Union reps warn of “devastating” budget cuts

InaDec.12telephonepressconference,BethMotenoftheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,BruceMoyer,chairofthe31-groupFederal-PostalCoalition;JessicaKlementoftheNationalActiveandRetiredFederalEmployees(NARFE)andMaureenGilman,legislative-politicaldirectoroftheTreasuryEmployees(NTEU)saidthethreatsarecomingfromtwodifferentdirections.
Theunionsandtheirallieshavelaunchedcampaignsagainstthebudgetcuttingideas,contactinglawmakersbothinD.C.andathome.Butsofar,they'regettingnon-committalreactions,thelegislativerepssay.
"Thelawmakerssay'Thankyouforyourservice.Weappreciateit,butthecountryisinabigfiscalmessandit'lltakesharedsacrificetofixit,'"onerepsaid.
"They'retakingitseriously,"Motensaidoflawmakers'reactiontotheirlobbying.
Foractivefederalworkers,includingthosewhowillbehiredafterJan.1,thethreatisanactual4-6percentannualpaycut,GilmanandMotensaid.That'showmuchmorethefedswillhavetocontribute,outoftheirpaychecks,topayfortheirfuturepensions,withnoriseinfuturebenefits.
"ForaVAhospitalnursemaking$27,000ayear,that'sa$630paycut,"saidMoten,whoseunionrepresentsthosenurses."Foracorrectionalofficerinafederalprison,dealingwithgangmembers,whoearns$39,000ayear,it's$900.
"ThesearesacrificespeoplewouldmakeafterDec.31,"ontopof$103billioninincreasedpensionpaymentsandpayfreezesthatfederalworkershavealreadyundergone,sheadded.
Thethreattoretirees,thedisabled,veteransandotherswhoreceivesimilarpaymentsisachangeinthebaseusedforcalculatingtheirpayments,fromthecurrentConsumerPriceIndextotheso-called"ChainedCPI,"whichriseslessandwhichdoesn'tincludehealthcarecosts.ThatchainedCPIalsowouldbeimposedoncurrentfederalworkersincalculatingproposedannualcost-of-livingincreases.
Budget-cuttersarelookingatthechainedCPIbecauseitishardtoexplainandbecauseitcouldsave$200billion-$300billionoveradecade,Klementadded.
Rep.ChrisVanHollen,D-Md.,thetopDemocratontheHouseBudgetCommittee,confirmedthoseideasareamongtheschemesfloatingaroundCapitolHill.Butheadmittedthatalmostalllawmakers,alongwiththeirconstituents,havenoideaofdetailsofWhiteHouse-Congressdiscussionsofataxhike-spendingcutpackage.
Anotherbudgetcutidea,includedinadefensebilllastyear,thatwouldarbitrarilyfire35,000DefenseDepartmentcivilianworkers,hasdrawnanObamaadministrationvetothreat,VanHollensaid.AFGEiscampaigningtodeletethatcutofworkers.
The31groupsinthecoalitionaremobilizingmembersforbothlobbyinginD.C.andforcontactinglawmakersattheirofficesinhomestates,bye-mailorboth.Theirpointisthatfederalworkershavesacrificedenoughtohelpstemthetideofgovernmentredink,andthatit'stimefor"sharedsacrifice,"asMoyerputit.Thatmeansincreasingtaxesontherich,whocanaffordtopay,andwhohavenotbeenaskedforapennyyet.
"Wehaveamassiveemailcampaigngoing,andwebroughtpeopleintoD.C.forseveraldaystotalkwiththeirlawmakers,too,"Motensaid.
"Allofushavean'Americacountsonus'campaign,"Gilmanadded."Eachofourorganizationsisnotifyingourpeoplealloverthecountrytogetinvolved.Peopledon'trealizeit,but85percentoffederalworkersliveoutsidemetropolitanWashington."
"Thepresident'sbudgetplanhasamenuofoptions,"VanHollensaid.GOPHouseSpeakerJohn"Boehner'splanhasn'titemizedanyexceptforraisingtheageofMedicareeligibility"to67"andthechainedCPI."It'stimeforthemtospelloutindetailwhatthey'reproposing,"hesaidoftheGOP.Republicansalso"wanttoextendthefederalpayfreezethrough2013,"VanHollenadded.
BesidesAFGEandNTEU,otherunionsinthecoalitionaretheAFSCME,thePostalWorkers,theFireFighters,theMachinists,theProfessional&TechnicalEngineers,theLaborers,theNationalAirTrafficControllersAssociation,theNationalAssociationofGovernmentEmployees,theLetterCarriers,theNationalFederationofFederalEmployees/IAM,theMailHandlers,theRuralLetterCarriers,theNationalWeatherServiceEmployees,theProfessionalEmployeesattheDepartmentofAgriculture,andtheProfessionalAviationSafetySpecialists.NARFEisafederalretireesgroup.FederallyEmployedWomenisalsopartofthecoalition.


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