December 17, 2018
Here are stories you need to know this week.
Horror movies and haunted houses are scary, but if you work for the federal government, there are things that are a lot scarier and far more real. These things could also pop up any time of year, not just the end of October. As Congress is mulling over the 2018 budget, here are 10 things that are scarier than Halloween for those taking the oath to serve the American people:
1. Retirement Cuts
When politicians want to free up money for tax cuts, they turn to federal employees. The House of Representatives recently passed a budget blueprint mandating a cut of at least $32 billion to federal employees’ pensions. Floated were proposals to increase employee retirement contributions and eliminate pensions altogether for new hires.
Thanks to AFGE activists who bombarded Congress with tens of thousands of calls and visits the past few days, we were able to stop harmful measures from being included in the final 2018 budget blueprint. But the actual spending bill still needs to be passed.
2. A Government Shutdown
Federal employees have been living with a threat of a government shutdown for years. In 2013, they were forced to stay home without pay when politicians shut down the government for 16 days. They eventually got paid, but delayed paychecks are never good news for any family. Earlier this year, President Trump threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get funding for a border wall with Mexico. As the current funding expires Dec. 8, federal employees are once again bracing for another shutdown fight.
3. Pay Freeze
According to a leaked memo , White House officials are advocating for a pay freeze for federal employees for fiscal 2019. They added, “this is the most important – the only one we can do unilaterally.”
Cuts to retirement and a pay freeze will have an impact on the government’s ability to hire people to do the work, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is struggling to hire 49,000 doctors, nurses, psychologists, and other health care professionals to take care of veterans.
4. Elimination of the 25% Cap on Health Insurance Premiums
Federal employees share the cost of health benefits coverage with the government. Most full-time employees pay 25% of the total premium. But there’s a proposal in the leaked memo to make employees pay more by eliminating this 25% cap.
5. Reductions in Raises Based on Experience
There’s a proposal to “slow the pace of seniority-based pay increase by 50 percent.”
6. Reductions in Paid Leave Benefits
White House officials are proposing to Walmartize federal paid leave benefits, making them the same levels as those offered by for-profit, CEO-first employers in the private sector.
7. Elimination of Retiree Health Insurance for New Hires
To cut cost, this proposal would stop new federal employees from using the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program after they retire.
8. Elimination of Workplace Protections and Voice at Work
As part of an effort to gut unions, several bills have been introduced to take away so-called “official time,” a practice where union volunteers are allowed certain hours of their workdays to deal with problems impacting employees and agency operations. Until only recently, official time had never been an issue. The 1978 law that gave employees the right to have a voice in the workplace envisioned that the employees who join a union would need fellow employees who should be on regular duty time as they were fixing agency problems and meeting with management to resolve employee concerns.
9. Severe Budget Cuts
Most federal agencies are facing severe budget and staffing cuts. Several agencies are extending the hiring freeze or asking employees to leave through buyouts and early outs.
10. Dirty Air and Polluted Rivers
One of the agencies that have been targeted for significant cuts is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump wanted to cut EPA’s funding by 31%, cut the workforce by 3,800 employees, and cut 50 environmental protection programs. The powerful oil and gas industry and their allies have been trying for years to prevent the EPA from holding the polluters accountable. They have succeeded to a certain degree as EPA budgets and staff have been slashed over the years and its enforcement arm weakened. The House’s version of the 2018 budget is less ghastly than Trump’s proposal but continues to weaken the EPA with its proposed $528 million cut.
Here are stories you need to know this week.
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