor-management partnerships at each executive branch agency. The advisory panels were disbanded by President Trump in September 2017.

“Most workplace disputes can be resolved without lengthy and costly litigation simply by bringing workers and managers together,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “These partnerships have helped make our government work better for the American people, and anyone who’s committed to improving government performance should support this legislation to bring them back.”

Cox thanked Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Don Young of Alaska for introducing bipartisan legislation in the House, HR 4878, and thanked Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii for introducing the companion bill in the Senate, S 2340.

Private industry has known for years that a healthy and effective relationship between labor and management improves customer service and is often the key to survival in a competitive market. The same is true in the federal government, Cox said.

“No effort to improve governmental performance will be successful if labor and management maintain an adversarial relationship. In an era of downsizing and tight budgets, it is essential for management and labor to develop a stable and productive working relationship,” Cox said.

With Shutdown Over, Union Hopes Real Governing Can Begin

AFGE says keeping agencies, employees in budget limbo is disservice to them and nation

WASHINGTON – In response to Congress passing a short-term spending bill to re-open the federal government, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“Congress has ended a crisis of its own making, allowing the government to fully reopen after forcing a shutdown at midnight Friday.

“Even though the shutdown lasted just three days, it was long enough to cause a massive disruption to our government operations and widespread confusion for federal workers, federal agencies, and the public.

“None of this would have happened if lawmakers had done their job in the beginning and passed a federal budget on time. Instead most federal agencies are limping by on borrowed time, unable to start new projects, fill new positions, or focus on long-range projects. This counterproductive cycle of short-term continuing resolutions must end now.

“Lawmakers now have 17 days to pass a budget that will fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. I urge Congress and the administration to come to the table, resolve their differences, and pass a long-term budget so that federal employees can continue to do their jobs in service to our country.

“Americans deserve to be able to access the programs and services that their tax dollars have funded, and federal employees deserve to be able to go to work without wondering when or if they will get paid.

“I do want to thank lawmakers for ensuring that federal employees who were impacted by the shutdown do not lose any pay. Federal employees and their families should not be forced to go without pay when they are not allowed to do their jobs because Congress cannot pass a funding measure. A special thanks goes to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and Congressmen Don Beyer and Rob Wittman of Virginia for first introducing the retroactive pay language in Congress.”

Largest Federal Union Says Government Shutdown is Result of Failed Leadership

AFGE says millions of Americans will feel the effects of federal budget stalemate

WASHINGTON – In response to the federal government running out of funds to continue operations past midnight Friday, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“Congress and the administration have only themselves to blame for failing to keep the federal government open. This shutdown is a direct result of lawmakers continuing to punt the ball instead of having the courage to make the tough decisions that we elected them to do.

“Federal employees want to go to work. They believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people. But now, 850,000 of them will report to work on Monday, only to be told to go home, while a million or more will be forced to work without pay for as long as this shutdown drags out.

“Every day that this shutdown continues, more Americans will begin to feel the effects as federal offices close their doors to the public, the government stops paying its bills, and millions of government workers and military service members no longer get paid.

“Failing to fund the government even for a day has real-world consequences. The 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days, cost American taxpayers $24 billion, and caused valuable work to grind to a halt. Hundreds of cancer patients were prevented from enrolling in NIH clinical trials, 6,300 children were denied access to Head Start programs for up to 9 days, 1,200 EPA site inspections were cancelled, and 1,400 OSHA inspections to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries were stopped. These are just a few examples.

“In a government shutdown, it is the American people who pay the price. They deserve to know that the government services they pay for will be there when they need them. I urge lawmakers to come to the table at once, resolve their differences, and pass a budget that ends this shutdown and all the uncertainty that comes with it.”

Government Shutdown Could ‘Inflict Serious Pain’ On Millions, Labor Leader Says

AFGE union president also warns against steep cuts to non-defense programs

Shutdown 2013 JDC EPA DC MD.JPGWASHINGTON – Federal government programs and services benefiting millions of Americans are in jeopardy due to a potential government shutdown and steep cuts in non-defense spending, the head of the largest union representing federal government workers told Congress.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. urged lawmakers in a Jan. 18 letter to keep the government running beyond Jan. 19, when current funding expires.

“It is very clear that a federal government shutdown could inflict serious pain on everyday working people,” Cox said in the letter.

If Congress fails to pass a stop-gap spending bill, more than 850,000 federal government employees could be furloughed without pay and another million could be required to work without pay to keep public safety and health care programs running.

A shutdown would have wide-ranging impacts across the country, forcing the closure of national parks, museums, and zoos; delaying loans to millions of small businesses that rely on federal support; delaying payments, pensions, and educational benefits to veterans; ending applications for new Social Security benefits; and delaying paychecks for more than 2 million military service members.

President Cox also urged Congress to provide equal increases in spending for defense and non-defense programs. AFGE fully supports increasing DoD funding to enhance readiness, but not at the expense of other spending priorities.

Many agencies already are operating with barebones budgets thanks to years of deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget has been cut by almost one-third, jeopardizing the agency’s mission to safeguard the quality of our air and water. The Social Security Administration, which has seen deep cuts in funding over the past seven years, is facing another cut of up to $492 million this year.

“SSA provides direct, personal assistance to millions of Americans every year who are applying for benefits,” Cox wrote. “A cut of this magnitude will cripple the agency’s ability to carry out its mission to help beneficiaries get the benefits they deserve.”

AFGE thanks lawmakers for joint bill supporting federal workers

FAIR Act seeks to address years of cuts to workers’ pay, benefits

WASHINGTON – The nation’s largest union of federal workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, thanks Senate and House lawmakers for introducing joint legislation that recognizes their invaluable contributions to this country.

The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act, or FAIR Act, was introduced Thursday by Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia. The bills, S 2295 and HR 4775, would provide salaried and hourly federal employees with a 3 percent pay adjustment in 2019.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in support of the bill:

“AFGE thanks Sen. Schatz and Rep. Connolly for their leadership and continued support for federal employees across the nation. They recognize the invaluable contribution that these public-sector workers make each and every day to the benefit of everyone who calls this country home. And they understand that it’s vital for the federal government to pay its employees fairly so we can recruit and retain the high-caliber workforce that the public expects and deserves.

“They also know the financial sacrifice that federal workers have made in the name of deficit reduction. Federal employees have had their pay and benefits cut by over $182 billion and growing since 2011, and they are earning 4.7 percent less today than they did at the start of the decade.

“The legislation introduced by Sen. Schatz and Rep. Connolly – the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act, or FAIR Act – would help prevent federal employees from falling further behind with a 3 percent pay adjustment in 2019. The women and men who guard our borders, serve our veterans, inspect our food, and protect our planet are worth this modest investment.”

Taxpayers Defrauded Out Of $90 Million Dollars, Union Wants Investigation Into VA “Choice” Contractors

Morehead City VA Employees Hold Demonstration to Protest VA Vacancies (Image by AFGE FLICKR)

The Union For Workers At The Department of Veterans Affairs, Pens Letter To Congress Calling For An Investigation Into Contractors Running “Choice” Program. 

WASHINGTON – Yesterday the nation’s largest federal union, the American Federation of Government Employees, sent a letter to the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs leadership calling for an investigation into the two main contractors running the controversial Choice program which have defrauded taxpayers by nearly $90 million.

AFGE, which represents 250,000 front-line workers – more than 100,000 of whom are veterans themselves – at the Department of Veterans Affairs, sent the letter from National President J. David Cox Sr. to House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chair Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, Ranking Member Rep. Mark Takano of California, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan, Ranking Member Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire, and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.

In a September memo by the VA Office of Inspector General, titled “Accuracy and Timeliness of Payments Made Under the Choice Program Authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act,” it was found that at least two third-party administrators of the VA Choice Program had led to $90 million in improper charges to the American taxpayer.

National President Cox said in the letter that “The questionable practices used by third-party administrators of the VA Choice Program, TriWest and HealthNet, including double billing and improper payment rates, have directly harmed veterans and undermined the capacity of the VA health care system to provide them with the exemplary care that they have earned with their service.” Adding that the union “respectfully requests that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations conduct oversight hearings into the contractors’ billing practices and the VA’s effectiveness in overseeing these contracts.”

The revelations of overcharging by third-party administrators is just the latest controversy plaguing the negligent Choice program. Last month, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted along party lines to pass H.R. 4242 – VA Care in the Community Act – which would continue to funnel funding away from veterans’ first and best choice for health care, sticking them in the back of the line at unaccountable, private, for-profit providers.

Rep. Takano attempted to submit three amendments to H.R. 4242, to increase hiring and improve accountability of the Choice program, but Committee Republicans voted down each on party-line votes.

“Thank you to Rep. Takano and to the Committee Democrats who all tried to stand up to Republicans and protect veterans’ health care. This year we have continued to hear veterans and their service organizations tell us how important VA care is, and how we cannot let it be dismantled and auctioned off to unqualified for-profit providers,” said Cox.

“H.R. 4242 is a terrible piece of legislation that not only chips away at the only health care system tailored to the unique needs of veterans, but it also insulates private, for-profit providers from being accountable to veterans or taxpayers. We keep hearing from Congress and the Administration that there needs to be a greater level of accountability, but when it came down to making sure these private providers would be accountable to the men and women who served this country, party politics won out,” he added. 

With Shutdown Averted Again, Largest Federal Union Looks for ‘Long-Term Solution’

AFGE says Congress and the Administration must stop using shutdowns as a ‘bargaining chip’ and find a way to ‘stop kicking the can down the road’

WASHINGTON – Thanks to a last-minute agreement between Congress and the White House, federal employees nationwide will enjoy the holidays without worrying about not working and not being paid.

A mere two weeks after the threat of a shutdown was averted, Congressional leaders in Washington brokered a deal that will allow the government to remain open – keeping all government services free of interruption, and saving 850,000 public servants from being told they are not allowed to work.

In response, the American Federation of Government Employees – which represents 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia – National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“A government shutdown is something we always work hard to prevent, and we’re especially happy this was averted so close the holidays. Federal working people show up to their job every day to serve the American people, and the threat of being sent home – or being told they must work without pay – is not something they should have to endure.

“It’s irresponsible to the public servants who protect our borders, inspect our food, process benefits for the elderly, disabled, and veterans, and safeguard our skies that Congress continues to play games with their livelihoods. The men and women of Congress were elected to help run our country, not find ways to politicize the 2.1 million federal workers who keep our country running. These civil servants work for the American taxpayer, and using their jobs and pay to further a political agenda is disgraceful.

“Majority of our members live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford the cost of a government shutdown. Their livelihoods are not a bargaining chip for Congress to use as they see fit. Federal working people do their jobs free of political influence, and need a long-term solution to ensuring they can continue showing up to do the job they were hired to do. For years we’ve seen leaders on Capitol Hill find short-term solutions, but we must stop kicking the can down the road.

“This month the federal workforce has had to show up to work every day with the cloud of a shutdown looming over their heads. Wondering when or if they will get paid, and how they will pay their bills during a prolonged shutdown, is a distraction they don’t need. And quite frankly, it’s one we as a nation cannot afford.

“Now that we have a solution in place for longer than two weeks, it’s our sincere hope and belief that Congress can work together to find a way to fund the government and allow the working people who run it to focus on providing the best services they can to the American public.”

 

Airplane Travel Is Safer, Easier Thanks to Federal Workers

AFGE applauds TSA officers for protecting flying public,
warns against return to contractors

WASHINGTON – As millions of Americans prepare to take to the skies this holiday season, the head of the labor union representing federal airport security employees says now is the time to thank these workers for the job they do.

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

“When airports began experiencing massive lines at passenger checkpoints two summers ago, the Transportation Security Administration relied on its trained staff of 42,000 federal employees to ease the crush by working more overtime and performing their jobs effectively and efficiently.

“Now as we head into another busy holiday traveling season, the long lines and wait times are gone. There have been no hijacked airplanes, explosives detonated on airplanes, or any other aircraft-specific U.S. acts of terrorism since federal employees took over passenger screening after Sept. 11, 2001.

“This is a tall order since TSA still has about 4,000 fewer screeners on staff today as compared to four years ago. That’s coupled with a 15 percent jump in the number of passengers flying through U.S. airports. TSA officers do their job so well they have confiscated a record number of guns last year and are on track to beat that record this year.

“TSA employees protect the safety of the flying public under stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions. They could perform even better with more trained staff, higher wages, and full union rights.

“What they shouldn’t have to worry about is losing their jobs to outsourcing and privatization.

“This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the officers who risk their lives to keep our air travel safe, and let’s maintain the path forward we’ve made in airport security with our hardworking, dedicated TSA employees. The best way to ensure safe travel is to invest in TSA, not privatize it.”

5 Fast Facts about TSA

  1. In 2016, TSA screened more than 738 million passengers — 43 million more passengers than in 2015.
  2. TSA officers discovered 3,391 firearms in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, a 28 percent increase from 2015.
  3. About 83 percent of the guns caught in carry-on bags in 2016 were loaded.
  4. The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2016 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (198 guns); Dallas/Fort Worth International (192 guns); George Bush Intercontinental at Houston (128 guns); Phoenix Sky Harbor International (101 guns); and Denver International (98 guns). These same airports were in the top five in 2014 and 2015.
  5. During summer and holiday travel peaks, TSA processes over 2.5 million passengers a day.
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