A bite-sized update on what AFGE members are doing together in their workplaces and local communities to spark progress across America.
Bureau of Prisons
In 2016, the Council of Prison Locals (CPL) achieved a huge victory in correctional worker safety with the passage of the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act. We are continuing to advocate for worker safety by fighting for commonsense sentencing reform and legislation that allows gun lockers for correctional workers. It’s critical that we reduce the use of contracting at BOP. We must also increase funding to the federal prison system to better rehabilitate our nation’s inmates and protect our communities.
At the beginning of the 115th Congress, a new bill was introduced in yet another attempt to dismantle our nation’s largest and most important health care system. The bill would prohibit every VA worker from clearing their employee record of past reprimands. That includes reprimands that are years or decades old, action that resulted from whistleblowing, or some form of retaliation. This assault on VA employees’ rights at work would take away second chances for workers like you. It would make it easier for managers to fire you and harder for VA hospitals to hire the best and brightest healthcare professionals to care for our nation's heroes. Dr. David Shulkin, the former Obama administration VA Under Secretary for Health, was confirmed unanimously by the Senate to lead the VA under the Trump administration.
Department of Defense
About 280,000 civilian employees in the Department of Defense will transition to a new performance appraisal system this April in what is the largest-to-date test of the New Beginnings labor-management system. Those slated for the move include employees in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Defense Logistics Agency, National Guard bureau, and others. Locals should submit a demand to bargain over how New Beginnings will be rolled out as soon as they’re notified that employees are set to transition to the new system. Visit www.afge.org/NewBeginnings for copies of bargaining guidance, memorandums of understanding, training resources, and more.
AFGE’s Defense Conference (DEFCON) has created a new caucus to focus on issues affecting health care workers throughout the Department of Defense. The new Medical Personnel Caucus was approved by members attending the AFGE Defense Conference Feb. 3-5 in Washington. It replaces a previous DEFCON working group for health care professionals that had been established in 2011. AFGE Locals representing Defense medical workers selected the following officers to lead the new caucus: Paul Ferris, co-vice chair; Felicia Sharp, chair; and Katrise Newman, co-vice chair.
In a new poll released by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the American public wants to increase Social Security and Medicare benefits, not cut them. Here's the topline results: 73 percent favor increasing Social Security benefits; 79 percent favor increasing the benefits and paying for it by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security; 77 percent oppose raising the retirement age from 67 to 69. Witold Skwierczynski, president of the AFGE National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, said the results of the poll confirm what SSA employees already know.
In December 2016, TSA Officers voted to ratify their most recent collective bargaining agreement. AFGE worked with Sen. Brian Schatz to introduce new legislation that grants TSA Officers the same workplace protections as other federal employees. After a gunman killed five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport, AFGE renewed calls for a new unit of trained and armed law enforcement officers within TSA at airports nationwide. We also worked with Capitol Hill lawmakers to ensure that TSA was following the AFGE-backed provision in the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act that requires TSA to provide practical active-shooter training for all TSA Officers.
National Park Service
AFGE’s Council 270 recently formed to represent the dedicated public servants in the northeast region of the National Park Service. From firefighters and groundskeepers, to the iconic park rangers, members are forging ahead in their mission to protect the employees that maintain some of our country’s most awe-inspiring destinations. We began strategic planning late last year and is working to fill its Women’s and Fair Practices positions. Organizing blitzes will kick off in New York in March, then move through Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia in the summer and fall. Make sure you connect with the Council 270 Facebook page to get the latest info.
The 15,000 employees at the Environmental Protection Agency continue to work hard to protect America’s water, air, and public health. But if Congress fails to pass an appropriations package funding the agency soon, the EPA will be unable to continue to monitor America’s water and air for toxic pollutants. Instead of doing their job to pass an appropriations package, lawmakers have introduced legislation to dissolve the EPA by December 2018. The Senate also confirmed Scott Pruit to lead the agency, despite his strong ties to oil and gas companies. Locals should visit www.savetheUSepa.com to get involved in the fight to save the agency, its mission, and their jobs.
Department of Labor
Andrew Puzder dropped out of consideration for the Secretary of Labor. His abrupt departure would not have been possible without thousands of phone calls and letters made by our union activists. Puzder, the former CEO of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. has been a vocal critic of the wage and labor regulations he would have been in charge of enforcing as Labor secretary.