Legislative Conference Primer: What We Hope to Accomplish in 2021

Categories: The Insider

It’s 2021. Now is the time to unite, mobilize, and act!

AFGE members will gather later on this week for our annual legislative conference. Even though this year it’s a virtual conference due to the pandemic, our fighting spirit is still there, we know that now is our time, and we’re ready to keep the pressure on and win! 

Our past challenges have taught us that we can win if we stand together. When we set specific goals and the steps we need to take to achieve them, we create the future we deserve. 

Take a look at what we hope to accomplish in 2021: 


1. Protect and Improve Federal Employee Pay, Benefits, Retirement 

  • Support a 3.2% raise in the recently introduced FAIR Act. 
  • Support a bill that has been introduced to provide paid family leave to all federal employees for all instances under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 
  • Repeal the Budget Control Act’s sequestration provisions which have resulted in cuts to federal employee retirement benefits. 
  • Restore Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) contributions to pre-2013 levels. 
  • Oppose cuts to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) cost of living adjustment (COLA) and elimination of the FERS COLA. 
  • Oppose elimination of the Social Security annuity supplement. 
  • Retain high-3 years as the standard for calculating retirement annuity. 
  • Retain Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) G-Fund interest rate. 
  • Maintain government contribution to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. 
  • Oppose lump-sum paid time off proposals and maintain current holiday, annual and sick leave. 
  • Support FERS employees paying into the system at the same rate based on pre-2013 contributions. 
  • Eliminate disparate locality pay between wage grade and general schedule employees in the same locality. This does not require legislation but can be done by OPM through regulation. 
  • Ensure pay parity with military pay increases. 
  • Make permanent the temporary compensation authorities extended in each NDAA for OCONUS employees and employees who deploy into combat zones. 
  • Oppose gimmicks that falsely purport to compensate based on subjective and discriminatory “performance” processes with forced distribution schemes. 
  • Oppose Medicare for All proposals that would eliminate FEHB or the VA. 
  • Oppose pay freezes. 

 2. Protect and Restore Collective Bargaining for Federal Workforce 

  • Prohibit efforts to remove employees from exclusive recognition. 
  • Prohibit hiring of outside companies or law firms to attempt to persuade employees to vote against union recognition in an election. 
  • Work with the Executive Branch to restore employee rights and representation curtailed or eliminated as a result of Executive Orders EOs 13836, 13837, and 13839. 

3. Preserve the Core Functions of the Office of Personnel Management 

  • Merit-based civil service requires a personnel management agency independent of the Executive. 

Highlights of agency-specific priorities 

Department of Veterans Affairs (consult our VA issue paper for a comprehensive list) 

  • Affirm the rights of Title 38 Employees to join and serve their local unions, eliminating exclusions to bargaining in 38 USC 7422.
  • Restore due process rights of VA employees. 
  • Repeal the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Act Section of the VA MISSION Act to prevent BRAC-style closures of VA facilities nationwide.
  • Restore an improved version of the peer compensation panel system enacted in 2004 and eliminated by Congress a few years ago that left market pay subject to secrecy and full management discretion. 
  • Reverse the reliance of using contractors to perform compensation and pension exams. 

Department of Defense (consult our DoD issue paper for a comprehensive list) 

  • Continue the A-76 moratorium. 
  • Restore Title 5 rights to DoD employees such as one-year probationary period instead of two and order of retention in RIFs. 
  • Support continuation of appropriation anti-personnel cap language. 
  • Support addition of appropriation and authorization language enforcing compliance with anti-privatization statutes, contractor inventory and contract services budget requirements 
  • Repeal Budget Control Act which generates budgetary uncertainty based on outmoded view of role of government in economy. 
  • Support continuation of prohibition of BRAC and oppose functional work arounds. 
  • Oppose arbitrary reductions of civilian workforce and highlight statutory violations. 
  • Oppose reductions in military technician end strength or any involuntary conversions to Active Guard Reserve status. 


  • Pass Title 5 rights and GS scale pay to provide full collective bargaining rights equivalent to those enjoyed by federal employees, including most Department of Homeland Security employees. 


  • Prioritize hiring full time Title 5 staff. 

Law Enforcement Officers  

  • Expand LEO retirement benefits to officers of the VA, DoD, U.S. Mint, and Federal Protective Police. 
  • Pass Eric’s Law (S. 2264/H.R. 3980 in the 116th Congress), which would permit the court to impanel a new jury if a jury in a federal death penalty case fails to reach a unanimous decision on a sentence. 
  • Increase federal funding of the Bureau of Prisons and require BOP to hire additional correctional staff to return to at least ‘mission critical’ levels. Demand that BOP hire the necessary staff to fill custody positions instead of relying on augmentation.
  • Change the pay band for BOP to bring it in line with other similar federal law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 
  • Pass the Thin Blue Line Act (H.R. 72), which would make killing a correctional worker, a firefighter, or other first responder an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations. 

Federal Firefighters 

  • Adjust calculation for computing retirement and annuity benefits. 
  • Create a presumption of worksite illness for firefighters who contract cancer, heart disease or other significant health issues
  • Ensure adequate protections from PFAS and other toxic chemicals

Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) Inspectors  

  • Pass legislation similar to H.R. 7521 introduced in the 116th Congress to prohibit meat processing and slaughter facilities from operating at dangerously high speeds that prevent social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Increase FSIS’s budget for full-time employees which would allow for a full complement of government inspectors at all plants at all times. 
  • Increase the starting wage for Inspectors from a GS-5 to a GS-7 and offer the same retention bonuses that are offered to the Public Health Veterinarians, which would overcome the longstanding problem of recruiting and retaining employees. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics 

  • Ensure workers have maximum health and safety protections, adequate parking availability and IT modernization during the relocation of 1,800 BLS employees from Washington, DC to Suitland Maryland. Continue to advocate for FSGG appropriations subcommittee language to ensure worker health and safety language in relation to the BLS relocation.

National Energy Technology Laboratories (NETL) 

  • Prevent consolidation and closure of any NETL facilities

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)  

  • Ensure both agencies have adequate funding to hire appropriate amounts of staff and grant employees maximum telework flexibilities when they can work remotely.

Federal Workforce Covid-19 Relief Not Yet Acted Upon by Congress 

  • Premium Pay for Frontline Workers 

Retroactive to January 27, 2020 when the national emergency went into effect, and utilize existing hazardous duty pay authority within the federal government.

  • Presumption of Workplace Illness

For workers required to report for duty and interact with the public who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, assumption it was contracted during the performance of their duties, allowing federal employees to make a Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) claim.

  • Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Enact legislation that enhances the authority of the Defense Production Act to hold agencies accountable, through strong reporting requirements, oversight, transparency, and stakeholder engagement.

  • Adopt OSHA and MSHA Temporary and Permanent Emergency Standard 

Include an emergency temporary and permanent OSHA standard for those employees on the front lines who risk exposure due to the nature of their duties and inclusion of provisions to prevent employers from being able to retaliate against workers who report infection control problems in the workplace. 

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave 

Extend emergency paid sick leave for federal employees which expired in December 2020. Expand emergency paid sick leave for frontline personnel and ensure is applies to all workers in all agencies.

  • Universal Testing for COVID-19 

Congress must ensure that testing is widely available at no cost to federal employees who are deemed essential and to those who are teleworking before and after they return to their duty station.

  • Telework 

AFGE supports telework for all eligible federal employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Federal employees have successfully engaged in telework for many years and have demonstrated they are able to be effective and productive working in this environment during the pandemic. Congress should require agencies to assess equipment and technology deficits related but not limited to hardware, software, and providing adequate internet access, and work to address them so more employees are able to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.

  • Labor Management Partnerships 

Support the Federal Labor-Management COVID Partnership Act, a bill that would keep federal workers safe during public health emergencies, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, by creating formal labor-management task forces at both the Executive Branch and agency level. These task forces would be responsible for reviewing current telework, leave, cleaning, and training policies, supplying policy recommendations and giving federal workers an avenue to provide input as the Executive Branch responds to the coronavirus and any future crisis.

  • Pandemic compensation 

Support the Essential Worker Pandemic Compensation Act to compensate the families of essential workers who die because of COVID-19 or related complications. The Essential Worker Pandemic Compensation Act would provide a tax-free death benefit and additional support for the postsecondary education of surviving spouses and children of deceased essential workers. The act would also provide a cash benefit to essential workers who are hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus. The legislation has 26 original cosponsors. AFGE supports this bill and will continue to work to add cosponsors. 

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