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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.

AFGE Calls For 5.3% Pay Raise For All Federal Workers

vcsPRAsset_525404_86490_95a0a69c-3c0e-4be8-8c5e-83f07471049e_0Largest Federal Employee Union Issues Budget Day Call for Higher Wages, Improved Benefits

Key lawmakers signal support for AFGE’s proposed 5.3% pay raise at government worker rally

WASHINGTON – As President Obama issued the final budget of his administration Tuesday, the American Federation of Government Employees called on Congress to raise wages for federal workers, extend paid parental leave to employees, and reject proposals that would undermine basic worker rights and protections.

“Federal employees have been given the short end of the stick for far too long. It’s time to start giving back to the workers who give so much to our country,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

AFGE’s call for a 5.3% pay raise in 2017 has already won the backing of prominent lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland – all of whom endorsed the proposal during a legislative rally AFGE held Tuesday outside the U.S. Capitol.

“We are sick and tired of pay freezes and pathetic penny ante raises. We are sick and tired of falling behind inflation and further behind private-sector pay,” Cox said. “We’re not asking for any special treatment, just the pay increases we are owed after six years of low to no pay increases.”

AFGE supports several proposals in the president’s budget to invest in the federal workforce, including:

  • Providing federal employees with six weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, and ensuring that employees can use sick days to bond with a healthy new child;
  • Hiring additional staff at the Office of Personnel Management to answer phone calls and emails from employees regarding retirement claims, which would improve customer service and reduce the average processing time for claims.
  • Increasing federal cyber security spending by 35% to modernize outdated federal IT systems, which could help prevent further attacks such as last year’s massive OPM data breach of federal employees’ personal information.

However, we are opposed to a provision included in the president’s budget that would allow the government to charge federal employees and retirees more for their health insurance if they are deemed unwell. We also oppose a plan to create regional Preferred Provider Organizations to compete against popular national plans, since this could segment the market and cause more harm than good.

“The federal government should serve as a model employer for the rest of the country to follow. Thanks to sequestration and budget cuts, federal employees have fallen further behind the private sector and are making less today than they did five years ago,” Cox said.

“We need to invest in our workers through higher wages and better benefits, and by fighting proposals that would undermine the government’s merit-based employment system.”

Republicans In Congressional Committee Continues Attack On Workers Rights

Government Reform Committee passes bills to strip federal employees of due process rights

WASHINGTON – The House committee charged with overseeing the federal workforce passed bills on Tuesday that would strip hardworking employees of long-held rights and protections.

“By bringing up these ill-conceived bills just two weeks into the new year, it’s clear that House leadership is going to continue pursuing an anti-worker agenda,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed bills that would double the probationary period for new employees and allow managers to permanently alter an employee’s personnel file with adverse actions taken after the employee has left the job.

“These bills would punish the whole workforce for the potential actions of a few and would undermine basic principles of due process that have been in place for decades,” Cox said.

The committee deferred action on two other bills, one that would artificially limit how much time an employee facing disciplinary action could be placed on administrative leave and another that would give managers unfettered ability to discipline employees under the guise of IT security.

AFGE outlined its opposition to the bills in a Jan. 11 letter to House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

The bills would:

  • Extend the probationary period for all federal employees to at least two years, which is unneeded since managers currently have at least a year to assess a new employee’s performance and can immediately remove any employee for serious misconduct;
  • Allow managers to include in an employee’s personnel file permanent notations about adverse findings made after an employee has resigned and require that agencies consider those findings before rehiring the employee, which could hinder agency settlements of disciplinary actions and raises questions about how agencies would access this information;
  • Limit the use of administrative leave related to alleged misconduct or performance to 14 total days, which could force an employee to go months without getting paid since agencies complete few if any investigations within 14 days;
  • Give agencies the sole and exclusive authority to take any action necessary against federal employees related to IT security, which would undermine collective bargaining agreements and overturn an existing Federal Labor Relations Authority decision.

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.

The Largest Federal Union Files Suit Over Data Breach Of Personal Information

AFGE Logo 2AFGE files Class Action Lawsuit against OPM Officials over Data Breach

The largest federal employee union has filed a lawsuit alleging that Office of Personnel Management’s leadership failed to heed warnings, obey security policies and are liable for one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history.

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has filed a class action complaint with a demand for jury trial against the Office of Personnel Management, Director Katherine Archuleta and Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour about one of the most devastating cyberattacks in U.S. history that resulted in potentially 18 million current and former federal employees’ personal and security files being compromised.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. AFGE and two individuals, Robert Crawford and Adam Dale, are represented by a legal team led by Girard Gibbs LLP, a national litigation firm representing plaintiffs in class and collective actions in state and federal courts, and in arbitration matters worldwide. Girard Gibbs LLP has vast experience with cases involving cybersecurity attacks and data breaches.

For a copy of the lawsuit, click here.

AFGE will hold a telepress conference call for members of the media to discuss the lawsuit and other issues pertaining to the data breach beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 30. The number to call is 800-230-1096; ask for the “AFGE Press Call.”  

In a joint statement, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas said:

“AFGE will not sit idly by while OPM fails to comply with the most basic requests for information or provide an adequate response. Even after this historic security breach, OPM has continued to use poor data security practices and inferior private-sector strategies to solve its security woes.

“Since 2007, officials at OPM have been alerted to their lackluster data security policies and protocols and failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard the information. Although they were forewarned about the potential catastrophe that government employees faced, OPM’s data security got worse rather than better.

“Despite putting government employees and their loved ones at significant personal and financial risk, OPM has failed to reveal the full scope of who was specifically impacted by the data breach and the extent of the information taken. Additionally, the credit monitoring services that OPM provided have not only fallen short, but actually created more potential security risks for employees.

“AFGE is working with its members to ascertain the breadth of the breach and obtain feedback on OPM’s response. Since the agency is unwilling to provide adequate assistance, AFGE is taking unprecedented steps to gather more information for our members and hold the agency accountable.”

To learn more about how AFGE has responded on behalf of its members, visit www.afge.org/DataBreach.

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.

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

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.

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.

AFGE Statement on Health Care Rate Increase for Federal Employees, Retirees

AFGE Logo 2WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement in response to the announcement that premiums for enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will increase an average of 4.4% in January:

“Today’s announcement that FEHBP premiums will increase an average of 4.4% next year for enrollees is unacceptable. Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and more than a million employees lost a week or more of their wages this year when they were furloughed under sequestration.

“We are days away from the government shutting down unless Congress passes a new fiscal year budget, which will force more than 800,000 federal employees to stay home without pay. And unless sequestration is cancelled, federal employees are facing another year of unpaid furloughs and even permanent layoffs.

“With everything else hanging over their heads, federal employees and retirees simply can’t afford this increase in their health insurance premiums. The average salary of our members is $50,000 a year, which means they’re taking home about $500 a week after taxes, retirement and health insurance. Hiking premiums by another 4.4 percent next year means our members will be bringing home even less income.”

The House GOP Is Acting Like Teenagers, As President Obama Submits His Budget

This Wednesday, President Obama is expected to file his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Are you wondering why his budget is expected to include

Straight from an observer in DC, here is the best explanation I’ve heard so far:  Having President Obama support these policies is a guaranteed way to get Republicans to oppose them.

“Yes, we have reached that level of adolescence on Capitol Hill.”

By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Nathanael T. Miller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the thing about teenagers: they don’t always think ahead to the consequences of their actions.

The one video every Republican, Democrat and Independent must see!!!


More than 200 people rallied at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard yesterday to rally against the budget cuts known as “sequestration”.

At the same time they were rallying, Congress passed a bill to make most of those cuts permanent.

That bill – the “continuing resolution” to fund the federal government for six months – also rescinded a long-planned increase in pay for federal workers. Read Congress Adds Insult to Injury!

The continuing resolution was crafted to protect military contractors from the effects of sequestration – at the expense of federal employees, including Portsmouth Shipyard workers. Read more about Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s defense of defense contractors here.

As Portsmouth Shipyard worker John Joyal told the crowd yesterday:

The men and women at that shipyard over there – every single day, they put their politics aside, their gender aside, their religion aside, their ideological beliefs aside, you name it, they put everything aside to go perform the people’s business.

“That flag right there does not belong to the right-wing of the GOP of our Congress, that flag belongs to the American people. What the US Congress needs to do is, they need to grow up, put their differences aside, go into a room and perform the people’s business just like the people on this island do, every single day.

There are other options. Ending special corporate tax breaks would pay for the sequester cuts twice over. Ending tax breaks on unearned income would pay for the sequester cutsplus everything the House GOP wants to cut from next year’s federal budget.

Is this the best six-month budget that our Congress can come up with?

How Will Up to 22 Furlough Days Impact Government Services and our Communities?

IBEW members like this Army Corp of Engineers employee face furloughs or worse due to sequestration.

Thousands of IBEW members who work for the federal government or for private government contractors awoke Friday morning facing a shaky economic future. The sequestration – the series of draconian federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion – went into effect March 1, meaning that more than 1 million federal workers face unpaid leave or worse unless Congress takes action to rescind the cuts.

A last ditch effort by Senate Democrats that would have eliminated the arbitrary budget cuts for the remainder of the year – saving 750,000 jobs – was defeated Feb. 28.

Says IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill:

Too many members of Congress seem to have a hard time understanding the toll this will take on real working people.

Congressional Republicans and President Obama agreed to the sequester in the summer of 2011. Under that agreement, failure to slash the deficit by $4 trillion by 2013 would result in automatic across the board cuts.

Obama and congressional Democrats offered numerous plans to avoid the cuts, but were blocked by the GOP, which rejected any budget plan that did not involve cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Paul O’Connor, a second-generation tradesman at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire says it will take months before the damage is fully felt, but when it comes, the cuts will hit workers and the community hard.

Federal employees, like O’Connor’s co-workers, get a 30-day notice before they can be furloughed, which means come April, approximately 6,000 Portsmouth shipyard workers face a one day a week furlough. That amounts to a 20 percent wage cut.

O’Connor, who heads the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO at the yard, says:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra 20 percent left over at the end of month I can just give away. Our people can get by in the short term, skipping this or that bill but that’s just not sustainable. Many workers have most of their family employed here. We’re going to see whole households seeing their budgets slashed.

And it’s not just workers who will feel the pain, O’Connor says.

We’re a mainstay of the local economy. Who’s going to spend money in the community? At the restaurants, the car dealers, the doctor’s office? Everyone will be hurting.

The IBEW represents approximately 65,000 government employees in the United States and Canada. The majority are employed by private companies under contract with the federal government. For many of those, layoffs could come right away.

Says Government Employees Department International Representative Dennis Phelps:

Many won’t even get a warning. We could see a lot of straight up layoffs right away.

Major military contractors like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin are expected to lose millions in lost contracts over the next year, potentially costing tens of thousands of jobs. The maritime industry will be particularly hard hit, with U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operation, Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger testifying before Congress that the cuts will curtail its surface and air operations by 25 percent.

Baltimore Local 1383 represents 70 electricians at the Coast Guard Yard south of the city. Business Manager Barbara Rodekohr says there is a lot of uncertainty about what is in store for them:

They may have to cut people, but we just don’t know how many and when.

O’Connor says the arbitrary and wasteful nature of the cuts is upsetting.

The reality is this will end up costing taxpayers more than it will save.

He says the shipyard has specific deadlines to meet, and every day they aren’t working is another day they’re behind schedule.

Backlog in getting these ships off the dock and into the sea means lost dollars – a lot of them.

The sequester will also cut millions in state and local funding, threatening the tentative economic recovery.

Says McGill:

Once this starts trickling down, who knows how it will affect everyone else. How will slashing school or law enforcement funding affect construction starts for example?

O’Connor blames the anti-government rhetoric from Tea Party activists and many GOP leaders for the congressional stalemate.

The rhetoric has become so acidic and mean-spirited in Congress. We’ve been under constant attack since the Republicans took over Congress in 2010, with us being the whipping boy for all the country’s problems. People say the sequestration is only about faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. but it’s not. There are federal workers in every state, and even if you don’t work for the government, who isn’t touched by a federal agency in their daily lives – the USDA, the TSA, border guard?

The Federal Workers Alliance – a group that includes the IBEW and other unions representing federal workers – has launched an online discussion board where federal workers can tell in their own words what the sequester means for them and their family. Click here to read some of those stories.

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