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

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.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, A True Fighter For NH Families (New Web Video Included)

Screenshot YouTube Stand with Me CROPPEDAfter filing her candidacy to represent New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) launched a new web video, “Stand with Me.” The spot focuses on Shea-Porter’s New Hampshire roots, her promises kept to fight for jobs, education, and infrastructure, and her pledge to never take a dime from Corporate PACs or DC Lobbyists.

Over the last year and a half, the NH Labor News has been covering the actions of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  We have highlighted some of the ways she is protecting New Hampshire’s working families.  We have at times been critical of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and all of Congress over their failure to pass some meaningful legislation that would move our country in the right direction.

Protecting Workers At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is a strong advocate for working families.  She has been adamant against the closing of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and reversing the effects of the draconian budget cuts of the “sequester.”

“I cannot stress this enough, Congress must pass a responsible budget that creates jobs and eliminates sequestration,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women at the Shipyard are essential to our national defense and contribute $660 million to the region’s economy. Continuing the cuts of sequestration is unfair to these men and women, and it is a deeply misguided approach.”

The sequester forced workers throughout the federal government into furloughs, resulting in a loss of pay and a slow down of work.

“Our shipyard will not survive another 9 ½ years of sequestration,” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council. “Sequestration was never intended to be a sensible budget cutting device. It was a scheme of cuts so damaging that Congress would be forced to work together to avoid them. This is a bad law and it must end.”

Pay Equity

In Washington, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter used her position to push for pay equity for all working women.

“Working women are America’s mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. We’re America’s factory and office workers, health care professionals and scientists, business executives and teachers,” said Shea-Porter. “Women are working everywhere, but women in America still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Equal pay for equal work is a fairness issue and an economic issue.”

Standing up for Teachers

She submitted legislation to extend the REPAY Act, which gives teachers a $250 rebate for purchasing supplies for their classrooms.

“This deduction has been extended with bipartisan support for every year since 2002, but was allowed to expire at the end of 2013,” said Shea-Porter. “We owe it to our nation’s educators and our children to ensure that they have the necessary educational tools to succeed.”

Healthcare, Medicare, and Social Security

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has also been an outspoken advocate for providing affordable healthcare to everyone, and protecting our seniors from the Republican assault on Social Security and Medicare.

“Granite State seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work,” Shea-Porter said. “These programs are vital to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and we must protect them for future generations.”

After the news that 40,262 Granite Staters and more than 8 million Americans in total have enrolled in private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act, Shea-Porter stated:

“I’ve heard from constituents, both Republicans and Democrats, about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them and their families. There are still challenges, but today’s news is confirmation that access to affordable healthcare has improved for New Hampshire families.”

“Everyone in New Hampshire deserves the consumer protections offered by the Affordable Care Act: it ends discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, allows children to stay on parents’ plans up to age 26, and ensures annual and lifetime out-of-pocket limits.” 

Leadership New Hampshire Can Count On

For many years Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has continued to show her strong leadership skills in and out of Washington.  As a member of Congress, she opposes corporate PAC money and pushes to get the money out of the political process.

Even though right-wing groups routinely attack her, she continues to submit bills to make the Affordable Care Act better. She pushed for Medicaid expansion and worked to expand the coverage of those who purchase healthcare from the ACA Marketplace.

“I (Carol Shea-Poter) advocated for Minuteman to enter the New Hampshire Marketplace to provide competition, and I am delighted that Minuteman will negotiate with any of our hospitals who want to participate on the new healthcare exchange.”

Continuing her efforts to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined with two colleagues to introduce the Small Business Tax Credit Accessibility Act (H.R. 4128). This legislation would expand and simplify the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit to help more small employers purchase quality, affordable health-insurance policies.

Stick with someone we can trust in Washington.  Someone who has proven herself to be a true fighter for the middle class, and all working families.

“Granite Staters know they can trust Carol,” said Patrick Carroll, Campaign Manager for Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “Voters trust her because she fights for them every day. Carol Shea-Porter has fought to improve the lives of her neighbors in New Hampshire. Whether it’s more jobs, affordable education, access to health care, or protecting Social Security and Medicare, Carol Shea-Porter is the clear champion for New Hampshire families in 2014, and this video shows why.”

VIDEO — “Stand With Me”

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Meets with Paul O’Connor (Shipyard Metal Trades Council) to Discuss Continuing Effects of Sequestration

This afternoon, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) met with Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council, to discuss the destructive effects of sequestration and the need for Congress to replace these reckless cuts with a responsible budget.

March 21, 2013 rally at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Rally against Sequestration on March 21, 2013 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

“Our shipyard will not survive another 9 ½ years of sequestration” O’Connor told Shea-Porter during their meeting in her Washington D.C. office. “Sequestration was never intended to be a sensible budget cutting device. It was a scheme of cuts so damaging that Congress would be forced to work together to avoid them. This is a bad law and it must end.”

Workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are among the roughly 650,000 U.S. Department of Defense employees who experienced up to 11 days of unpaid furloughs between July and September, suddenly reducing their income by 20 percent for the duration of the furloughs.

“I cannot stress this enough, Congress must pass a responsible budget that creates jobs and eliminates sequestration,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women at the Shipyard are essential to our national defense and contribute $660 million to the region’s economy. Continuing the cuts of sequestration is unfair to these men and women, and it is a deeply misguided approach.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, sequestration will cost our economy up to 1.6 million jobs through 2014. According to a George Mason University study, the economic impact in New Hampshire is estimated to be $468 million in 2013.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter did not vote for sequestration and she spoke out against these indiscriminate cuts even before she was sworn into the 113th Congress. Since then, she has consistently spoken out in opposition to sequestration’s reckless cuts.

Want to keep the government afloat? Here’s the list of House GOP demands


Just like the old Ginzu Knife commercials… “But wait, there’s more!”

Yes, House GOP leaders are insisting on a one-year delay of Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act) as a condition of resolving this latest federal fiscal fiasco.

But that’s not all they’re looking for.

As compiled by the New York Times, here’s the list of House GOP leaders’ other demands:

…fast-track authority to overhaul the tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas production and more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands… roll back regulations on coal ash, block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminate a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, eliminate mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare, among other provisions.

Does anybody (other than Fox News and a few hundred Internet trolls) still think the House leadership is trying to “compromise” and resolve this latest Congress-created crisis?

 

GOP House Members still fighting? Gonna be costly.

No, it’s not de ja vu. It’s just that… so much of it is still exactly on-point.  Wish it wasn’t, but it is. So, with very few updates, here’s a repeat of my post from February 6, 2013:

————————

Last person leaving, please dock the doorsHoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over? Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President. Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses. So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months. Two dates to mark on your calendar:

On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go went into effect. Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession. One example: according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year. That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation. The irony? The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year. (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut. Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)  After members of Congress were inconvenienced by airport delays, the FAA was granted special treatment under the sequestration act.  Recent estimates of the economic costs of sequestration include:  1.6 million jobs and 1.2% of GDP.

On March 27th  September 30th, the “continuing resolution” that funded federal government expired. That means a possible “government shutdown”. According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down? Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them. The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees. The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds. Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments). The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews. The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed. The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed. The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites. It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown. Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown. (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th! now!)

There’s a moral here, folks. Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so? Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

The Tea Party’s ‘Penny Plan': is it really to cut $1 trillion from seniors?

Teabaggers Descend on WashingtonRemember the health care Town Halls a few summers ago?  Remember all the Tea Party followers carrying “Keep Government Out of Medicare” picket signs?  Welcome to Round Two of the Craziness.

Tea Party leaders in the Senate are rolling out their “Penny Plan” to reduce the federal budget deficit.

The lawmakers are pitching the plan in the simplest terms — cutting a penny from every dollar the government spends so that spending will soon equal revenue.  “Everybody should be able to live with one percent less in order to help bring this country back from the brink of catastrophic failure,” bill sponsor and Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi said in submitting the legislation just before August recess.

And gosh, doesn’t that just sound totally reasonable?  Families all across America have been “making do” with a little less (sometimes a LOT less) lately.  So why can’t the federal government do the same?

Well, for starters, because the federal government already IS.  Remember the Sequester? That wasn’t just a one-time thing – it’s a 10-year schedule of increasingly tough budget cuts.  So, as the government plans for the next decade:

Already built into Congressional Budget Office assumptions is essentially a freeze in all government programs other than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the other entitlements. That means that the 15 major executive departments and all of the independent agencies will be spending about 20 percent less after adjusting for inflation and population growth than they are spending now. As a result, we are already facing significant cutbacks in government services, ranging from food safety to law enforcement, air traffic control and national defense.

And now Tea Party legislators want to add their “Penny Plan” on top of the Sequester cuts.  That’s another trillion out of the federal budget.  Where do you suppose it’s going to come from?

If the FBI, the federal judiciary, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the veterans medical program, the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, the National Parks, cancer research, aid to local schools, and every other activity of every other department and independent agency of the government outside of defense was eliminated

… that would only account for about 60% of the cuts that would be required by the Penny Plan.

Don’t know about you, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Tea Party legislators to cut defense spending.  [See 70 years of US defense spending, in one chart, here.]  Which leaves – yes, that’s right – “entitlements”.

Shiny Penny 2001 D Macro April 30, 20101The folks pitching the plan just talk about pennies.  But the bill itself singles out three programs that help senior citizens:  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  (Remember that more than two-thirds of all nursing home/long-term care costs are paid by Medicaid, not Medicare or private insurance.)

I wonder what a trillion dollar cut to senior citizens would look like.  (Would it maybe look like all those “death panels” everyone was so worried about, a few years back?)

Here’s another reality check: the Penny Plan already has strong support among Republican legislators.  According to one count, 16 Senators and 65 Representatives support the Plan.  The list of Senators includes at least a couple of guys who want to run for President…

… and Senate Republicans have – at least so far – blocked efforts to appoint conference committee members to negotiate with the House regarding the FY14 budget.   The FY13 budget expires in five weeks.

And the Senate still has the filibuster.

It’s going to be an interesting next few months.  I hope that, this time around, the Tea Party’s followers are able to see beyond the “just a penny” rhetoric, to all the very real damage that this Plan would cause.

———

My phrase of the day is “ginning up”.  It means

  1. To create or arouse strong feelings in (someone); move or excite.
  2. To fabricate, invent or concoct (something), typically with deceitful intent.
  3. To quickly create something where time, not careful attention to detail, is of the essence.

Synonyms include: stir up, goad, whip up, fan the flames of, provoke, incite, and ignite.

Did you attend any of those health care Town Halls?  If so, you probably already know what this term means.

 

 

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.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Cosponsors American Jobs Act of 2013

Legislation would create jobs, repeal sequestration, cut taxes for middle class families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter became an original cosponsor of the American Jobs Act of 2013, legislation that would put workers back on the job, put money back into the pockets of hardworking families, end sequestration, and reduce the deficit.

“America has a jobs crisis and Congress must take action,” Shea-Porter said. “This bill would create jobs, boost economic growth, and reduce the deficit. That’s a win-win-win. I urge Speaker Boehner to bring this legislation to the floor immediately. Millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans deserve this vote.”

Middle Class Tax Cuts: The bill would restore the Making Work Pay tax credit. This provides a tax credit equal to 6.2 percent of earnings for low- and middle-income workers, up to a maximum credit of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. The legislation would also allow more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s low interest rates, which could put more than $2,000 in families’ pockets each year. 

Tax Cuts to Help Small Businesses Grow: The American Jobs Act of 2013 would allow small businesses to write off 100% of new investments in 2014. This incentivizes small businesses to expand and create jobs.

Putting Veterans Back to Work: A Returning Heroes Hiring Credit would provide a tax break of $5,600-$9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.

Rebuilding the Foundation of America: The legislation would put America on a pathway to out-innovate the world by upgrading thousands of public schools with new science labs and internet-ready classrooms; it would lay the foundation for future growth by modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the jobs; and it would help keep America competitive in the 21st century by expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum. 

Repealing Sequestration: Sequestration is harmful to New Hampshire’s economy. 1,300 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) and 229 civilian technicians at Pease Air National Guard Base are among the thousands of Americans who are taking a pay cut as a result of sequestration. The American Jobs Act of 2013 ends the arbitrary cuts of sequestration and strengthens America’s economic growth. 

Doesn’t Add a Dime to the Deficit: The American Jobs Act of 2013 is fully paid for through common sense provisions to end special interest tax breaks so that everyone pays their fair share. It would repeal subsidies to big oil companies, close corporate loopholes, and tax carried interest in investment partnerships as ordinary income.

“It’s time Congress took a stand for the thousands of hardworking Granite Staters who deserve better than a low-paying job or no job at all,” Shea-Porter said. “This legislation would cut taxes for small businesses and middle class families, close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires, repeal sequestration, and create jobs. Let’s bring this bill to the floor and have a vote on it immediately. Then everyone in New Hampshire can see who’s working to cut their taxes and put people back to work, and who wants to stand on the sideline and do nothing. ”

In September 2011, President Obama and congressional leaders announced the original American Jobs Act. The updated American Jobs Act of 2013 works to address American’s unacceptably high unemployment rate by reintroducing many of the most effective parts of the American Jobs Act and ending sequestration.

According to an independent analysis by Moody’s, the American Jobs Act would create 1.9 million jobs and boost economic growth by two percent. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the bill would reduce the deficit by $3 billion over ten years.

In New Hampshire, the unemployment rate in June was 5.2 percent. Nationally, the rate for the month was 7.6 percent, unchanged from the May rate.

Shea-Porter has actively worked to support policies that would create jobs, grow the economy, and strengthen the middle class. She has cosponsored three bills that would end sequestration; according to George Mason University sequestration will cost New Hampshire over 6,300 jobs and $323 million in income for state residents.

She has also cosponsored multiple pieces of legislation that would help small businesses expand and create jobs. H.R. 952, the Main Street Revival Act, would help small businesses in distressed communities by allowing them to defer payroll tax payments for one year. H.R. 1916, the TRADE for Small Businesses and Jobs Act, would make it easier for small businesses to increase their exports and expand into new markets by providing a one-stop source to monitor changes in foreign regulations and trade barriers.

“Independent analysis said the American Jobs Act would create almost 2 million jobs,” Shea-Porter said. “Saying no to this bill is saying no to millions of unemployed workers, millions of families who’d see a tax break, and millions of small businesses who could now afford to invest and create jobs.”

As NH Civilian Workers Face Furloughs, Shea-Porter Calls on Congress to Replace Sequestration

Over 1,500 NH workers face up to 11 days of unpaid furloughs; economic loss is estimated at $3 million

Carol Shea-Porter_Official.2010-300x288

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter

PORTSMOUTH, NH – This week, 1,300 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) and 229 civilian technicians at Pease Air National Guard Base will join the growing list of Americans who are being punished as a result of Congress’ failure to replace the arbitrary cuts of sequestration with a balanced plan that reduces the deficit and grows our economy.

“I am extremely frustrated and disappointed that furloughs are underway at the Shipyard, Pease, and across New Hampshire in spite of the critical work being done by the hardworking men and women of our state,” Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said. “New Hampshire families are being hurt by an unnecessary pay cut because Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a responsible deficit reduction plan up for a vote. I urge every member of Congress, regardless of party, to put aside political differences and consider the effects sequestration is having on our country’s national security, our economy, and middle class families. We need to work together to replace sequestration with a plan that creates jobs, invests in infrastructure and innovation, and pays down our deficit in a balanced way.”

Workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are among the roughly 650,000 U.S. Department of Defense employees facing up to 11 days of unpaid furloughs, suddenly reducing their income by 20 percent for the duration of the furloughs. This will result in a national economic impact of more than $2.04 billion. In New Hampshire, the economic loss is estimated at around $3 million.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter did not vote for sequestration and she spoke out against these indiscriminate cuts even before she was sworn into the 113th Congress. Since then, she has consistently spoken out in opposition to sequestration’s reckless cuts.

On February 5, she sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi requesting immediate action to address sequestration. In the letter, she said: “I am writing to you to express my concern that Congress has not yet dealt with the threat to our economy and national defense posed by the automatic sequestration cuts that were passed by the 112th Congress. These cuts, enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, are irresponsible and arbitrary, and would place a crippling burden on many critical departments and agencies in the federal government. In New Hampshire, we are already seeing the threat posed by sequestration as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has begun to take steps to prepare for it.”

On March 3, she cosponsored the Stop the Sequester Job Loss Now Act, legislation that would eliminate the sequester for calendar year 2013 entirely while reducing the deficit by more than the amount of the scheduled across-the-board spending cuts. It makes specific policy choices that reduce the deficit in a balanced way, with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases.

On March 8, she submitted a statement to the House Budget Committee about the effects of sequestration on New Hampshire, specifically highlighting the importance of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to the region’s economy and our nation’s national defense.

On March 12, she cosponsored H.R. 900, the Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013, a one-sentence bill that would repeal the section of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that created sequestration.

On March 21, she expressed her solidarity with Shipyard workers after they rallied against sequestration. She said, “I stand with local workers and businesses in opposition to sequestration’s irresponsible and reckless cuts.”

On March 25, she toured the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and discussed the impact of sequestration with workers and Navy leaders. After the tour, she held a press conference with Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council, and Shipyard workers to denounce the harm of sequestration.

On March 28, she toured Pease to discuss her fight against sequestration, gather information about its on-the-ground impact, and push for the KC-46A tanker.

On June 3, she cosponsored H.R. 2060, the Stop the Sequester Job Loss Now Through 2014 Act. The legislation would completely replace the across-the-board cuts through fiscal year 2014, while calling for a balanced solution to stop the full multi-year sequester.

On June 20, she signed a discharge petition requiring the House to work with the Senate to produce a final budget compromise.

On June 21, 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.

On July 8, she joined members of the Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegations in hosting General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and visited PNSY and Pease to discuss furloughs caused by sequestration.

“From the Seacoast to the North Country, sequestration not only inflicts irrational cuts on education, health, and national security priorities, but it punishes hard-working families and hampers our economic recovery,” Shea-Porter concluded. “For the health of our economy and our middle class, Congress must act to replace these indiscriminate cuts with a responsible plan that will help, not hurt, our economic recovery.”

Who cares about hungry families? Maybe not the Senate – but your letter carrier does

Congress is getting really good at pulling together just-after-the-last-minute political deals.

The latest deal passed the Senate unanimously last night.  (What? No filibuster?)  Apparently everybody agreed it would be a good idea to give the Federal Aviation Administration a special exemption to Sequestration.

“Just days after forced unpaid leaves for controllers began, delaying thousands of flights — 876 flights were delayed on Wednesday alone” the Senate decided that maybe Sequestration wasn’t such a good idea after all – at least not when it starts to affect the traveling public.  Read more here.

The bill is expected to pass the House today.  FAA furloughs should be a thing of the past before the Senate goes on vacation next week.

Wow. That was fast. But it’s a real shame that the Senate doesn’t care as much about hungry families as it cares about flight delays.

Take the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC), for example.  Even while Congress was debating Sequestration, “a number of state and local WIC agencies took steps to reduce their costs.  For example, some clinics laid off staff…  Some states closed or consolidated clinics… Some clinics reduced service hours…  making it harder for low-income women to apply for benefits, especially working women.”  (Read more here.)  And when the dust finally settled on this year’s budget, Congress had appropriated 7% less funding for the WIC program than it received last year.

Sequestration cut federal funding to food pantries, even though the number of people relying on food pantries is still rising.  Some pantries are hoping local benefactors will fill in the gap.  Other pantries are just closing.

Around the nation, Meals on Wheels programs are feeling the cuts.  One program in North Carolina – which has 200 people on its waiting list – is losing funding equivalent to 12,000 meals.  In Maryland, another Meals on Wheels program may be forced to cut its service from five days a week to only four.

The Sequester has hit Federal unemployment benefits, too.  About 15% of unemployed workers now receive extended unemployment benefits that are funded by the federal government.  The Sequester means those benefits will be cut by about 11% for the rest of the fiscal year.  Families’ choices about food versus housing, and which overdue bill to pay this week, are about to get a lot harder.

None of these programs are even on the radar screen, as the Senate prepares to leave town for vacation.  But flight delays?  That got solved by the Senate in record time – unanimously, to boot.

Wow.  What does that say about the priorities of our Congress?  (Read “The Republicans Make an Offer on Sequestration” here.)

Now, look at the priorities of the National Association of Letter Carriers.  Going door-to-door every day, postal carriers know the hunger problem in America all too well.

For more than two decades, the NALC has held a one-day food drive to help restock food pantries across the country.  This effort “is the country’s largest one-day food-collection effort. Last year, we picked up more than 70 million pounds of non-perishable food donations, which brought our grand total from more than two decades of collections to 1.2 billion pounds.”

2013_Stamp_Out_HungerThis year’s NALC “Stamp out Hunger” food drive will be held Saturday, May 11th (the day before Mothers Day).  Don’t forget to leave your sack of non-perishables out by your mailbox.  Want more details?  Click here.