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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.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Fights Against Shipyard Furloughs

Congresswoman asks Pentagon for answers on exemptions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, at a briefing on the impacts of Department of Defense furloughs, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter addressed the concerns of the 1,300 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who have been furloughed and will lose 11 days of work this fiscal year due to federal budget cuts under sequestration. Shea-Porter asked Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller, Robert Hale why the Department of Defense is still furloughing workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard after Secretary Hagel explicitly directed that these workers be exempt.

On May 14, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in a memorandum that “employees in Navy shipyards will be exempted from furlough because it would be particularly difficult to make up delays in maintenance work on nuclear vessels and these vessels are critical to mission success.” After Hagel’s decision, most workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were granted exemptions, but 1,300 others were still furloughed.

In response to Shea-Porter’s question, Mr. Hale stated that he did not know exactly why some Shipyard workers were furloughed, and promised to get back to her with an answer.

Shea-Porter said that she is hopeful that all workers at the Shipyard will be given exemptions.

“All Shipyard workers deserve to be paid in full and my goal is to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that every Shipyard worker is treated equally and exempted equally,” Shea-Porter said. “The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is a team. It should not be split up because the whole team is essential to their mission.”

As of March 1, 2013, when sequestration went into effect, the Department of Defense’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year (ending September 30, 2013) was reduced by $37 billion, including $20 billion in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts that fund the civilian workforce. Because of this cut, the Department of Defense furloughed 680,000 of its civilian employees. These furloughs began on July 8, 2013.

AFGE president blasts Defense secretary for rejecting call to end furloughs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFGE Calls For Pentagon To Cancel Furloughs Now!

Services, Defense agencies have enough flexibility to avoid disruptive furloughs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

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?

Congress Adds Insult To Injury! Pay Freeze Continues As Sequester Sets In

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementLet me start by saying the last thing I want to see is a full government shutdown.  However once again Congress as a whole takes more from the piggy bank they call federal workers’ pay.

“Congress on Thursday agreed on a measure to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year. The bill, which also extends the pay freeze on federal employees, now heads to President Obama.”  (GovExec.com)

What is becoming a normal situation for Congress, they are continuing to take more from the federal workers.  The first pay raise they would have seen in three years was killed by Congress.  This is on top of the fact that almost every government employee is facing a mandatory furlough of 11-22 days.

Furloughs are not vacation days as some people are saying.  These are days when workers are forced off from work and are not paid.  For those people who are being forced to take a 22 day furlough, that is a 12% reduction in pay, or in more simple terms, a loss of one month of pay (over the next six months).

This continuing resolution does absolutely nothing to stop the sequester cuts.

“I remain deeply dissatisfied that sequestration is not addressed and will slash the very priorities I believe all of us came here to fulfill,” said House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. (GovExec.com)

As I said before, a full government shutdown is the worst possible thing for federal employees and the entire United States.  The fact that we almost shut down in 2011, cost us in our national credit rating.

The sequester cuts have already started to have an impact on business.  According to the Huffington Post and the AP, workers are being laid off already.

  • On Monday, 250 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state received pink slips, while another 2,500 others found out they’re facing furloughs. Approximately 9,000 people work at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, and the Associated Press reports that “cleanup is likely to be slowed” because of the budget cuts.
  • Continental Maritime, a contractor that repairs U.S. Navy ships, expects to lay off 185 employeeseffective April 12. Other contractors have issued conditional layoff notices — meaning that jobs are safe if Congress restores some funding to the Defense Department — to thousands of employees.
  • Four-hundred eighteen contract workers tied to the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania are losing their jobs due to sequestration. Two-hundred sixteen people will be dismissed on April 15 and 107 on April 30, the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., reports. The paper noted that the Tobyhanna Army Depot is losing 35 percent — $309 million — of its government funding through the end of the fiscal year, and that more than 5,100 of the people who work there are being forced to take 22 furlough days.
  • At least eight municipal employees in Monterey County, Calif., are losing their jobs as a result of a decrease in the number of military contracts.
  • In early March, 23 people who work with the parks and recreation and maintenance departments in Tooele County, Utah, were laid off in order to grapple with the federal budget cuts. “I have four kids. This is my livelihood,” said Scott Chance, a 12-year employee. “It pays my health insurance. It gives me my house.”
  • Engineering Services Network is an engineering and technology company and one of the top Latino-owned companies in Virginia. President and CEO Raymond Lopez Jr. told NBC Latino that he has “lost about 20 employees through sequestration.”
  • The Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, announced in February that it was cutting 414 jobs — about 10 percent of its workforce. “I don’t know how we’re going to make it,” Raymond Wyrick, whose last day was scheduled to be March 9, told CNN Money.

Someone please tell me: how is preserving these sequester cuts in the continuing resolution going to help our economy?  How is cutting services, cutting personnel, and cutting families’ income helping our economy? Federal workers are already at the mercy of Congress. On top of sequestration, this continuing resolution that keeps the 0.5% raise off the table is just another slap in the face to federal workers.

Federal workers are not a piggy bank that Congress can turn to, every time it wants help balancing the federal budget.

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.

Hungry like a (baby) wolfRemember, too, that maintaining the sequester cuts means that 600,000 young children from low-income families are losing the free food they had been receiving through a U.S. government nutrition program.

Smack down federal employees (again) and take food away from hungry children.  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.

What Do You Mean My Flight Is Canceled Due To SEQUESTRATION???

The newsrooms are a buzz with the information that was just released from the Federal Aviation Administration on the potential impacts of the Sequestration.   Sequestration is the name given to the draconian cuts that are going to rip apart the government and our economy at the same time.

Today Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, released a letter to the aviation community highlighting the impacts.

1.  Furloughs of 11-22 days between April and Oct 1st for all 47,000 FAA Employees.

2. Eliminate midshifts at 60 towers across the country

3. Close over 100 air traffic control towers (link to potential closure list)

4. Reduce preventative maintenance and equipment provisioning and support for all National Airspace System equipment.

These impacts will create massive delays for air travelers, and any business that relies on aviation to move their people or product.  Aviation contributes $1.3 Trillion to the national economy.  With over 70,000 operations every single day and 130 million operations annually, the FAA oversees all of them.

Sec. Lahood also points out that flights to the major airports,  JFK, IAD, SFO, LAX could see delays of 90 minutes or more durning peak times.   Those delays will only create more waves throughout the system as gridlock sets in.

The President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Paul Rinaldi, had this to say after hearing the news.

“Today’s announcement from the FAA unfortunately confirms the concerns we have been warning about for months – sequestration will significantly and perhaps permanently undermine the capacity of the National Airspace System. The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated. We share the FAA’s commitment to preserving the safety of the system despite these draconian cuts. Safety is always the top priority of air traffic controllers, but the reality is this – safety will be preserved at the expense of operations across the country. Once towers are closed, the airports they serve may be next. Additionally, we believe the delay estimates provided by the FAA are conservative and the potential for disruptions could be much higher.

“Every one of these actions by the FAA will have an impact far beyond inconveniencing travelers. Local economies will be diminished, military exercises will be cancelled and jobs will be lost. There’s no telling how long these effects will be felt because many of these service reductions may not be reversed. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues to urge the nation’s policy-makers to find a solution that prevents or mitigates the impact of sequestration in a way that does not diminish the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system.”

These 47,000 FAA Employees are real people.  They have families, children, and mortgages.   Like many Americans, they probably cannot afford to be forced out of work for an entire month without pay.  Yet this is what Congress is forcing them to do.

We must take action now to stop these draconian cuts from every happening.   Call your elected Representative and tell them to stop this now!  Call your Senator.  Call the White House.  Tell them all that these cuts are hurting hard working families throughout the country.  Tell them how these cuts are going to directly effect you.

Congress created these Sequestration cuts and they can take them away.  It is time to stop playing chicken with our economy and the lives of millions of federal employees and their families.  End the sequestration now, while you still can!

NATCA Makes A Call For Help To End Sequestration

air traffic controller The possibility of the devastating ‘Sequestration’ cuts occurring are becoming a very harsh reality.   Many organization have come out against the sequestration cuts.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is working to educate Congress, industry and the flying public on the devastating effects that sequestration would have on the national airspace system and the national economy.  NATCA, represents the Air Traffic Controllers who help ensure the safety of over 70,000 flights a day and 130 Million operations a year.

In the end of last year NATCA released a report talking about the potentially significate impacts to the National Airspace System.  This report was based on cuts, had they been implemented at the beginning of January.  Sequestration was then pushed back for two months, changing the FY2013 estimates somewhat.  Should sequestration take place at the beginning of March, the Federal Aviation Administration will be forced to reduce their operating budget by 5% or approximately $480 Million dollars.

These cuts would mean furloughs, layoffs and a significant loss in air traffic capacity.   These are hard working men and women who who devote their lives to ensuring the safety of the flying public.   (Embeded below is the video from NATCA titled : NATCA the Voice of Aviation Safety.)

The cuts are detrimental to the FAA and the entire workforce, hoever the impact on the national economy could be far worse.  NATCA reports that airports like Manchester / Boston Regional Airport could be forced to close do to furloughs.

How important is it the aviation industry to the national economy?

“Commercial aviation contributes $1.3 trillion in economic activity and comprises 5.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, while providing $75 billion against the U.S. trade deficit” –From NATCA Report

Everyone agrees that reducing our GDP would hurt our overall economy, and yet these cuts would do exactly that.  This is why it is so important that we all work together in a truly bi-partisan way to stop these cuts from happening.  We must put an end to the perpetual ‘kicking the can down the road’ and create a long term budget.

NATCA is urging everyone to take action now! Contact your Congressional Representatives and tell them to stop the sequestration cuts before they happen.

These are real people with real families who could be pushed over the edge with a long unpaid furlough.  New research from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) says that over 40% of America is ‘liquid asset poor’.  This is a very fancy way of stating that over 40% of Americans have less than $6,000 in savings and are one or two paychecks away from financial ruin.  What would this mean to the thousands of workers in the FAA alone?

These sequestration cuts would have a much deeper impact than just the 17,000 air traffic controllers.  Aviation alone drives nearly 10 Million jobs.  Any cuts to the National Airspace System would have rippling effects throughout the aviation industry.  The FAA contractors could be forced to layoff thousands of workers due to a lack of funding.  During the last partial shut down of the FAA, many of the engineers and architects were placed in furlough status.  There was 5,000 FAA employees effected by the furlough and that translated into over 75,000 non-government jobs being also placed into a “furlough” status as well.

Take the time to tell your Congressional Representatives and Senators that making these cuts to aviation are wrong!  Our national economy is dependent on the aviation industry. Send your message here.

350 economists believe that making these cuts to the Federal Government would send our country back into recession.  Austerity is not the solution and sequestration is not the answer. Stop the cuts before they happen.

Sequestration Could Mean Dangerous Cuts To Aviation

There is no doubt that without the dedication and skill of the FAA’s Air Traffic Controllers, the entire country would suffer.  In a new report from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA explains what could happen if the mandatory ‘Sequestration’ cuts take effect.

The report states that all users and operators of the National Airspace System including travelers, general aviation pilots, airlines, businesses and the military will feel the impact of the cuts in the form of a reduction in airport and air traffic control services, a diminishing of the NAS’s flight capacity, increased delays and costs to airlines and lags in air traffic modernization.

NATCA warns that if the FAA budget is cut it could result in the furlough of over 2000 air traffic controllers (12% of the workforce).  “This could lead to a reduction in services.” To the public, this mean delays, less available flights and higher costs.

“As the front line safety professionals in the aviation community, it is our role to warn the rest of the country that these cuts will be detrimental to our National Airspace System and the economy,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.

Currently the National Airspace System moves an average of two million passengers on 70,000 flights a day.  A reduction in flights would result in the potential layoff to pilots, flight attendants, ramp agents, ticket agents, and other aviation related jobs.   Aviation is attributed to 10 million jobs and contributes over $1.3 trillion dollars to the GDP.

The air traffic controllers would not be the only ones in the FAA to be hit with mandatory furloughs and layoffs.  In addition to the 2000 air traffic controllers who will be furloughed,  the FAA will have to furlough 7,500 engineers, inspectors, and aviation professionals.  These layoffs would also indefinitely delay all NextGen modernization projects currently being worked on by the FAA.

“The U.S. has the safest and most efficient airspace in the world and the FAA needs appropriate funding to continue directing it,” said NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert. “If Congress allows sequestration to become a reality, the aviation community and the economy will take a major hit. We cannot afford to let that happen.”

It is obvious that we cannot let the ‘Sequestration’ cut take effect.  We need Congress and the President to take action to avoid this potentially dangerous situation.  We elected our legislators in Washington to speak for us, not against us.  We need them to come to an agreement before these cuts take effect and send thousands of good jobs out the door.


View NATCA’s full report on the impacts of sequestration.

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