AFGE wrapped up our annual legislative conference last week with a long list of victories to celebrate and members energized to build our collective legislative and political power.
AFGE’s annual legislative conference is our union’s biggest event of the year, and this year was no different. Hundreds of AFGE members gathered in Washington, DC to learn from one another and strategize on this year’s legislative goals.
We were honored to have members of Congress and allies at events throughout the week voicing their support for government workers.
If you could not join us last week, here are 8 takeaways from this year’s legislative conference.
1. Rally to call for an 8.7% pay raise
AFGE’s demand for an 8.7% pay adjustment for federal workers to help close the 23% pay gap between the public and private sectors and keep up with inflation was echoed throughout the conference and supported by members of Congress who attended in person and sent virtual remarks.
AFGE’s Valentine’s Day rally held on Capitol Hill was aimed at urging Congress to pass the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act, which calls for the 8.7% raise for federal workers next year.
“Fair pay, FAIR ACT. 8.7 is where it’s at! Eight point seven!” the crowd chanted as speakers took turns demanding Congress do the right thing.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., has been a staunch supporter of federal workers. The House is not in session, but his presence at the rally made it clear whose side he’s on.
“What you all are asking for, an 8.7 percent pay increase across the board, which by the way is not an increase – it’s keeping track with inflation, so let’s be real about that, okay?” said the congressman to loud applause. “It shouldn’t be an issue for anybody to get behind. It’s fair pay.”
The FAIR Act was introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, last month. Connolly reiterated the need for the 8.7% raise as he addressed AFGE members during the general session Feb. 13.
2. First-ever Legislative-Political Coordinator (LPC) of the Year awarded
Melissa Schardine from AFGE SSA Local 3448 received AFGE’s first-ever Fred McDuff LPC of the Year Award! AFGE’s LPC program was launched years ago to engage members to join us in our lobbying. Local LPCs have taken on the task of getting their local to step up and get more involved in the union’s legislative and political efforts.
Read Melissa’s story and her reaction to being the first LPC of the Year here.
Besides the LPC of the Year award, AFGE also gave out Veteran of the Year award and August Y. Thomas awards. Stay tuned for details in the next edition of the Insider.
3. President Kelley urged AFGE members to rise up and prepare for new battles
AFGE President Everett Kelley presented AFGE members with a long list of victories we’ve accomplished together, from defunding the VA’s Air Commission to restoring a one-year probationary period instead of two years at the Department of Defense. But because of the new makeup of Congress with some new House members vowing to destroy unions and federal workers, Kelley urged AFGE members to rise up and fight back against new attacks that are coming our way and the ones that are already here, including the anti-telework SHOW Up Act recently introduced.
“We’re in strong shape. But we are not where I want to be yet. Not where we NEED TO BE to win the battles in front of us. We have so much more to do ... so many more members to organize, so many more members to mobilize, so many more gains to make in Congress and at the bargaining table,” he told the crowd.
4. Bipartisan members of Congress introduced bill to prevent Schedule F
Federal workers received some love on Valentine’s Day as a group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would prevent a return of a system in which government workers could be fired for political reasons and without due process. The Senate version of the Saving the Civil Service Act was introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. The House version was introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
The merit system is the backbone of public service, but at the end of his term, former President Trump issued an executive order creating a new service classification called Schedule F for any career federal employee whose job is in any way connected to federal policy. This new classification put tens of thousands of current and future federal workers in “policymaking” positions and stripped them of important workplace protections against mistreatment or discrimination, such as unfair removal. It politicized the civil service, allowing the administration to hire and fire for political reasons.
“It’s designed to reintroduce the spoils system,” said Rep. Connolly at the AFGE legislative conference, adding our civil service shouldn’t be politicized.
“We have to make sure that for future administrations nobody’s using this Schedule F scam to destroy the civil service,” Sen. Kaine told AFGE members at the Feb. 14 rally. He said he would try to get the Save the Civil Service Act passed as part of the Defense bill this year.
5. Starbucks Workers United advocate served AFGE members Venti-sized inspiration
Nabretta Hardin with Starbucks Workers United brought the house down with her inspiring story trying to improve the working conditions during the pandemic for her team. She is one of the seven workers fired illegally by Starbucks last year for trying to organize a union at their Memphis, TN shop. The workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and a district judge ordered Starbucks to immediately reinstate them. They took on one of the largest corporations in the world and won.
Starbucks’ illegal, unjust action ignited a wave of Starbucks workers nationwide to sign up to form unions at their shops. Hardin has been instrumental in the national movement of unionizing within Starbucks shops.
“I thought my firing was going to be detrimental, but it was the opposite. It rejuvenated us,” she told AFGE members. “We need to stand together. That’s the way we win. You have to stand together. You can’t give up.”
Hardin also told AFGE members not to give up and that Starbucks workers are on their side.
6. TSA Administrator David Pekoske addressed AFGE members
TSA Administrator David Pekoske addressed AFGE members at this year’s conference, becoming the first TSA administrator to do so. He said TSA is implementing full collective bargaining rights for TSOs. He also voiced support for a huge pay raise for TSOs this July so that their pay is consistent with other federal workers. Read the full story here.
7. Enormous support from union allies
This year AFGE members were honored to have so many labor allies at the conference and the rallies. Our union was honored to hear from Baltimore CLC President Courtney Jenkins and DC CLC President Dyana Forester during the general session.
Forester spoke again at the civil rights luncheon. She was joined by AFT National Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram.
At the 8.7% raise rally we had representatives from the Machinists, NFFE, Working America, SMART, Northern VA CLC, IBEW, IFPTE, PASS, APWU, and the AFL-CIO.
8. Younger generation addressed the conference
It was a nice surprise to hear from two students who know so much about the labor movement!
Olivia Flynn and Savannah Strong drew huge applause from the crowd as they detailed how they were introduced to unions. Olivia is daughter of HUD Local 3972 President Jim Flynn. Savannah’s father Keith works at the Anniston Army Depot.
Olivia recounted the day her father was sworn in as president of AFGE Local 2032 in Philadelphia when she was 2 years old. Shortly after that, her father attended his first AFGE Legislative Conference in 2013. But the labor movement had an impact on her life way before that – she’s the grandchild of Polish workers who played their part in fighting for workers’ rights and social justice during the Solidarity Movement of the 1980s in Poland.
Savannah, who will soon graduate from high school and is bound for the University of Alabama, wrote her senior paper on the importance of the labor movement. She has traced the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and been named a rising star in her local media.