SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Responds to Governor Hassan’s Executive Order for Spending Freeze

SEIU 1984 LogoA Statement from the SEIU Local 1984

Concord, NH, May 22, 2014 – Earlier today, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee unanimously approved Gov. Maggie Hassan’s plan to issue an Executive Order to immediately freeze state hiring, equipment purchases and out-of-state travel. This comes on the heels of last week’s disappointing news that April’s revenue came in at $22 million less than projected in the state budget.

Last week the Governor wrote in her request that “we should act prudently, responsibly, and expeditiously to continue to ensure a balanced budget.” The Governor’s response to the shortfall was sensible and necessary to deliver a balanced budget for the biennium.

We assert that it is not this governor or the state employees who are holding NH back from being the best it can be.

April revenue projections were approved by the Legislature, as is the entire budget. While we are disappointed the actual revenues fell short, we aren’t surprised, given the corporate tax breaks the O’Brien legislature implemented two years ago.

When you combine the tax code changes and more businesses applying for tax credits with the state’s recent bond outlook warning from Standard & Poor’s; the dispute over the Medicaid Enhancement Tax; and class action lawsuits still pending; it is apparent that longstanding and risky legislative behavior is undermining NH’s future, rather than strengthening it.

Since 2006, the budgets passed by the Legislature have eliminated 2,000 good full-time jobs from the state employee workforce. Currently, including vacancies – some of which are intentionally held vacant to meet budget mandated cuts – we are operating with a workforce 27 percent smaller than it was pre-recession.

The freeze Gov. Hassan is now forced to impose will only further delay and diminish the delivery of critical services and leave more citizens with unmet needs.  This will also leave state employees and the people relying on the services they provide in a constant state of uncertainty.  Such uncertainty is damaging to the state’s economy and future. We need strong budgets with well-developed and funded priorities to put a stop to all the uncertainty NH taxpayers and businesses are experiencing.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 stands ready to support and advocate for the employees who are once again being asked to serve and do more with less.

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?   

Are You Kidding Me? Sen Ayotte Wants Federal Workers To Pay For Budget Cuts

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

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

GovExc release this article, “GOP Sequester Alternative Targets Federal Pay, Benefits.”

I will give you some of the highlights of Senator Ayottes grand plan, stop me if you have heard any of this before.

“Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., drafted the bill — the 2013 Sequester Replacement and Spending Reduction Act — which includes provisions to extend the federal pay freeze through 2014 and increase current employees’ pension contributions by 2.3 percent over three years.”

“The bill ends the government’s Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement for anyone hired after Dec. 31, 2013″

“…it seeks to reduce funding for the 2010 Affordable Care Act”

There is absolutely nothing new here.  Another part of this plan is to reduce the federal workforce by 10%. “Under the plan, for every three federal employees who left their job, the federal government would be allowed to hire one.”  This is the GOP trying to shrink government.  Less people working mean less government, right?

There are huge problems with this because as the sequester is about to hit all of the government agencies have released reports on what will have to happen when these automatic cuts take place.  Most of the government will be faced with mandatory furloughs or forced time off.  Most of the furloughs range from 11-22 days, essentially one month off in the next six.  The FAA reports drastic delays and airport closures. FBI Director Robert Mueller has said $550 million in cuts to the bureau “would have the net effect of cutting 2,285 employees”.  National Parks will be closed due to lack of staffing.  Less agents to patrol our borders. Less agents to check our food. The list goes on and on and on.

While workers are being forced into unpaid time off, Senator Ayotte is suggesting we continue the downward spiral by freezing pay for another two years and reducing the staff.  As you can see by the effects of the furloughs reducing the staff is going to work out great for everyone.

At the Portsmouth naval shipyard that would mean reducing (or cutting) 470 jobs, while they are already overloaded with work.

We need congress to reject this proposal and come up with something new.  This continual attack on the hard working middle class employees in the federal sector have already given up so much.

“National Federation of Federal Employees National President William R. Dougan said in a statement. “Rather than proposing a serious solution to sequestration, Senator Ayotte and her GOP colleagues have chosen to dust off well-worn attacks on federal employees that do nothing to fix the problem. Federal employees have already endured over two years of frozen pay and an increase in retirement contributions that will save the government $103 billion over the next decade.”

How Much More Does The GOP In The US House Want From Federal Employees???

In January the NHLN reported that the Republicans in the US House were trying to steal from the Federal Workers, by attempting to block the .5% raise proposed by President Obama.

Today the House GOP cemented their distain for Federal Workers by voting to freeze workers pay for the rest of FY 13.   The vote was mostly down party lines 261 to 154 according to GovExec.com

“Democrats used the hour-long floor debate Thursday and Friday on the bill to defend federal workers, but also to accuse Republicans of failing to avoid sequestration, which is scheduled to begin March 1.”

Well I guess that would mean that money is going to be used to offset sequestration cuts right?  WRONG!

“Nixing an across-the-board pay increase for feds this year would save the government $11 billion over a decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said on Thursday that agencies could use the savings from extending the pay freeze through 2013 for other federal programs. The money saved would not go toward overall deficit reduction or replacing any part of the sequester.” – GovExec.com (emphasis added)

After the vote, J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees had this to say:

“Today, 261 House members voted to deny a quarter of a percent pay raise to more than 2 million federal employees, whose salaries have been frozen since January 2010. This vote sends an extremely insulting and hostile message to the VA nursing assistant who makes $27,000 a year, to the USDA meat inspector who earns $32,000 a year, to the federal penitentiary correctional officer who earns less than $39,000 a year.

The message from these House members is loud and clear: we don’t value the work that you do, and we think you should continue to be picked on because we oppose the services you provide to the American people.

These lawmakers persist in voting to freeze federal employee salaries year after year, yet they turn a blind eye to the rapid growth in taxpayer-funded salaries of contractor employees. The cap in contractor compensation has more than doubled in the past 10 years and jumped 10 percent in the past year alone, to a whopping $763,000. Capping these contractor salaries at a more reasonable $200,000 a year would save taxpayers at least $5 billion every year, or $50 billion over 10 years.”

When will the Republican in Congress stop using the federal workers as their budgeting piggy bank.  These are hard working middle class families how are more than deserving of a pay raise.  Many of them have not seen a pay raise in years do to Congressional pay freezes that resulted in over $120 billion in give backs.

Everyone including government employees understand the issues facing the federal government right now.  Congress must stop stealing from the workers to pay their debts.

Republicans even connected Congressional pay to federal workers pay. Democrats tried to make H.R. 273 two separate votes, but Republican leaders refused to allow one vote to freeze Congressional pay and one vote to freeze federal employee pay.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH) understands. That is why she voted against this bill.

“Today, House Leadership put a bill on the floor to freeze the pay of hard-working middle class federal workers for the third year in a row, and tried to get Members of Congress to join them by adding Member pay to the bill.  I have in the past voted against and would continue to vote against raising my own pay, which is excellent, but I will not vote against a modest pay raise for middle class federal workers—about $5 a week for a worker earning $50,000 a year.  Leadership should concentrate on closing loopholes and reforming the tax code instead of shrinking middle class wages.”

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

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.

Congress To Federal Workers We Have Your Back!

I have talked a lot about the attacks on workers in the Federal Sector.  Lately there has been much discussion about the Lame Duck Session and Sequestration.  As the session opens a surprising move is made by nine members of the US House.

Government Executive reports that these Representatives have already signed a letter to all members that the Federal Employees have ‘paid their fair share’.

Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va.; Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Frank R. Wolf, R-Va.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va.; Robert J. Wittman, R-Va.; Donna F. Edwards, D-Md.; John P. Sarbanes, D-Md.; and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., all signed the letter.

It is no surprise that all of these Reps surround the Washington D.C. area since these districts are very heavily populated with Federal workers.

“We respectfully request that you carefully consider the implications that any proposed agreement would have on these Americans so that it reflects the substantial budget savings that the federal workforce has contributed thus far.”

Over the last two years Congress has trimmed the budget to a tune of $103 Billion dollars  right from the Federal workers pockets.  They accomplished this with combination of pay freezes and an increase in retirement contributions.

These nine House Reps are not alone.  The Senators are already making their statements to leave the Feds out of the debt deal.

“Sen. [Daniel] Akaka opposes using any employee benefit as a pay-for because federal workers are already sacrificing with the pay freeze and changes to annuity contributions for new employees,” Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for the Hawaii Democratic senator, told Government Executive.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Government Executive he thinks federal employees have paid their fair share.

“Federal workers have already sacrificed tens of billions of dollars over the past several years toward reducing the deficit,” Cummings said. “House Republicans should stop treating middle-class federal employees like a piggy bank they can raid without asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share. If we’re serious about resolving the fiscal cliff, we must take a balanced approach that includes both increased revenue and targeted spending cuts while protecting middle-class American workers.”

Labor unions have been up and down the hill working to protect the pay of the members. Recently a coalition of Postal and Federal unions wrote a letter of their own to Congress. They stated

“Federal and postal employees and their families are hardworking, middle-class Americans who are struggling during these tough times just like other Americans,” the group wrote. “No other group has been asked to financially contribute the way they have, and it is time our nation’s leaders found other ways to reduce the deficit than continually taking from those who have dedicated their lives to public service.”

Federal employees must protect themselves from the crushing cuts that could be coming down on Federal workers.  With the help of some very powerful unions and allies on both sides of the aisle, the Federal employees may just make it through this round of budget cuts.

Congress Gets Ready To Throw The Federal Workforce Under The Bus!

As the lame duck session is about to begin Federal workers in every department are concerned.  Concerned is to nice a word, they are scared sh*tless! Why because they only conversation that is happening right now in Washington DC is about how they have to cut the Federal Budget.

Many of the GOP are pushing a plan created by Senator Alan Simpson and Former White House Chief of Staff Esrkine Bowles.  The Simpson-Bowles plan would save the government money.  However it is not enough to balance the budget or not stop our mounting debt.   The Simpson-Bowles was not adopted or sent to the US House for a vote do to the fact that the ‘fiscal commission’ could not agree on it.

The Bowles-Simpson commission needed 14 of the 18 votes. It failed on an 11-7 vote, with four Democrats and three Republicans, including (Paul) Ryan, voting no.

While Simpson-Bowles also has drastic reforms to other programs like Social Security healthcare I want to focus on the Federal workers.  Here are a few highlights of the Simpson-Bowles plan as written by Kellie Lunney at GovExec.com

Extended pay freeze: The panel recommended a three-year civilian pay freeze across government. The commission estimated the freeze would save $20.4 billion in 2015. The plan also freezes lawmakers’ pay. Obama and lawmakers extended the current two-year pay freeze at least until the end of March, when the continuing resolution expires. Obama wants to give feds a 0.5 percent pay bump when Congress passes a budget next year. But that assumes that one, Congress will pass a budget and two, lawmakers won’t vote to extend the current federal pay freeze.

Smaller government workforce: The Simpson-Bowles report recommends shrinking the government rolls by 10 percent by hiring two new workers for every three employees who leave service. The commission claims such a reduction would save $13.2 billion in 2015.

Increase employees’ health care contributions: The panel suggested adopting a voucher plan and slowing the growth of federal contributions to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Review military and civilian pension systems: Simpson-Bowles recommended creating a task force to look at changing the pension system for feds and eligible retired service members. One possibility the commission suggests is increasing the amount feds contribute to their pensions. It’s worth noting that Obama and several lawmakers also support making feds pay more for their defined retirement benefit.

So to recap, they have created a plan that starts by cutting workers pay. Mind you these are the same workers who have not seen a pay raise in over three years already.

They want to increase their workload by reducing the number of people to do the job.  So the lines at your local Social Security office are not going to be getting shorter any time soon.  Make employees pay more for health insurance.

They are planning on using the same failed logic and create a voucher program for the Federal Employees Health Plan. This is similar to the plans they are suggesting for Medicare and Social Security that sound great but fail the reality check.

Lastly they are going to stick it to our bravest men and women.  The same men and women who fought to preserve our way of life and the Government that is now trying to hose them.  Changing the retirement system right before or just after someone retires is absolutely wrong.

Congress is once again looking to take from the workers to pay for their mistakes.  They need to stop using the Federal workers as their own personal piggy banks and start working together to find real solutions, not temporary bandaids that hurt workers.  Real solutions start with changes on every level. Increasing revenue, making discrete and calculated cuts not broad base hack jobs, and working together to make these decisions.

People always say we should run the government more like business, well Enron was once a successful business once too.

President Obama Takes The Wimpy Way Out With Another Pay Freeze On Government Workers

White House Photo by Pete Souza

J. David Cox the President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) blasted President Obama  about the decision to extend the two-year pay freeze on all Government employees until Congress passes a new budget.

If Congress does not pass a new budget Federal workers would get a .5% raise in March of 2013.  This is just another kick in the pants to all federal workers.  So far the Federal workers have already given up “60 billion dollars” from the two-year pay freeze.

This means that Federal employees will not get a cost of living adjustment this year.  Without a cost of living adjustment workers will see their take home reduced because the cost of medical insurance and other out of pocket expenses continues to go up.  There are now talks on the Hill of increasing employee contributions to the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERs) to reduce the costs of the Federal Government. Some people are already seeing this.  As Pres. Cox explained all newly hired employees will be forced to “pay a higher percentage to their retirement with no gain in annuity”.

Listen here

President Cox was not the only person to denounce this action.   William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in a statement.
“We are surprised and deeply disappointed by the administration’s decision not to push for the modest federal pay adjustment that was called for in the president’s budget”.

I think this is a bad move for the President especially in an election year.  Workers pay has been frozen for the past two years and now you are asking them to vote for you and your answer to that is, ‘wait another six months and you might get a raise’.  This is gutless.  The President has been going around the country telling people we need to invest in American and spend money rebuilding our infrastructure.  He has also been saying that we should hire all the teachers, police, and firefighters back who were laid off by state budget cuts.

Well Mr President, put your money where your mouth is.  You want to show people you are serious about investing in America, then start with the workers in your own “company”.  Show the business world that you are a leader and that you value your employees and your employees deserve a raise.  How do you expect others to believe you if you do not practice what you preach.

Since the President cannot take his ‘pay freeze’ back he must use his power to push Congress to pass a budget for 2013 now and give the workers the pay raise they deserve in January, when they should be getting it.  Two years without a raise is hard enough, do not make it four.