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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.

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

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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

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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!!!

March 21, 2013 rally at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard


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?

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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.

The GOP In The US House Once Again Go After Federal Workers Pay (AGAIN)

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Federal Workers Are The Backbone Of The Federal Government Yet The House GOP Pushes Them Further Down.

Amid all the “Fiscal Cliff” debates an Executive Order came out lifting the pay freeze that has been on federal workers for two years now.  This means that after two long years of no pay increases, federal workers are finally going to get a pay raise.  How much are they going to get, you ask? A whopping .5%!  Thats right less than one percent.

For easy numbers, lets say the average federal salary is $50,000.  This .5% pay raise would add $250 spread out over the entire year.  The drawback is that when the President raises the wages of federal workers, Congress also gets a pay raise.  With this pay raise Congress will get a $900 pay raise.

I will be the first to say that Congress does not deserve a pay raise due to their lack of action, however the workers are way overdue in their pay raises.

Once again the US House wasted precious time on the floor to debate and vote on a bill to stop this .5% pay raise to all federal workers.  The bill (which as I write this has yet to have text available to the public) is titled “To prevent the 2013 pay adjustment for Members of Congress and persons holding other offices or positions in the Federal Government from being made”.  See how your Rep voted.    This is a colosal waste time since the Senate will end up killing the bill.  The leadership in the House could have used the time to pass the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill which has been waiting for a House vote for 66 days now.

Here is my suggestion.  Senator Reid should take this bill from the house and amend it.  Change the wording to say that CONGRESS should not get any raise this year.  Then calculate the savings from removing the Congressional Representatives from the pay raise and give that to the workers instead.

Throughout yesterdays debate, every Representative said they would vote yes on a bill that would freeze Congressional Pay, yet no one has introduced that yet.

If the GOP in the House want to keep playing games with the budget,  fine take it out of their pockets.  The workers have not seen a raise in over two years and given back over $100 billion due to pay freezes.  The most ridiculous part is that the federal workers are being lumped in with Congress and their inability to get anything done.  Yet the House GOP member (Fitzpatrick) who proposed this legislation was quick to point out that he encourages raises for the Military, just not the people in the Department Of Defense.

While I will continue to protect and preserve pay increases for the men and women in the United States military, we must reject this unnecessary and inappropriate raise for Congress, the Administration and the federal bureaucracy.”

Our federal workforce is made up of dedicated public servants who have been working harder and harder every year with no added compensation. They government is hiring less workers to replace outgoing employees and still the US House wants more.

Stop using the federal workers as fodder in you political battle.

Only Two Months until the NEXT Congress-Created Crisis

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Congress creates another crisisLate last night, one-third of House GOP members voted with the Democrats to pass legislation avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff”.  Congressman Bass voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Guinta voted against it.

Even though the Senate had passed the bill almost unanimously, until dinnertime, it looked like the bill would fail in the House.  What happened at dinnertime?  The House took up a brand-new bill bashing federal employees and attempting to rescind their 0.5% cost-of-living increase, which is scheduled to go into effect at the end of March.  [Federal employees have already supplied $108 billion in “budget savings” through a two-year pay freeze and increased retirement contributions.]

Sure, there were only a few hours left for Congressional action.  Sure, there was no chance whatsoever that a brand-new bill would become law.  The House still took 90 minutes to debate it and hold a roll call vote. [Both Guinta and Bass voted for the bill.  Please remember that, if either of them run again for Congress in 2014.]

And after that last symbolic attack on federal employees, GOP House leadership was finally able to get around to the business of avoiding the Fiscal Cliff.  Gotta wonder about their priorities.

When it finally passed at 11:00 last night, the Fiscal Cliff bill was a true compromise.  It included concessions that angered people on both sides.   (Read the bill here.)

But it also set up yet another Congress-created crisis, scheduled to hit in only two months.

  • The bill did not address the federal debt limit – and two months from now, the Treasury will have exhausted the debt limit “headroom” created by taking “extraordinary measures” with government and postal employee pension funds.
  • The bill did not resolve “sequestration” spending cuts – but rather postponed them for two months.

So, the nation is rolling straight from one Congress-created crisis into another Congress-created crisis.

Gotta wonder why Congress keeps creating crises.  (Journalist Naomi Klein has an interesting theory about how crises – real or perceived – are used to further corporate goals.  Read more here.)

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One of many things the Fiscal Cliff bill didn’t address was restoring the state share of federal estate taxes.

In a “sponge tax” system dating back to 1924, estate tax revenues were historically shared between the states and the federal government.  Back in 2001, Congress federalized the states’ portion of these revenues to help pay for the “temporary” Bush tax cuts.

Restoring the “sponge tax” system could mean more than $3 billion in annual revenues for state governments.  New Hampshire could receive an estimated $27 million in annual revenues.  Read more here.

frigateThe estate tax has a long and patriotic history.  It was created to raise funds for the country’s first Navy, and was used to fund almost every war before Iraq.  Read more here.

But for the past few decades, “members of a handful of super-wealthy families have quietly helped finance and coordinate a massive campaign to repeal the estate tax.  …The families also have helped finance outside groups that have spent millions on fear-mongering ad campaigns intended to sway public opinion against the estate tax.”  Read more here.

Who knows?  Maybe restoring these state revenues will be a part of whatever bill resolves this next Congress-created crisis.

Adding ‘Headroom’ to the Debt Limit? Thank our Federal Employees and Postal Carriers

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US CapitolA few days ago, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress that the federal government would reach its debt limit at the end of this year.  As of January 1st, Secretary Geithner will be taking “extraordinary measures” to buy another two months’ time  for Congress to resolve its self-created fiscal cliff/debt limit crisis.

What are those “extraordinary measures”?  Almost all of them involve using the retirement funds of federal employees and postal workers to create artificial “headroom” under the debt limit.  You can read the details here.

Create your own fiscal crisis… then use it as justification to borrow from employees’ retirement funds (while complaining that long-promised retirement benefits are “not affordable”).  That’s what politicians tried to do here in New Hampshire, back in the early 1980s.

We’re having déjà vu all over again, watching the same scenario play out on the national stage all these decades later.

As of Tuesday, federal and postal employees’ retirement funds will become “headroom” under the debt limit.  Maybe the extra two months will give Speaker Boehner time to reconsider the GOP’s  allegiance to the ultra-rich.  Maybe it will give Congress time to fix the crisis it created.

In the meantime: to all those federal employees and postal carriers out there, “Thanks for the headroom!”

Read more about political attacks on federal employees here.

Read more about political attacks on the US Postal Service here.

 

US House Republicans Try To Force A Pay Cut To Federal Workers In Boehner’s “Plan B”

House Speaker John Boehner

Once again House Republicans are after the Federal workers.  This time they want more from workers in the form of a 5% increase to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  This once again proves that the House Republicans are trying to use the Federal workers as their personal piggy bank.

From GovExec.com:
“House lawmakers passed legislation requiring spending cuts to accompany Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B tax proposal, including major changes to federal employee retirement plans, before Boehner pulled the Plan B bill from the floor Thursday evening for lack of GOP support.”

A 5% increase in pension costs added in with the proposed  three year pay freeze is a net loss in pay for millions of middle class families.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley also wrote to House members. “Make no mistake,” she said, “an increased contribution toward one’s pension, with no corresponding increase in benefits, is a pay cut.”

Thankfully the White House was ahead of the proposal.

“President Obama threatened to veto the measure, saying “the approach put forward in this bill, virtually identical to earlier legislation, eliminates the defense portion of the pending sequester and does so in a way that imposes far greater cuts in the non-defense part of the budget than the existing sequester would entail.”

The previous legislation that the President is referring to was passed in the House along party lines and has yet to be (most likely will never be) discussed in the Senate.

As it was previously reported Speaker Boehner never called for a vote on his ‘Plan B’.  Congresswomen-Elect Annie Kuster had this to say.

“After failing to pass even their lopsided ‘Plan B’ proposal, it’s now clear that House Republican leadership is not serious about coming together to pass a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and avert the fiscal cliff. Instead, with the threat of across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases looming, they have simply given up. This is not what responsible governing looks like. With the clock ticking, both parties need to come back to the table to pass a balanced, bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, reduces the deficit, asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, protects seniors and the middle class, and strengthens the economy.”

Annie is right, it does not seem that the House Republicans have any interest in avoiding this fiscal cliff that they created all because they refuse to increase taxes on the ultra-wealthy.  Guess what House GOP, if you do nothing the taxes are going up anyway!

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