Hundreds of AFGE members across the country took to the streets, recruited new members, met their members of Congress, and raised money to fight attacks on federal employees during AFGE’s first National Week of Action April 30-May 4.
A total of 107 AFGE locals held 206 events across the country that week. This is in addition to their ongoing, continuous efforts to organize and mobilize public servants to grow AFGE, tell our stories, and increase our political clout.
AFGE members from Local 1633 in Houston, Texas, met with Congressman Gene Green, Congressman John Culberson, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee's staffer, Darryl Jackson. They discussed issues facing employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the obstacles the employees are facing trying to serve veterans.
Registered Nurse Steven Powell, who is also the local’s legislative political coordinator, said there are several issues members of Congress are not aware of, and it’s crucial that AFGE members reach out to them so they understand what kind of obstacles federal employees are facing protecting and serving the American people. The Accountability Act, known as the VA firing-at-will bill, for example, is a big problem at the VA.
“The meeting Mike King and I had with Gene Green went incredibly well, as he started off the meeting by stating that he "continues to be a proud card-carrying union member" and to keep him updated on legislation that would affect labor,” Powell said. “Rep. Gene Green wasn't aware that the Accountability Act was being used against the rank and file. He thought it was only for management. He said he would support legislation that would amend the act for management only.”
Powell added that the representatives and staffers he talked to came to understand the gravity of the staffing crisis at the VA.
In California, AFGE activists from TSA, VA, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and AFGE YOUNG visited Congresswoman Maxine Waters at her campaign headquarters in Hawthorne where they discussed pressing issues affecting federal workers such as the privatization at the VA, bargaining issues with the Department of Education, and contracting out of federal work.
Waters has a history of supporting issues AFGE members support. She also signed a resolution against privatizing the VA. AFGE members are now seeking her co-sponsorship of H.R. 4775, which would provide a 3% raise for federal employees in 2019, and H.R. 2309, which would grant TSA officers Title 5 workplace rights. She has been a co-sponsor of previous versions of both bills.
“Representative Waters was very receptive to the concerns expressed,” said Aliyah Levin, vice president of AFGE Local 2391 at DOL. “She communicated the need to get the vote out and fill the elected seats with representatives who stand for and protect workers.”
Robert Milhollin, legislative political coordinator of Local 1040, met with Congressman Marc Veasey of Texas and his district director, Anne Hagan.
“It was a very conversational meeting. Thanks to the materials AFGE provided, the voting record, we went in prepared and knew he was a friend to TSA employees,” he said. “We asked him to cosponsor upcoming bill H.R. 99 to extend public safety officers' death benefits to TSA employees who are responsible for protecting the nation's transportation systems.”
In New York, AFGE Local 3342 connected with members and potential members during two Lunch & Learns in Geneva and Batavia. Alana Lewis and Gabriel Pedreira, AFGE national legislative and political organizers, held a presentation on how members can be more actively involved. They showed members how to navigate through the AFGE website to locate information on congressional representatives and senators. They went over member benefits and how to access them. They stressed the importance of being active and reviewed what members can and cannot do as federal employees.
Many members said they didn’t realize how much information was available on our AFGE site until Alana and Gabriel showed them.
Local 3342 Grievance Vice President and Legislative Political Coordinator Chantel Kincaid said this was an important lunch and learn.
"Times are tough being an SSA federal employee. Our jobs, benefits, and pensions are constantly on the line. Aside from the consistent threat of furlough, the Hill is now pressing hard to take our official time, pension, pay and benefits," she said. "Times have shifted. We can no longer sit back and be comfortable. We have to advocate for ourselves and most members haven’t had to do that before. Which is why it’s important for us to hold lunch and learns such as this one. The more exposed to the idea of reaching out to congressional representatives, the more likely members will be comfortable in doing so."
AFGE members found the National Week of Action to be very useful.
“Our local does a lot of good things, but we have not been as proactive about getting out there and talking to our local representatives as we should be. And this week of action has given us the kick in the butt we needed,” Milhollin said. “I’m now going to talk to members and encourage them. This has given us a good reason to meet the locals and network. And now I am building a community of resources where I can go to them and they can come to me. I encourage other locals who have not been very active in this area to consider it.”