Your Pay, Your Jobs, and Rights Are on the Line

Categories: Government Standard

Government employees are going to be facing some of the toughest battles of our lives under the new Congress that was sworn in January 3, 2017.

In case you have any doubt, here’s what happened in the House of Representatives in the first week alone:

  • The House passed a rule that allows any lawmaker to propose slashing the pay or abolishing the job of any federal employee – without holding hearings or consulting with the agencies where these employees work.
  • An Indiana congressman announced plans to introduce a venomous bill that would give political appointees unchecked authority to fire, demote, and discipline federal employees at will. Plus, they’re able to withhold our pay raises and pensions AND remove the union’s ability to represent you on the job.
  • The House approved a bill that requires every admonishment or reprimand of VA workers to remain in their personal record for life – a completely punitive action that no other employer would dare enforce.

These actions are bad enough, but the worst is certainly yet to come. That’s why AFGE needs you to step up your game and fight like your job depends on it – because it does.

Details on these Destructive Laws:

The Holman Rule

The Holman Rule, named for the lawmaker who devised it in the late 1870s, allows last-minute amendments on the House floor to cut federal spending by reducing the number of government employees and cutting their salaries.

Under this rule, lawmakers will be able to vote to eliminate the jobs of individual workers, programs, offices, or even entire military installations. Jobs could be cut without adhering to normal reduction-in-force (RIF) rules, meaning factors like veterans’ status, length of employee service, and high performance ratings will not apply.

What Could Happen: Suppose a lawmaker felt singled out by a TSA officer while going through airport security screening. The lawmaker could introduce an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill to eliminate that officer’s job – or eliminate all TSA officers at the particular airport – and instead hire lower-paid private screeners to do the work.

“The Holman rule is a license for members of Congress to hunt and target individual federal workers or entire groups of federal workers for retaliation,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

Any action proposed under the Holman rule would require affirmative votes by the House and Senate, so AFGE members must stand ready to mobilize in opposition to any proposal targeting specific workers.

The PAGE Act

This bill is the brainchild of Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita. It will allow supervisors to arbitrarily fire and discipline employees who speak up against mismanagement and wasteful spending.

What Could Happen: The bill would make all new federal employees “at will” workers, meaning they could be suspended or fired without notice and with only a limited right to appeal. It also would allow political appointees to immediately suspend current workers, deny them pay, and allow them just 10 days to appeal.

The bill would upend the federal pay system by limiting annual and within-grade pay raises to only those employees scoring higher than a fully successful performance rating (in other words, managers could limit raises by arbitrarily reducing the number of employees who receive ratings of 4 or 5).

The bill also would allow the government to deny earned pensions to any current or future employee who is convicted of a felony. And it would eliminate your right to representation at the worksite by no longer allowing union representatives to resolve disputes, address issues of discrimination or retaliation, or propose improvements in the workplace during the workday.

“Giving political appointees and the managers who serve them free reign to punish workers without cause, while removing the checks and balances that keep everyone honest, is the antithesis of accountability,” Cox said.

Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to keep copies of reprimands and admonishments in employees’ permanent records for as long as they work at the VA. Currently, “admonishments” remain in employees’ records for two years and “reprimands” for three.

What Could Happen: It means even minor infractions could remain in an employee’s record for life, which could undermine your ability to advance in your career, remain in your jobs, and provide for your family. Suppose you get a reprimand for drinking on the job. You go through a program to quit drinking and stay sober for the next 20 years, yet if the reprimand is never cleared from your personnel file, that one incident could be used to keep you from getting a promotion or otherwise advancing in your career. 

The bill, HR 27, was the first passed by the House in the 115th Congress and now heads to the Senate.

Your Checklist to Fight Back

Defeating these anti-worker proposals will require action from every AFGE member. Your lawmakers need to understand how these bills would affect you – their constituents – and weaken the government programs and services we deliver to the American public.

  • Call or visit your lawmaker.
  • Sign up for AFGE news alerts.
  • Talk to your coworkers, your family members, and your neighbors about what these bad bills would mean to them.
  • Get involved, get informed, get mobilized.

To keep track of the latest threats to our jobs and take action that will make a difference, AFGE has created a one-stop action page on the website: Bookmark this page and visit it weekly for updated news, action items, and more ways for you to get involved. 

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