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Union Member and Correctional Counselor Stands for Safety at Federal Prisons

I AM AFGE Screenshot

I AM AFGE Screenshot

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.”

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Advocate Discusses Fighting Workplace Discrimination in Latest AFGE Documentary

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Agency has struggled to serve workers with shrinking budget, union leader Gabrielle Martin says

I AM AFGE@

WASHINGTON – In the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s mission to protect employees from job-related discrimination has expanded as our nation has become more determined to enforce equal rights under the law for all Americans.

EEOC’s initial focus on discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin has grown to cover age, disability, genetic information, and more recently transgender status and gender identity.

But EEOC’s budget has not kept pace, says Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council representing EEOC employees. “We have been woefully underfunded for most of our existence,” Gabrielle says.

The budget cuts required under sequestration have hit EEOC especially hard, resulting in unfilled vacancies that mean longer wait times for employees facing discrimination to receive assistance from the agency. It currently takes nine months on average for EEOC to investigate a case once it’s been filed, Gabrielle says.

“A pregnant woman who loses her job early in her pregnancy is really damaged by the passage of time. There’s the loss of the job, the benefits and really the destruction of a family unit that may be occurring behind that loss of job,” she says.

Gabrielle shares her story in the latest documentary produced by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents Gabrielle and thousands of other bargaining unit employees throughout EEOC. 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.

“There is nothing more insulting to an employee or job applicant than being treated unfairly on the basis of factors that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The women and men who work for the EEOC are often the only advocates for these employees, and they are doing a remarkable job with limited resources and attention.”

AFGE Council 216 represents all professional and nonprofessional General Schedule employees at EEOC, including investigators, attorneys, paralegals, mediators, administrative judges, and support staff.

Gabrielle says EEOC relies on labor unions to help counsel employees who are facing discrimination and walk them through the process for filing discrimination complaints. In the federal sector, unions like AFGE file complaints on behalf of employees and represent them throughout the process.

Gabrielle recalls hearing stories from her mother about her grandfather meeting with coworkers late at night in an effort to form a union for black employees at the U.S. Postal Service in Chicago. The stories resonated with Gabrielle’s mother and with Gabrielle herself, who joined AFGE to advocate on behalf of government workers.

Gabrielle’s story is one of 15 short-form documentaries being released by AFGE every three weeks 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.

“For 50 years, EEOC employees have served a vital role in ensuring our workplaces are free of discrimination and open to everyone,” 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 Launches Campaign to Increase Public Appreciation of Federal Employees

Screen Shot of AFGE Video.

Year-long “I Am AFGE” campaign features federal employees who make America great

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is kicking off a 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 multi-faceted campaign, called “I Am AFGE,” launches today 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.

Subsequent videos will be released every three weeks, beginning March 26. These 15 short-form documentaries will highlight individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country, including caring for veterans, processing Social Security checks, researching cures for deadly diseases, cleaning up hazardous waste, guarding our nation’s prisons, and ensuring the safety of the flying public.

“Federal employees deliver programs and services that touch tens of millions of American lives each and every day, yet some folks don’t make that connection between the work that federal employees do and the benefits to the nation and individual communities,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“The goal of this campaign is to break down the stereotypes that some folks have about federal employees and the federal government, and highlight all the great work that federal employees are doing. The best way to do this is through federal employees’ own voices.”

More than two dozen federal employees were interviewed for the campaign during AFGE’s annual Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference in February.

The videos will be posted to a dedicated website, www.afge.org/IAm, 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).

“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,” Cox said.

Head of largest federal employee union calls for 4% pay raise in 2015

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AFGE president says President Obama must send strong show of support for federal workforce

AFGE Logo 2WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today called on President Obama to provide federal employees with a 4% pay raise next year.

Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget, to be unveiled next week, will propose a 1% across-the-board pay raise for federal employees and members of the military. But that is a pitiful amount that does little to help federal workers recover from a three-year pay freeze, higher retirement contributions and the loss of pay due to sequestration-related furloughs last year, Cox said.

“A 4 percent pay raise is a modest and affordable increase that will help employees keep up with rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare expenses,” Cox said.

Wages for federal employees have gone up just 3 percent since 2010, while prices have risen 9 percent – not counting additional out-of-pocket expenses for sequestration-related furloughs, retirement contributions and healthcare premiums. In salary alone, federal employees are more than 6 percent worse off under President Obama.

Federal employees had their pay frozen for three consecutive years, and new workers are being forced to pay substantially more toward their retirement. Without counting the losses due to sequestration furloughs, these cuts amount to $120 billion in lower wages and benefits for federal employees during the next decade.

“The president must send a strong message that inflicting pain on federal employees was a miserable failure. The administration punished federal workers in order to endear itself to those who despise the federal workforce, and it didn’t work,” Cox said. “If the president truly wants to put an end to austerity and the decline of the middle class, there is no better place to start than with his own employees.”

Rep Shea-Porter Votes For Omnibus Budget Bill Ending Threat Of Shutdown

Carol Shea Porter Official Photo

Shea-Porter Supports Bipartisan Appropriations Bill to Invest in New Hampshire and Avert a Government Shutdown

Compromise spending bill would restore COLA funding for disabled veterans and alleviate some of sequestration’s reckless cuts to NH’s economy

Legislation includes key funding for PNSY, NH National Guard, Granite State Veterans, Seacoast Fishermen, LIHEAP, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3547, an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2014. The legislation earned the support of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) because it prevents another government shutdown and invests in New Hampshire’s economy and programs vital to the middle class.

“I think it’s shameful that this omnibus bill did not include emergency unemployment insurance and only partially restores the COLA adjustment for military retirees, but I voted for this bill because it’s a bipartisan compromise that invests in New Hampshire’s economy, keeps our post offices open, and reverses some of sequestration’s damaging cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire National Guard, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, LIHEAP, and other vital programs,” Shea-Porter said.

“This legislation ensures that Congress won’t repeat another costly government shutdown, but it is far from perfect. It only repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors because my amendment to fully repeal the cuts was not accepted by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. However, this bill is a modest step down the long road towards growing our economy and governing responsibly,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R.3547 adheres to the compromise funding levels agreed to in Bipartisan Budget Act, legislation which passed in December. As mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, it includes a total of $1.012 trillion in regular defense and non-defense discretionary funding.

This bill makes significant strategic investments in New Hampshire, and includes a number of measures championed by Shea-Porter. Highlights follow.

AVERTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

·         The compromise $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014, thus keeping the government open. The legislation passed the House of Representatives 359-67 earlier today, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. President Obama urged swift passage of the legislation, which needs to be signed by January 18, 2014 in order to prevent another government shutdown.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

·         The bill provides $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The legislation also includes a strong mark in favor of submarine programs – fully funding the second 2014 Virginia class submarine, preserving funding for the Virginia Payload Module, and continuing development of the Ohio Replacement.  Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House New England delegation advocated for full funding of these submarine programs.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NATIONAL GUARD

·         KC-46A Tanker:  The legislation appropriates $1.6 billion to fully fund continued development of the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shea-Porter has strongly supported bringing the KC-46A to Pease. In the 110th Congress, she secured almost $9 million in funding to build a new facility for the WING Headquarters Operations and Training facility at the base. In the 111th Congress, she also secured $10 million to help the 157th Operations Group, which is responsible for the air refueling mission, consolidate its components into a single building, thus improving its command communications and overall efficiency of operations. In March, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter toured the Pease Air National Guard base to meet with Air Force and Air Guard leaders and show her continued support for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing as the Air Force evaluated final candidates to receive the KC-46A tanker. Prior to that, Congresswoman Shea-Porter joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff expressing support for the selection of Pease.

·         National Guard equipment procurement: The bill exceeds full funding for National Guard and Reserves equipment.

DEFENSE, VETERANS, AND WOUNDED WARRIORS

·         Veterans Backlog: The bill appropriates $320 million to deal with the claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. Shea-Porter has worked consistently to reduce the Veterans Administration’s (VA) disability claims backlog. In October, she voted in favor of bipartisan reforms to help reduce the backlog.

·         Veterans Homelessness: The bill fully funds the President’s request for $10,000 new veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.

·         PTSD Therapy: The bill contains Shea-Porter’s bipartisan amendment to provide $4 million in funding for an innovative dog-training therapy program that is a safe, effective, non-drug intervention to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI in returning service members. Shea-Porter championed the program along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). The amendment was fully paid for.

·         Retired Military COLA: The omnibus appropriations legislation repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors.  Yesterday, Shea-Porter offered an amendment to fully repeal reductions in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

·         TRICARE: The legislation includes $218 million increase for the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, to protect beneficiaries against increases in out-of-pocket costs. Shea-Porter included  language in the National Defense Authorization Act would help military families receive access to alternative physical therapies under the TRICARE program.

·         Wounded Warriors: The legislation includes $585.6 million for prosthetic research, which is $3.5 million above the 2013 enacted level.

·         Military Pay Raise: The agreement would fund a requested 1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and the DOD civilian workforce.

·         Defense and Small Business: Exceeds full funding by $175 million for the Defense Rapid Innovation Program to incorporate small business developments into Department of Defense programs.

DISASTER RELIEF AND FIRST RESPONDERS

·         Federal Emergency Management Agency: The bill allocates $6.2 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also provides a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, $39 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, including:

o   $1.5 billion for state and local grants,

o   $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and

o   $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

o   Additionally, the bill includes a House amendment that delays certain premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program.

EDUCATION

·         TRIO: 95 percent of the sequestration cuts to TRIO were restored. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a leading advocate of investments in effective programs such as TRIO. In June, she led a group of 21 Representatives in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that Federal TRIO Programs be protected from further cuts under sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014.

·         K-12 Funding: The $625 million increase in Title I funds over post-sequester funding levels will help support an additional 1 million students, and the $498 million increase over post-sequester funding for IDEA grants will cover the costs of an additional 6,000 special education staff.

·         Head Start: The bill restores the Head Start sequestration cuts and gives grantees a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase.  Allows the Education Department and HHS to jointly administer a new $250 million competitive grant program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income families.  In addition, the bill provides a $36 million boost to the Child Care Block Grant program for a total of $2.36 billion.

·         Pell Grants: The maximum annual award, which still must be confirmed by the Education Department and is based on inflation, is likely to rise by $85 to $5,730.

INFRASTRUCTURE

·         New Hampshire Rail: The bill restores funding for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail line that runs through New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Under previous appropriations bills, funding would have expired. By sending two letters to the Department of Transportation, Shea-Porter and the New England delegation worked toward restoration of the $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that supports this critical regional infrastructure.

·         Highways: The bill includes a $557 million increase to Highway funding above the FY 2013 amount.

LIHEAP

·         The legislation includes $3.425 billion in funding for LIHEAP, a $169 million increase over FY 2013 levels. As Granite Staters face another cold winter, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has repeatedly called on Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In April, she sent a bipartisan letter requesting that funding for LIHEAP be authorized at a level of $5.1 billion in FY2014.

MEALS ON WHEELS

·         The omnibus bill contains a $41 million increase for Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program for seniors. Shea-Porter has visited Meals on Wheels in New Hampshire and has spoken out about the fact that under sequestration, Meals on Wheels programs were forced to cut, on average, 364 meals per week and have increased their waiting lists on average by 58 seniors.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERMEN

·         Disaster Relief: $75 million will be allocated toward fishery disaster, thanks to this legislation. Shea-Porter has been a vocal supporter of this program. In early 2013, Shea-Porter wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner and cosponsored an amendment to reinstate disaster aid.

PRIVACY

·         National Security Agency (NSA): Today’s Appropriations bill would require the National Security Agency to provide Congress the number of phone records collected and reviewed during the last five years, including an estimate of the number belonging to U.S. citizens. The agency would also have to provide an unclassified report describing all spy programs that collect bulk data, including the cost of the programs and what type of records are being collected or what kind of data the agency plans to collect in the future. Shea-Porter has been an outspoken critic of the dragnet collection of data by government agencies. She has called for increased transparency, oversight, and accountability over domestic surveillance.

US POSTAL SERVICE

·         Saturday Mail: The legislation forbids ending Saturday mail or closing rural post offices. Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery. She believes the US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities in New Hampshire and that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would hurt consumers and fail to adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service.

The bill shamefully does not include an extension of emergency unemployment compensation, an issue that Shea-Porter has repeatedly raised with Speaker Boehner and her colleagues. Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter requested unanimous consent to end Republican’s refusal to allow a vote on extending emergency unemployment compensation.

“It is deeply disappointing that Republicans in Washington continue to block a vote to renew emergency unemployment compensation and help job-seekers in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not the end of the line. I’ll continue to fight for a jobs bill and an extension of emergency unemployment insurance for those looking for work.”

Senator Ayotte says (unofficially): Balance the budget on the backs of Federal Workers, not Military Veterans

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Balance the budget on the backs of…..

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.   Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.

The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.

From the Washington Post:

“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”

The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”

Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62.  That is right, that is what she is opposing.

My question is why is she not opposing the budget over the $6 billion dollars that federal workers are going to have to make up with higher retirement contributions?  The Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) released a statement opposing the bill for just that reason.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”

Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?

“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011″ — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.” (Money.CNN)

She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.

The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party.  Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending.  She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.

The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition.  She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass.  Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.

With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

Not one state in the entire union has less than 2,200 veterans who are collecting food stamps under the SNAP program this month. (Read the full story about Veterans and SNAP benefits here) 

Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps.  I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.

Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?

The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.

Homeless VeteransUPDATED: 12-17-13

After I published this story, Senator Ayotte was interviewed for a story in the Union Leader where she stated:
the $6.3 billion could be found elsewhere in the budget, possibly by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps.
So it seems I was right, she does not seem to care about the people who are living in poverty or working for the government, only the working age retired Veterans who make great photo opportunities.

Largest Federal Employee Union Leader Rejects Budget Deal Targeting Federal Pensions

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AFGE rejects notion that there should be trade-off between federal programs and federal employees

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in response to the budget deal announced today by the Budget Conference Committee:

“Despite the extraordinarily hard work of several Congressional leaders, AFGE cannot support any budget deal that asks for more from federal employees. AFGE represents more than just the 670,000 federal and D.C government employees on the rolls today, but every other federal worker who will one day take the oath and be forced to live with this needless pension cut.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods. Though the $6 billion in increased retirement contributions for new employees is less severe than the administration’s $20 billion proposal, it is still unacceptable.

“Newly hired federal employees already pay 3.1% of their salaries toward their defined benefit pension and 6.2% to Social Security. Forcing employees hired after 2013 to pay an additional 1.3% — for a total of 4.4% — toward their pension will make it all but impossible for them to fund their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.  The result will be a serious shortfall in their retirement income security, and a substantial lowering of their standard of living.

“We also are concerned with the impact of the new self plus one category in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which will raise costs for families with more than two persons.

“None of this would be occurring were it not for the perverted logic of austerity politics. The Budget Control Act was a grave mistake, and the spending cuts it imposes year after year have been ruinous for our economy and for the government services on which all Americans depend. Spending cuts hurt the poor and the vulnerable, and they also hurt military readiness, medical research, enforcement of clean air and water rules, access to housing and education, transportation systems and infrastructure, and homeland security.  Congress should focus its efforts on repealing the Budget Control Act, not pitting federal workers against the very programs to which they have committed their lives.

“While we have not yet seen the language limiting the compensation taxpayers must pay for individual contractor employees to $487,000, AFGE will work to lower the overall amount, which is still too high, and also will work to ensure that there are no unnecessary loopholes or exceptions.  Although limiting contractor compensation technically doesn’t ‘score’ for budget purposes, GAO estimates that it will save almost $500 million annually, just in DoD.  Agencies will be better off by being able to rid themselves of ridiculously high compensation for contractor employees.

“AFGE’s members are extremely grateful for the heroic work of House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland for his efforts as a chief negotiator of the budget deal, and in particular for his extraordinary efforts to protect current federal employees. AFGE also is grateful to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Nita Lowey of New York for their leadership in pushing for a deal that would not unfairly punish federal workers.  Finally, Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Harry Reid of Nevada all worked hard to ensure that the budget deal was fair for federal workers.”

Federal Workers Get Ready Here Comes Congressman Ryan

Paul Ryan

 Paul Ryan

Congress only has a few more days to act before they take their much UN-needed vacation from Washington.   This Congress is on pace to reach a new record setting low, as the most unproductive Congress in history.

The biggest issue right now — aside from immigration, the ACA, jobs, and the economy, which they are not even talking about right now – is the Federal Budget.  What will be the spending level for the next six months, year, or decade?  That is the million-dollar or should I say trillion-dollar question.

To end the forced government shutdown the parties agreed to finally sit down and hammer out the details of a budget.  Sen. Patty Murray would present her Senate budget and Rep. Paul Ryan would present the House budget.  They were tasked with leading a committee of conference between the two chambers and finalizing a deal that would pass through both houses.   The budget committee has until Dec 13th to report back to the House and Senate leaders with a compromised budget plan.

The key is that if they do not pass a budget on Dec 13 (oh thats Friday the 13th , eerie) they are scheduled to leave for winter break and return in early January.  This would mean that Congress would have about one week to get the budget passed through the House, the Senate, and be signed by the President by January 15th when current funding resolution expires.

Some members of Congress think this is unacceptable and are calling on Speaker Boehner to keep Congress in session until a budget is passed.

This week the beltway press has started reporting on the budget deals being tossed around and there is good news and bad news.  Government Executive is reporting that Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan are very close to a two-year deal that “set spending levels and soften sequester cuts.” Of course that is if Murray and Ryan can come to an agreement first.

In a meeting with conservative lawmakers on Thursday morning, Ryan told them to expect the framework of a budget agreement to be announced on Tuesday, giving both parties time to study its components.

“If we don’t have a deal by Tuesday, we probably won’t have a deal at all,” Ryan said, according to people in the room.”  (GovExec)

Ezra Klien’s Wankblog is also reporting some good news about the proposed budget.

The budget deal Patty Murray and Paul Ryan are crafting isn’t a “grand bargain.” It doesn’t put the nation’s finances on a vastly different path (or even any different path). It doesn’t reform the tax code or overhaul Medicare. It doesn’t include infrastructure spending or chained-CPI. It doesn’t even replace all of sequestration.

This means that Social Security, and Medicare are safe for another day!  This is good news for millions of seniors and those who are close to retirement.

Now the bad news, the budget does not end the draconian sequester cuts.  It ‘eases’ the cuts.  The budget deal would add $40 billion dollars back into the budget ($25 Billion in the 2015 budget), with half going to military spending and the other half to domestic spending.

This year the GOP cut $4 billion from the SNAP or Food Stamps program.  Not to mention the $40 million from head start programs. The list goes on and on with more and more cuts and forced furloughs and layoffs to federal workers.   This budget will not fix that problem either, only force agencies to operate at a reduced budgetary level.

The irony here is that currently Sen Murray and Rep Ryan are haggling over $65 Billion dollars in the budget.  That is exactly how much we are adding from the current Sequester levels.  Is it a coincidence that, that is how much they are haggling about?

So where are the Republicans going to come up with the extra money to give back to the domestic spending programs?  You guessed it, their favorite secret stash, the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERs).

Rep. Paul Ryan is proposing a dramatic 2% increase on employee contributions to the FERs program, while federal employees have not seen a pay raise in almost 5 years. Federal workers who were hired in 2013 already got whacked with a 2.3% increased contribution over existing employees. Couple the lack of pay raises with the average inflation of around 2%, federal workers are losing money every year just staying in their jobs.  Now Rep Paul Ryan wants workers to take an additional 2% pay cut  — I mean increased retirement contribution — because he does not want to increase taxes on the wealthy or corporations?

The only working people that have paid a price so far in trying to bring down the deficit have been federal workers…. It is inappropriate to further look to the pockets of federal employees at this point in time,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

When will the Congressional Republicans stop using the federal employees retirement accounts as their personal piggy banks.  When will they do what is right an start making the corporations pay their fair share?

 

Working Families Can’t Afford Another Shutdown Style Crisis (by Richard Trumka & Mark Mackenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

By Mark MacKenzie and Richard Trumka

NH AFL-CIO LogoLast month, we saw Washington at its worst. Driven by the Tea Party, Republican leaders, including Senator Ayotte, recklessly shut down our government and brought our nation to the brink of default. Ignoring voices of reason from working families across New Hampshire, some of our leaders in Congress listened to shouts of “shut it down” and inflicted unnecessary damage to our economy.

The shutdown cost 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October and will reduce economic growth by at least .25% in the fourth quarter. Here in New Hampshire it directly impacted 4,069 federal workers and countless residents who rely on federal services.

Thankfully, reason prevailed, Republican leaders relented and Congress appointed negotiators to work on a new budget agreement.

Now it’s on to the next fight in Washington.  But before we get caught up in another news cycle where extremists convince us we shouldn’t invest in our future, it is worth noting that a congressional budget is a vision. It is a blueprint that outlines our priorities as a nation. A good budget invests in America. It doesn’t rob our government of the resources it needs to succeed. A good budget properly funds its obligations and promotes the creation of well-paying jobs. It doesn’t bargain away protections for our seniors and it isn’t balanced on the backs of working families.

As Democrats and Republicans spend this month negotiating how to avoid another government shutdown, it is important to remind Washington politicians about what working families need.

The recovery is still being dragged down by the repeated budget crises manufactured by Republicans in Congress.  Budget austerity in the Tea Party Congress has already slowed annual economic growth by 0.7%, cost 1.2 million jobs, and increased the unemployment rate by 0.8%, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.

First, Congress should repeal the sequester it created, not replace it. The sequester’s dumb across-the-board cuts have hurt everything from education to child care to medical research. Here in New Hampshire, much attention has been given to the hardworking workers at our Shipyard and National Guard members who have faced furloughs as a result of defense cuts. But sequestration is also forcing layoffs and cutbacks to other critical programs that provide job training, education, and other services.

Repealing the sequester would generate 800,000 jobs by this time next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The next budget should undo this painful damage— and not replace it with other harmful cuts.

Most importantly, policymakers in Washington must reject proposals to cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits.  They should avoid deficit hysteria promoted by billionaires and the 1%. Instead of terrifying our parents and grandparents with threats to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned, politicians should protect these vital programs that have shielded the elderly and vulnerable from poverty for generations. Our nation’s safety net should be strengthened, not weakened, because working people need more economic security, not less.

Instead, Congress should look to raise new revenue by repealing the tax subsidies that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas and ending special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  When the average CEO’s salary for the first morning on the job is the same amount the average worker makes in a year, it’s clear that the wealthiest Americans and corporations making record profits can pay their fair share.

Ending these undeserved and wasteful tax breaks would allow us to invest in our workforce and create the well-paying jobs millions so desperately need. By rebuilding our infrastructure, education, and manufacturing base, we can create good jobs with good benefits and provide relief to our struggling working and middle class. This is America, after all.  No job should trap anyone in a vicious cycle of poverty.

By focusing on helping working families instead of how to score political points, Congress can produce a budget that supports an economy that works for all. It is time for Senator Ayotte to realize that instead of shutting down progress, she needs to listen to the needs of the hardworking voters who sent her to Washington.

Richard Trumka is President of the AFL-CIO. Mark MacKenzie is President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

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