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Federal Employees News Digest : Dec 23, 2013
December 23, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 23 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com percent on all new hires---to 3.1 per- cent of total pay. The government took that money to fund [the wider popula- tion's] unemployment benefits, for six months. This time, they raised it again, here---another 1.3 percent, to 4.4 per- cent, and they took the [extra] money to fund the federal government. Still, the Republicans in the House refuse to talk about tax increases on the wealthy, or closing tax loopholes for companies that do business offshore. This past year, 2013, has been extremely tough on federal employees. Can you briefly review and summa- rize how the sequester and subsequent furloughs occurred---and the level of damage caused to feds by them? Cox: First off, we told everyone we'd furlough them for 22 days---and that made for [not] really happy campers. Then, for many, we got that down to six days---so actually we then praised ourselves for what a good job we'd done. Well, that is an improvement. Still, our members were stuck with six days on leave without pay. It was a lockout---I prefer the term "lockout" to shutdown. They locked us out of jobs, when we wanted to go to work. They refused to let us work. Then they come in with a "budget deal" that raises retirement contributions and underfunds agencies. We are going to just see more agencies not hiring or backfilling the people they need---and meanwhile there's still the same amount of work to get done, just fewer people to do it. So how would you describe feds and the federal workplace in the wake of this? Cox: Morale has been very low this year. High numbers of people are at the point where they can retire, and they are retiring. We're seeing that---a much, much larger push to retirement than in the past. Every agency is talking continued from page 1 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. continued on page 4 about how they are struggling to recruit and retain employees, because their salaries are flat. Actually they're telling new hires that their take-home pay is going to be less, because they have to pay more toward their retirement. So it is becoming difficult to recruit the best and the brightest. Meanwhile, key ser- vices are at risk at a lot of agencies, and you have people with a lot of knowledge and experience that are retiring, and you're not replacing people. This is defi- nitely having an impact on the services that we deliver to the American people. Can you name some of AFGE's stron- gest showings for the calendar year just ending, 2013? Cox: We fought with full force the people who shut the government down---and we got the government back up and running, and got all employees back pay. We held 230 rallies around the country. We got literally thousands of stories and interviews in the media throughout the country. We rose to the occasion, in a very, very strong way. We did nationwide telephone town hall meetings with 30,000 to 40,000 mem- bers at a time, along with House Leader Pelosi. We also were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison---one of the co-chairs of the progressive caucus also joined us on our calls. The public sees us and our work as of value---and the public's opin- ion of federal employees also has risen this year, and we're very proud of that. In recent years past, AFGE was able to score some victories---like win- ning the competition to represent TSA airport screeners and stopping cold various pay-for-performance schemes pressed by the last administration. Do you have other such big efforts ahead? Cox: Clearly we do. We had a leader- ship meeting recently. About 700 of our rank-and-file members came together. Part of it was to forge a strategy to over- come the attacks on federal employ- ees, programs and services---to gain the future of our choice. Those are the words of the group on this. Our plans rest on four key strategies: Organizing and growth, legislative mobilization, political strength and creating strong and effective locals. That's what we're going to do in the coming year. We're going to grow our union, increase our ability to become more involved in political action, and understanding that if we don't elect better members of Congress, a lot of our problems will not get better. We're building on the power of our union, energizing leaders and energizing potential members. How successful are those efforts these days? Cox: Everywhere I go, we're signing up new members. Our TSA unit con- tinues to grow. All of our units continue to grow. We've seen an increase of our membership again this past year, and we will just keep growing our move- ment. There have been news stories noting that federal employees have abused their positions sometimes. For instance, at DHS, revelations of abuse of admin- istratively unavoidable overtime. Is there anything you do in the union to mitigate bad practices---in your own self-policing efforts? Cox: Sure. With the administratively unavoidable overtime, let me just say the reality is different---at the Border Patrol and some other situations, this has to be understood as part of their pay. You have to understand, these folks don't work a 40-hour week, they work
Dec 16, 2013