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AFL-CIO pledges to fight VA privatization, support workers

Largest labor organization approves AFGE-backed resolutions in support of VA staff

WASHINGTON – The AFL-CIO is pledging to work with the American Federation of Government Employees to fight efforts to privatize veterans’ health care and to restore due process rights for VA workers.

On Tuesday, delegates to AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in St. Louis adopted two resolutions submitted by AFGE in support of workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The AFL-CIO resolved to oppose the privatization of veterans’ health care services and to help AFGE restore due process rights for VA employees that have been weakened by Congress.

“Ever since the waitlist scandal at the Phoenix VA, it’s been open season on VA employees,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in introducing the privatization resolution for adoption.

“Very few people know that the scandal was brought to light by AFGE bargaining unit employees – whistleblowers – who knew that their bosses were manipulating the data in order to qualify for big bonuses,” Cox said. “Yet that scandal has been used by politicians of both parties to justify not only privatization, but also the weakening of our civil service protections and collective bargaining rights.”

The AFL-CIO’s vote came the same day that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to consider legislation opposed by AFGE that would make the private-sector Choice program permanent, which would further starve the VA of needed resources and lead to more privatization of veterans’ health care services.

“This is a deliberate strategy: Establish the basics of a privatization plan – they call it Choice – and they keep throwing more and more money at it and encourage veterans to use it instead of the VA,” Cox said in his AFL-CIO address. “At the same time, they starve the VA of staff and other resources in order to make it fail. And of course, when the VA fails, the VA workers’ union disappears as well. It’s a story we all know too well.

“Then they have what they want: A broken system that has lost public support, a system with lots of valuable real estate they can sell off, and a privatization infrastructure that sends all the patients whose treatment is profitable to the private sector, with a skeletal VA left to care for the sickest that the private sector doesn’t want.

“Brothers and sisters, we need your help in the fight to retain our beloved VA health care system.”

AFGE is an affiliate with the AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor federation representing 12.5 million working people nationwide. AFGE represents 250,000 employees across the VA.


The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Ten Years After Minneapolis Bridge Collage Progressive Warn About Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

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On 10 Year Anniversary of Minneapolis Mississippi River Bridge Collapse Tragedy, Progressives Warn ‘Trump’s Radical Infrastructure Privatization Plan Will Hurt American Consumers & Workers’

On the tenth anniversary of the Minneapolis Mississippi River Bridge collapse, which killed thirteen and injured dozens after the bridge’s central span gave way during rush hour traffic, Working Families Party National Director Dan Cantor released the following statement of the Millions of Jobs coalition:

“A decade ago this week, the nation watched in shock as a bridge crumbled in Minneapolis during rush hour traffic, killing and injuring dozens. This tragedy never should have happened in America. But today, our nation’s’ roads, highways and transportation infrastructure are deteriorating from lack of public investment. We can’t let it happen again.

“Democrats in Congress and the Millions of Jobs coalition believe we have the opportunity to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding bridges and roads and repairing our unsafe water systems — and also creating modern jobs for the 21st century by investing in clean energy and high-speed Internet.

“Trump wants to use this crisis as cover to sell off our our nation’s public infrastructure to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations, who would levy tolls that Americans would have to pay for generations to come. It’s a scam, not a real plan to rebuild. The difference between the progressive vision of job creation and Trump’s scam of jobless corporate handouts could very well  save innocent people from another tragedy like what happened on the the Mississippi River Bridge 10 years ago.

“The president’s radical privatization plan will hurt American consumers and workers, and we implore our elected officials to block Trump’s corporate giveaway of this country’s  infrastructure future.” 

Defense Department Union Urges Senate to Support Contracting Ban

Congress must maintain A-76 moratorium to ensure military readiness, AFGE says

AFGE Logo 2WASHINGTON – The union representing more than 270,000 Department of Defense workers is urging the Senate to maintain the ban on contracting out government services that are vital to military readiness.

“Congress has maintained a ban on contracting out Department of Defense jobs since fiscal 2010 because of systemic problems with the contracting out process and DoD’s failure to produce a full and meaningful inventory of its contractor workforce,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Those issues remain in place, so there is no justifiable reason for ending the contracting ban now.”

A provision in the Senate version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would repeal the ban on conducting public-private contracting studies, under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

“Lifting the suspension of the A-76 process would have a devastating and disruptive impact on the federal civilian workforce and on military readiness,” Cox said.

A bipartisan amendment to strike the repeal of the A-76 moratorium has been introduced by Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Fourteen Senators so far have signed on as cosponsors: Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virgina, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chuck Schumer of New York, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Barbara Boxer of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The amendment also would repeal a provision in the NDAA that waters down the current requirement for DoD to produce an inventory of its contractor services. By some estimates, more than 95% of contractors would be excluded from the inventory if this provision passes, which would make the A-76 moratorium moot.

NATCA Lays Out Support For Air Traffic Control Reform Proposal

(Image by InSapphoWeTrust CC Flickr)

(Image by InSapphoWeTrust CC Flickr)

NATCA supports the proposal to create a not-for-profit independent organization and says proposed legislation meets NATCA’s primary concerns.

NATCA LOGOWASHINGTON, D.C. – NATCA President Paul Rinaldi today appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to discuss the pending FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 4441. Rinaldi offered support for air traffic control reform proposal contained in the bill. Rinaldi’s prepared remarks are below:

Thank you Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman LoBiondo, Ranking Member Larsen and members of this committee.

I am grateful for the opportunity to testify today as we discuss air traffic control reform and the FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 4441. NATCA supports this bill, because it contains necessary reforms that we believe will help us maintain the safest, most efficient airspace in the world while we move forward with innovative modernization projects, while protecting the workforce.

We all have a stake in this country’s National Airspace System (NAS). It’s an economic engine, contributing $1.5 trillion annually to our gross domestic product and providing over 12 million American jobs.

Currently, we run the largest, safest, most efficient, most complex, and most diverse airspace system in the world. Our system is unique, unequaled and unrivaled by any other country – due in large part to the impeccable work of the men and women I represent who run this system. The United States airspace system is considered the gold standard in the world aviation industry. And yet, we have come to the difficult reality that change may be needed — globalization and innovation are driving dramatic changes in the aviation industry and sadly our current structure cannot keep up.

The current aviation system has served us well until recent years. Unfortunately, we no longer have a stable or predictable funding stream and this uncertainty has caused many serious problems for the system.

Without change, we face continued funding uncertainty. We all remember the disruptions we experienced in 2013 with sequestration. The FAA scaled down all modernization projects. The Agency looked at closing 238 air traffic control towers and tried to close 149 of them due to purely financial reasons, without regard to operational considerations or what was best for the NAS. They considered reducing services at many airports across the country. They halted air traffic controller hiring for the full year, which is still contributing to staffing problems today. The FAA was forced to furlough air traffic controllers, causing rippling delays through our system. Further, the Agency went to a fix-on-fail maintenance philosophy and stopped stockpiling critical parts for essential equipment. These decisions were all made in order to meet the budget restrictions of sequestration, not for operational reasons or to ensure safety. Our 24/7 aviation system has been challenged by 23 extensions in authorization, a partial shutdown, a complete government shutdown as well as numerous threatened shutdowns. We are currently in our first extension, and if we are honest with each other, we are looking at the very least, at one more extension. All stakeholders in the NAS must work together to ensure that the United States remains the world leader in aviation.

With all of these challenges in mind, we applaud the hard work of all the members on the Committee to draft a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill to address these long-standing problems.

NATCA has publicly stated that any FAA restructuring must achieve the following:

  • In order to maintain NATCA’s support, any new system must ensure that our members are fully protected in their employment relationship. Maintaining our members’ pay and benefits, including retirement and health care, along with our negotiated agreements for their work rules, are crucial to us.
  • Safety and efficiency remain the top priorities. This means that we cannot allow maintenance to lag, and cannot reduce staffing to save money. The NAS must remain fully staffed in order to ensure both safety and efficiency.
  • A stable, predictable funding stream must adequately support air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure. The stop-and-go funding crises create staffing shortages, which slow the hiring and training process. Inadequate funding also prevents NextGen modernization projects from timely implementation. Any new system must improve upon the status quo, by providing an environment that promotes growth in the system and allows us to lead the world in aviation innovation.
  • A dynamic aviation system that continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community, from commercial passenger carriers and cargo haulers, to business jets, to general aviation, from the major airports to those in small communities and rural America. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is that a new system continues providing services to the diverse users of the NAS. The United States has a vibrant general aviation community that relies on us. At the same time, rural America’s economic success is connected to the access we create with our comprehensive NAS that serves even the most remote areas.

We believe the legislation addresses NATCA’s primary issues of concern.

A not-for-profit independent organization run by a board of stakeholders could deliver results similar to those we have seen in Canada where NavCanada has had two decades to prove itself as a safe and innovative airspace system.

Finally, I want to state clearly that we will continue to vigorously and carefully review this legislation at all times. If at any time there are changes to this bill, we will immediately examine them to ensure the bill continues to align with our organization’s policies, practices, and principles. We reserve the right to withhold our support if any changes cause the bill to violate our principles.

We are excited to be a part of this important discussion. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this bill and I look forward to any questions.

NATCA Announces Position on Air Traffic Control Reform Proposal


WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a message to NATCA members earlier today, the NATCA National Executive Board announced the organization would be supporting the House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s proposal to reform the air traffic control system and establish a stable funding source that will help fuel its growth well into the future. Excerpts are as follows:

“After extremely careful review, consideration, and deliberation, we have reached a decision: NATCA supports this bill.”

“We applaud the very hard work that the Committee has done to think outside the box and come up with a comprehensive bill that addresses the concerns we have shared with them. While the legislation currently addresses NATCA’s primary issues of concern, we want to emphasize that today is only the beginning stage of the legislative process.”

“Part of that process will soon include a proposal by Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4). The Ranking Member will propose an alternate model for ensuring a stable, predictable funding stream for the FAA, while at the same time protecting employees and ensuring the safety of the NAS. We appreciate the effort he and his staff have made and look forward to giving that proposal’s language the same complete and rigorous review.”

“We want to assure you that we treat this decision with extraordinary care and precision. In reviewing this bill, we found that it is in alignment with all of our organization’s policies, practices, and principles. We made sure that we could clearly see how this bill will protect the NAS and allow it to continue to grow.”

“Last year, we told you – and stated publicly – that any proposed restructuring of the FAA and its funding mechanism through FAA reauthorization legislation must achieve these four things:

1. Safety and efficiency must remain the top priorities;

2. Stable, predictable funding must adequately support air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure;

3. Robust and continued growth of the aviation system is ensured; and

4. A dynamic aviation system that continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community, from commercial passenger carriers and cargo haulers, to business jets, to general aviation, from the major airports to those in rural America.

“We can tell you that this bill achieves each of these four things.

“As you all know, language in proposed legislation is often changed or amended at various points throughout the legislative process. We will continue to vigorously and carefully review this legislation at all times and push for its improvement. If at any time there are changes to this bill, we will immediately examine them to ensure the bill continues to align with our organization’s policies, practices, and principles. We reserve the right to withhold our support if any changes cause the bill to violate our principles.”

Read the NATCA National Executive Board full statement.

Certified in 1987, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association represents over 19,000 highly skilled air traffic controllers, engineers and other safety-related professionals.

Watch Out! Now Marco Rubio Is Coming For Your Social Security Too

Cutting Social Security would push millions of seniors into poverty.

The Republican presidential candidates claiming that we need to cut the Social Security and make Medicare a voucher program, giving more money to private insurance companies who are already raking Americans over the coals for coverage, just added another member.

Yesterday in Henniker, Marco Rubio said he wants to cut Social Security and privatize Medicare. 

Watch the video by clicking here.

We’ve been down this road before. Jeb Bush, in Manchester, said that he’d “phase out” Medicare, while John Kasich wanted to cut Social Security and once told a voter that “you’d get over” the cuts. Marco Rubio is just following the GOP tune of cutting Social Security benefits that over 200,000 Granite Staters currently depend on.

Social Security is not going bankrupt as Rubio and other talking heads claim.

Currently the Social Security Trust Fund holds a $2.7 trillion dollar surplus and is fully funded for the next 20 years. After those 20 years Social Security will continue to pay out at 77% of the current benefit rate for eternity.

By law Social Security cannot add anything to our national debt and is fully paid for by payroll taxes. Because Social Security is funded through payroll taxes if workers wages were to rise – say by raising the minimum wage – then more money would be invested in the program strengthening the system.

Social Security is an earned benefit that we have been paying for since the day we entered the workforce.


“Democrats believe that Social Security is a pledge to our seniors, but Marco Rubio and Republicans want to make it harder for those who have worked their entire lives to get what was promised to them,” said Lizzy Price, New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director. “Granite Staters deserve someone willing to fight to keep their benefits, not claim that Social Security and Medicare have ‘weakened us as a people.’”

Cutting Social Security will push millions of seniors who are currently living on the edge of poverty over that edge.  In 2013, over 63 million people collected their earned benefit from Social Security with a national average of about $14,000 dollars a year.

For too many, Social Security is the only thing they have to live on. The sad fact is that 1 in 3 seniors collecting Social Security rely on their Social Security check for 90% or more of their monthly income.

The two leading Democrats in the presidential primary have plans to ensure that seniors will be protected now and for future generations to come.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare from any Republican privatization scheme.

“I will also defend Social Security and Medicare from the efforts of the Republicans to privatize both of them….As your president, I will defend it. I will not let anybody think that they can privatize it. But we’re going to have to make sure that we shore it up so that it is there not just for those who are currently recipients but for generations to come.”

Senator Sanders also wants to strengthen Social Security and increase benefits by lifting the cap on the payroll taxes that fund it.

“By lifting this cap so that everyone who makes over $250,000 a year pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security as the middle class and working families. This would not only extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 50 years, but also bring in enough revenue to expand benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments; and lift more seniors out of poverty by increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income seniors.”

Eliminating Social Security will push many seniors into poverty and allow politicians like Rubio, Bush and Kasich to steal the trillions of dollars in our hard earned money under the guise of reform.

We must not let them take our hard earned benefit away.


(Featured image by Gage Skidmore)

AFGE: Air Force Plan to Slash Civilian Jobs Will Cost Taxpayers, Harm Readiness

Air Force will lay off 1,000 civilians by April, pushing work to costly contractors

WASHINGTON – The Air Force’s plan to terminate more than 1,000 civilian employees is an ill-conceived action that will end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“If the goal is to increase costs to taxpayers while eroding our military readiness, the Air Force will certainly succeed,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

In a Jan. 6 announcement, the Air Force said it has identified more than 1,000 civilian jobs that will be cut through a mandatory reduction-in-force (RIF). The cuts will occur through early April. Some civilian employees currently working in those jobs could be eligible to move into other available positions, although that is by no means guaranteed.

The Air Force says it’s laying off employees to meet congressionally required cuts in the size of the civilian workforce. However, it appears that none of the work currently performed by these employees is going away.

“Those employees left behind will be asked to do more with less, but that will go only so far. These cuts will force the Air Force to rely on more costly contractors and military personnel to do work that civilian employees can do for two to three times less,” Cox said.

The Air Force has imposed an arbitrary cap on the size of the civilian workforce, without regard to the effect on budgets and continuing workloads. This is occurring across the Department of Defense, in addition to arbitrary workforce cuts imposed by Congress.

“The best way to cut overall personnel costs is to increase the number of civilian employees, because they are cheaper than service members and contractors. This is also a great way to hire retiring service members and other veterans,” Cox said.

Yet the Air Force and Congress are ignoring this advice, which comes from the Congressional Budget Office and DoD’s own former senior officials.

“By slashing the civilian workforce without slashing the work, the Air Force will have to hire more costly service contractors and require active duty military personnel to perform non-combat jobs instead of focusing on their core military mission.”

NASHUA: Supporting Write-in Candidates Is The Right Thing Do For Our Schools


By Deb Howes, Chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition. 

Deb Howes

Deb Howes, chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition

Many Nashuans are upset over the Board of Education risking the safety and security of our schools, on the myth that privatizing the custodians will save many.

The Chelmsford Police just arrested their fourth contracted custodian for stealing school property and other drug related charges. By outsourcing these jobs there is little to no oversight as to who will be working in our schools. When contractors pay rock-bottom wages, you invite problems like this.

We in Nashua know all about the failings of privatizing out our school services. Our contracted bus service has steadily climbed at 3% a year until 2014 when it jumped up 20%. And it is increasing another $250,000 this year. Can we reasonably say that we are still saving money by contracting out our bus services?

The vote to privatize the custodians was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The disregard shown for long-time, dedicated employees shocked us all and left us wondering who is next. The Board even admitted they do not know if this move will save any money. This Board is failing Nashua taxpayers and our schools are being left to suffer. We have many problems in our schools and adding a disregard for the safety and security of our children is too much to bear.

Something must be done. It has become painfully obvious that Nashua needs new members who will work to improve our schools and who value the dedication of our public employees.

Who fits the bill and who will answer the call for change?

Ray Guarino, Gwen Mikailov, Donald Jean, Allison Nutting, and Atlant Schmidt decided they have had enough and announced that they will be running a write-in campaign for the Board of Education. All 5 are concerned Nashua citizens with direct, positive connections to our public schools.

Mounting a last minute write-in campaign is no small task. There is no time to fundraise for campaign flyers or signs and little time to hit the streets to meet the people. Just the fact that they will not have their names on the ballot presents a monumental hurdle.

This write-in campaign will be like running up Mount Washington in January, but something must be done. We cannot just sit back and let the current candidates run unopposed. I am glad these people are selflessly volunteering to take a position on the board because the current board is taking us in the wrong direction.

I encourage everyone to write-in Ray Guarino, Gwen Mikailov, Donald Jean, Allison Nutting, and Atlant Schmidt for Nashua Board of Education on November 3rd.


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Letter to Editor: Profile Of Donald Jean Candidate for Nashua Board of Education

Donald Jean is one of five write-in candidates for the Nashua Board of Education.  Donald Jean, 76 years young, Nashua native, Nashua High School Graduate. Donald is married with 5 children who graduated from Nashua High School and 6 grandchildren in the Nashua Public School System.

Below is the letter he sent explaining why he decided to become a write-in candidate for the Nashua Board of Education.

I am a write-in candidate for the Board of Education because I oppose the firing of one hundred janitors who will lose their livelihood because of Board of Education budget constraints.Donald Jean

What kind of economic value is the B.O.E. communicating to the teachers, students and citizens of Nashua? Hiring contractors to work for less money is a race to the bottom. This mind-set does not enhance family values.   I believe safety and responsibility belongs to the city. Hiring a for profit contractor and distancing the B.O.E. from accountability is reckless, foolhardy and opens the city to expensive lawsuits.

I’ve been gainfully employed for fifty years, serving in the U.S. Army at 18 and retiring from the Railroad at 69 years of age. I believe my life experiences and ability to process information qualifies me to serve on the Board of Education.

I ask for your write-in vote for Board of Education Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

Respectfully submitted,

Donald Jean

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The Nashua Labor Coalition Encourages Support For Board Of Education Write-in Candidates

The Nashua Labor Coalition And AFSCME Local 365
Supports All Four Write-In Candidates For Nashua’s Board of Education

Nashua Labor Coalition LogosNashua, NH – This week it was announced that four Nashua residents have decided to mount a write-in campaign to unseat the current members of the Board of Education who were previously running unopposed. 

“In light of these newly announced candidates for the Board of Education, and their adamant opposition to privatizing the school custodians’ jobs, the Nashua Labor Coalition has chosen to endorse Ray Guarino, Gwen Mikailov, Allison Nutting, and Atlant Schmidt for the Board of Education,” said Deb Howes, Chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition. 

“Unfortunately it was too late for these candidates to get their names on the ballots, so we plan to do all we can to encourage their write-in campaign,” added Howes. 

All four write-in candidates have stepped up and chosen to run for the Board of Education because they are outraged, as many Nashuans are, that the Board is choosing to eliminate the 101 custodians, currently working in our schools in favor of a private contractor.  

“We need to elect real leaders to the Board of Education who are committed to strengthening our public schools, not demonizing hard working public servants,” said Donna Grady, Chapter Chair for AFSCME Local 365 and the AFSCME representative to the Nashua Labor Coalition. “By opposing this privatization scheme, these four write-in candidates have already shown that they want what is best for our children, our schools, and the taxpayers of Nashua.” 

Labor organizations throughout the city are standing together in opposition to this privatization scheme being pushed by the Board of Education. Now we are standing together to support the Board of Education candidates who are also willing to stand up for the working families of Nashua.

“We encourage everyone to get out and vote on November 3rd and support Ray Guarino, Gwen Mikailov, Allison Nutting, and Atlant Schmidt for the Board of Education,” said Howes and Grady. 

The Nashua Labor Coalition is a chapter of NH AFL-CIO. It includes Nashua Area Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Unions, as well as community organizations.

Read more about the write-in candidates here 

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