AFGE commends decision to keep airplane knife ban in place

Decision to rescind proposed policy change is right one for TSOs, aviation workers and traveling public

The American Federation of Government Employees applauds the Obama administration’s decision today to rescind a policy change that would have allowed knives on airplanes for the first time since 9/11.

130305165100-tsa-knives-01-story-top“This decision is the right one for the safety and security of every Transportation Security Officer, airline passenger and aviation employee,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

AFGE is the exclusive representative for the more than 45,000 Transportation Security Officers who screen all commercial airline passengers, baggage and cargo.

“In addition to the lessons learned on 9/11 about the threat of terrorists armed with knives, our concern is for our members who are assaulted far too often by irate passengers. Keeping the knife ban will help keep those confrontations from escalating,” Cox said.

On May 6, AFGE was one of nine organizations representing over 400,000 aviation professionals, passengers and law enforcement officers that filed a legal petition with Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, urging them to rescind the policy change and keep the knife ban in place.

“I commend Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Pistole for listening to our concerns and having the wisdom to withdraw this proposal in light of the grave safety and security risks to our members at TSA, to the flying public and aviation employees,” Cox said.

 

 

AFGE NATIONAL PRESIDENT RECOGNIZED BY YITZHAK RABIN CENTER

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Left to right: AFGE District 11 NVP Gerald Swanke; District 5 NVP Everette Kelley; NST Eugene Hudson Jr.; Women’s and Fair Practices NVP Augusta Thomas; National Pres. J. David Cox, Sr.; District 10 NVP Roy Flores; District 7 NVP Arnold Scott; and Dalia Rabin-Pelossof.

An executive conference room was dedicated today at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, as part of the tribute to American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., recipient of the 2012 Public Service Award from the American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center. The Center is the official memorial to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who pursued public service through his country’s Labor Party. Rabin, winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize (along with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat), dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace, justice, and public service. Yitzhak Rabin was slain by an assassin in 1995, but his efforts to bring together people of disparate backgrounds to work for peace and social progress continue through the work of the Center.

The AFGE delegation met with Israeli labor leaders and members who work in various government agencies, including the Tel Hashomer hospital where many wounded soldiers are treated by medical personnel represented by AFGE’s Israeli counterpart, the International Union of Government Employees. The delegation also visited an Air Force base to meet with local union representatives to discuss their working conditions, union rights and agency missions. The unions pledged continued future contacts and to work in solidarity to improve the voice of workers in their respective countries.

At the dedication ceremony, Cox remarked:

“The message of the AFL-CIO is that ‘work connects us all.’ That fundamental truth is why the labor movement has been the vehicle for human progress all through history. People differ in terms of religion, belief, gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, and ability – but when we join together in a union, none of that matters. We become brothers and sisters in the struggle for dignity on the job and a better life for everybody.

“The struggle for peace is really the same as labor’s struggle,” continued Cox. “My hope and prayer is that this space will be a place where people from all backgrounds will come together and find common ground, working for labor solidarity, peace, and a better life for all peoples.”

AFGE official criticizes health insurance proposals in Obama budget

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AFGE Public Policy Director Jacqueline Simon testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census regarding proposed changes to FEHBP.

In testimony delivered today before a House subcommittee, American Federation of Government Employees Public Policy Director Jacqueline Simon criticized proposals that the Obama administration has presented for altering the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Simon testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census. The hearing focused on the FEHBP and whether it is a good value for federal employees. A copy of the testimony is available here: http://bit.ly/14egKZe.

Simon’s testimony was critical of the proposals for FEHBP changes that the administration has put forth.  As described in President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget, released Wednesday, the proposals would shift costs for the program onto federal employees to the tune of $8.4 billion over 10 years.

“With federal pay frozen for three straight years, massive tax increases on FERS employees via increased retirement contributions, and furloughs of up to 14 days that may be repeated each year for the next decade, federal employees cannot withstand any more reductions in their compensation,” Simon said.

The proposals include charging more for federal employees who are ill or overweight, charging more to families with more than two persons, worsening the FEHBP’s already severe problems with risk segmentation by introducing regional PPOs, and making changes to prescription drug coverage. The administration would also support FEHBP coverage for domestic partners and other dependents.

“The administration’s FY 14 budget piles on with additional cuts to retirement benefits for both CSRS and FERS employees hired before 2013.  It is astounding that they would add more than $8 billion in cuts to FEHBP on top of this,” Simon said. “The administration calls this ‘modernization’ of benefits; we call it cannibalization.”

Simon also called for the establishment of a statutory employee advisory committee for FEHBP that would be modeled on the Employee Thrift Advisory Committee for the Thrift Savings Plan, the Federal Salary Council for the General Schedule pay system, and the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Council for the Federal Wage System.

“Federal workers pay on average 30% of premiums and as much as 64% in some plans, yet we are denied information and denied any input in decisions about changes in benefits, changes in administration or changes in the program’s structure.  Workers are apparently just supposed to keep quiet and keep paying,” Simon said. “But like all other middle class Americans, federal workers cannot afford to do this.  Giving federal employees an opportunity to learn more about their health insurance program – and a chance to have their interests, views, and concerns receive serious consideration – is a reform worth supporting.”

The Administration’s 2014 budget fails working Americans, union says

Budget includes proposals that would harm middle-class Americans

President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget marks a shameful abandonment of his campaign promise to protect the middle class and needy from tax increases or harmful benefit cuts, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“Instead of holding to its promise to protect the middle class and the working poor, the administration seems determined to contribute to a worsening of living standards for federal workers, disabled veterans, and the elderly,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The budget includes proposals that would cut federal retirement benefits, cut Federal Employee Health Benefits, cut Social Security benefits, and cut federal jobs.  The budget also proposes to end the three year pay freeze with a 1% adjustment, an amount so low that it banks $18 billion in savings over ten years for the government to spend elsewhere.

Federal Retirement

The administration’s budget hits federal retirement benefits in three ways: denying pay adjustments, so the salaries on which retirement benefits are based are lower, increasing by 1.2% the amount of salary that employees  hired prior to 2013 would pay for their benefit, and reducing the annual cost-of-living increase in Social Security and annuities by using an inferior measure of inflation.

These proposals are unjustified and deviate completely from the standards set by large private employers.  About 98% of private employers that provide traditional pensions charge their employees nothing for this benefit; the administration just keeps charging more and more each year.  The 1.2% contribution increase in the budget would be a permanent cut, even though it is presented as part of a fix to a temporary “problem.”

Regarding the proposed change to the chained CPI, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said  “this is no “technical fix,” it is a benefit cut on some of the most vulnerable citizens in our country – the elderly who built this nation’s prosperity, disabled veterans who sacrificed their health and bodily integrity to this nation’s security, and federal retirees who labored under an agreement that their retirement benefits would be adjusted to maintain their living standards in old age.”  According to an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, using chained CPI for indexing income tax brackets would mean raising taxes 14.5 percent for those earning between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. Sixty-nine percent of the tax increases resulting from chained CPI-indexing would come from households earning less than $100,000, the Center said.

Switching to chained CPI will hit others equally hard. Federal retirees, whose average pensions under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are just $13,000, will suffer substantial declines in living standards under chained CPI. The average Social Security recipient, who at age 65 receives just $15,000 per year, will suffer cuts of $650 a year by age 75 and $1,130 a year by the time she or he turns 85.

Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) Cuts

The administration’s budget also calls for $8.4 billion in cuts to the government’s financial support for federal employees’ health insurance.  The changes sought by the administration would penalize the ill by charging them higher premiums, penalize families with more than two members by charging them higher premiums, and penalize those in high health care cost regions by charging them higher premiums.  “Adding FEHBP cuts to the pay freeze, furloughs, and retirement and Social Security cuts just defies comprehension.  The President actually says in his budget that federal employees “deserve our respect and gratitude.”  I would describe this package of cuts as evidence of disrespect and ingratitude, and I know that’s how all of our members feel as well,” said Cox.

Poultry processing

The budget also proposes an overhaul to the poultry inspection process that would leave one federal inspector responsible for examining up to 175 birds per minute – or three birds every second – as they whiz down the inspection line. AFGE, along with food safety and consumer watchdog groups, has been urging the administration to withdraw this rule change since it was first proposed in January 2012.

While the poultry slaughter inspection program does need to be modernized, AFGE is concerned that this proposal could have adverse impacts on both food safety and worker safety, Cox said.

“This proposal isn’t about food safety. Speeding up processing times is all about generating more profit for the chicken slaughter industry by moving chickens from the farm to your kitchen table as quickly as possible – regardless of the potential health consequences,” Cox said.

 

 

 

AFGE TSA Council 100 Opposes Changes to the Prohibited Items List (PIL) Scheduled to Become Effective April 25, 2013

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement regarding a change in the Transportation Security Administration’s Prohibited Items List.

“Any knife, regardless of blade size, can be used as a weapon. TSA has created a situation where TSOs will be required to discern the length and width of a knife blade in a very short period of time. Disagreements over the TSOs’ determination as to whether the knife will be allowed through checkpoints may result in a confrontation. Far too often, TSOs are threatened and even assaulted by irate passengers at the checkpoint; this ambiguous new policy will only escalate those incidents. In addition, TSOs face possible discipline from an increasing number of checkpoint disputes surrounding the new policy.

“AFGE TSA Council 100 also opposes the changes in PIL allowing small, toy or “novelty” bats to pass through checkpoints. TSOs have been assaulted and injured at checkpoints by items smaller than a 24” bat.

“Although duly-elected as the exclusive representative of more than 40,000 TSOs nationwide, AFGE  TSA Council 100 was not included in the committee TSA established to “review the Agency’s Prohibited Items List.” The policy was changed without any input from the employees responsible for implementing the changes at checkpoints at airports across the country. If representatives of AFGE had been included in the committee, TSA would have heard firsthand the risks to both TSA employees and the flying public.

“AFGE TSA Council 100 joins the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, the Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations and the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association in opposing the change in policy and urges TSA to meet with the union as the agency reconsiders its decision.

“AFGE encourages those who share our concerns about the new policy to go to www.noknivesonplanes.com and sign the petition asking the White House to rescind the new policy.”

AFGE DENOUNCES SINGLING OUT OF BORDER PATROL FOR LARGEST SEQUESTRATION HIT

Union says DHS decision will have dire consequences for border security

J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, today issued the following statement on sequestration’s impact on border security:

“On Friday, March 1, hours after he signed the sequester order, President Obama tried to describe to the press the impact of sequester on federal employees, active duty military and their families. He referred to ‘Border Patrol agents in the hot sun getting a 10 percent pay cut…’

“Just as ‘the hot sun’ is hardly the biggest risk Border Patrol agents take while performing their duties, the 10 percent pay cut to which the president referred is only a small portion of the economic pain the Department of Homeland Security has in store for them. In fact, DHS has singled out Border Patrol agents to receive by far the largest financial penalty of any other group of federal workers. The plan DHS has chosen for Border Patrol agents will mean a 35 percent decline in their paychecks for the rest of the fiscal year and beyond.

“Border Patrol agents have been singled out to lose 75 percent more of their paychecks than even civilian Department of Defense workers who face 22 days without pay (for a 20 percent pay cut). Secretary Napolitano has announced that she intends not only to furlough Border Patrol agents for 14 days, but also to impose a total moratorium on routine overtime pay. Together these policies will reduce the paycheck of a typical Border Patrol agent by 35 percent. Even within their own agency, these cuts stand out for lopsidedness and severity. For example, officers who police the ports and provide customs enforcement will be furloughed 14 days but retain overtime; there is every reason to believe that they will make up wages lost to furlough with compensatory overtime so that cargo and passengers will continue to move through ports of entry. But with this anti-Border Patrol policy, illegal “cargo and passengers” will likely flow into the U.S. as well.

“Guarding the border is not a nine-to-five job. Overtime work is routine, and when they are hired, agents are informed that they will almost never work a regular eight-hour shift. Instead, they are expected to work at least 10 hours every day and often more because they do not stop when they are in pursuit of drug and gun smugglers and others engaging in criminal activity on the border. But with the sequester policy DHS has fashioned for Border Patrol, agents will be instructed to stop working at the moment their straight shift ends. Good news for criminals and others who would enter our country illegally; but very bad news for Americans who rely on the courage and devotion of Border Patrol agents who risk their lives every day to keep drugs and guns and gangs outside our borders.

“We urge Secretary Napolitano to rethink this terrible decision. It is wrong for border security, and it is wrong to single out Border Patrol agents for such drastic and undeserved economic pain. Border Patrol agents are law enforcement professionals, and this policy will undermine their ability to carry out their mission to guard the border and protect American citizens. Apart from the inequity in the size of the economic sacrifice being demanded of them, they do not want to let criminal gangs and smugglers go just because their shift has ended. The moratorium on overtime combined with 14 furlough days must be reconsidered.”

AFGE Rep Wing Recap: November 2012

VA VIOLATES OWN POLICY IN DENYING PROMOTION TO EMPLOYEE
The Veterans Affairs Department violated its own policies when the human resources department denied an employee a promotion that had already been approved by her director, an arbitrator has ruled.
The case involves a Hybrid Title 38 Social Worker who learned in 2011 that she had been denied a promotion to GS-12 back in 2009 after the promotion had been approved by the Professional Standards Board and her director. Despite the approval, a classification specialist in the HR department summarily rejected the promotion on the basis that the Social Worker was doing GS-11 work and didn’t warrant the grade increase.
AFGE Local 1206 filed a grievance on the member’s behalf, alleging that the VA had violated its own handbook and policies, and AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Michael Pazder represented the case at arbitration. The VA Handbook says a director’s decision on a promotion following Board action is final, so HR did not have the right to reverse the decision since it was never brought back to the Board or the director for reconsideration. VA policy also makes clear that Hybrid Title 38 employees can be promoted beyond the full performance level of their position based on their qualifications and experience if so determined by the Board, as was the case here.
The agency refused to correct this when notified, claiming the Board had erred in approving the promotion and that processing an allegedly unwarranted promotion would “unjustly enrich” the employee. Testimony at the hearing revealed that HR personnel, and the director who now said his decision was incorrect even though he never formally reversed it, have an astonishing lack of knowledge of VA policies and how promotions are supposed to work for Hybrid Title 38 employees vs. Title 5 employees.
The employee will be retroactively promoted with back pay, including any subsequent step increases she would have received had the promotion been implemented at the time.

BOP FAILURE TO FILL MISSION CRITICIAL POSTS VIOLATES MASTER AGREEMENT
The Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala., improperly vacated mission critical posts in violation of the Master Agreement between the agency and AFGE, an arbitrator has ruled.
Between 2004 and 2005, BOP instituted the “Mission Critical Roster” program, under which prisons were supposed to place posts on the roster only if they were mission critical. This resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of staffed posts at various prisons. However, even with this reduced number of posts, BOP regularly failed to fill mission critical posts at various facilities, including FCI Talladega.
Local 3844 believed the prison was penny pinching and didn’t want to pay Correctional Officers overtime to fill the positions. The Local filed a grievance, arguing that the failure to fill a mission critical post without good cause violated Article 27 of the Master Agreement, which requires BOP to reduce the inherent hazards of a correctional environment to the lowest level possible without relinquishing any management rights.
AFGE Assistant General Counsel Matthew Milledge represented the Local at the arbitration hearing, where the agency raised a number of procedural and substantive arguments that were struck down by the arbitrator. The arbitrator agreed with AFGE’s argument that Article 27 prevents the BOP from vacating posts without good cause and found that none existed. The arbitrator ordered the agency to pay overtime to any employee who would have received it but for the agency’s violation of the Master Agreement.
D.C. EMPLOYEE WINS REINSTATEMENT, BACK PAY AFTER WRONGFUL REMOVAL
A D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs employee who had been removed without just cause in 2007 finally has been reinstated with full back pay and other entitlements, thanks to dedicated representation of AFGE Assistant General Counsel Leisha Self. An arbitrator in 2009 ruled that the employee, a member of AFGE Local 2725, had been removed improperly but left the remedy up to both parties to settle. DCRA appealed the case at this point, resulting in a long delay for the employee for a remedy.
The agency refused to settle on remedy even after it lost its appeal, so the case was returned to the arbitrator, who ordered the employee reinstated with all of the back pay and benefits requested – including authorizing the employee to use his substantial accrued annual leave without forfeiture. In addition, the arbitrator awarded attorney’s fees of $87,531, plus the amount that AFGE expended on the post-arbitration remedy reply.

ARBITRATOR OVERTURNS BOP OFFICER SUSPENSION
An arbitrator has overturned a seven-day suspension against a Bureau of Prisons senior officer specialist that was ordered by the agency 16 months after the incident in question.
In March 2009, the officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., shoved a fellow officer twice during a workplace dispute. In accordance with agency policy in such matters, a Threat Assessment Committee was convened within days of the incident and issued its findings several days later, ruling that the incident was an isolated occurrence that warranted no further action. The agency assigned an investigator to the case nearly a year after the incident and re-interviewed the key witnesses who had earlier provided statements to the Committee. Based on this investigation, BOP proposed a 14-day suspension against the officer in May 2010 that was subsequently reduced to a 7-day suspension by the prison warden in July 2010.
AFGE Local 919 then filed a grievance against the agency, contending the suspension was too harsh considering the circumstances and that the agency violated the terms of the Master Agreement, which requires the timely disposition of disciplinary matters. AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Hampton H. Stennis argued the case at arbitration. The arbitrator agreed with the union, stating, “While some discipline would have been justified had it been timely imposed, the delay in this case leads me to conclude that the grievance should be sustained in its entirety.” The suspension will be expunged from the officer’s record and the officer will be made whole for any earnings lost as a result of the suspension.
AFGE SETTLES CASE IN FAVOR OF DC HHS EMPLOYEE
District 14’s newest National Representative Johnnie Walker recently settled a case for a D.C. Department of Health and Human Services employee and AFGE member. The member faced removal from his position after being charged with inappropriate conduct, negligence in the performance of his job duties, disruptive conduct and failure to complete tasks. Despite the evidence mounted against the employee, AFGE was able to settle the case in the employee’s favor. The member received triple the settlement initially offered and was able to retire early on disability after 30 years of government service. This enabled the member to save his home from foreclosure while also affording him enough money to pay his mortgage through December. DETAILS ON AFGE LEGAL VICTORIES AVAILABLE ONLINE For a full view of cases published in the Rep Wing, click here or go to Casetrack at https://www.afge-casetrack.org/. Back issues of the Rep Wing are available online. To receive printed copies for distribution, please email communications@afge.org.

AFGE SCORES MAJOR WINS IN TSA REMOVAL CASES
The Office of Professional Responsibility Appellate Board (OPRAB) mitigated a removal to a 30-day suspension at Quad City International Airport near Moline, Ill. The TSO was charged with inattention to duty and failure to follow Standard Operating Procedures. The TSO at no time denied the charges and was honest about his unintentional violations, which did not cause any security breaches. AFGE sought a mitigated penalty due to his nearly 10-year service at TSA and prior military service. –Staff Counsel Bobby Walia
An Expert Security Training Instructor (ESTI) from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston who was removed for off-duty misconduct, lack of candor and unprofessional conduct received a mitigated 14-day suspension with back pay after OPRAB sustained the unprofessional conduct charge. This unusual case stems from a February 2010 off-duty incident in which the ESTI was chased from an acquaintance’s apartment by a woman wielding a large butcher’s knife. No arrests were made and all witness accounts indicated the ESTI was not the aggressor. In October 2011, the ESTI was taken to a hotel by a TSA Office of Inspection agent, coercively interrogated and forced to take a polygraph. The ESTI then was removed from his position in August 2012. Thanks to GCO Intern Patrick DePoy for his great work. –Staff Counsel Gregory G. Watts
AFGE is making headway on appeals from terminations involving failure to pass recertification tests. In a series of recent decisions, OPRAB reviewed the cases of TSOs who failed the test and reversed the terminations due to, among other things, management’s failure to offer appropriate remediation. Recent wins include: O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Newark Liberty International Airport and Bradley International Airport in Connecticut (Staff Counsel Julie Yeagle); Miami International Airport and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (Staff Counsel Denise Duarte Alves); three cases at Los Angeles International Airport (Staff Counsel Bobby Walia); and two cases at Detroit Metro Airport (Assistant General Counsel Martin Cohen and Staff Counsel Julie Yeagle).
A TSO at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who failed the Standard Operating Procedures Assessment (SOPA) three times got a last-minute reprieve. After an appeal was sent to OPRAB, AFGE reached agreement with management for the TSO to re-take the Assessment for a fourth and final time after 40 hours of remediation. The TSO was a nine-year exemplary employee who received a Level 5 PASS score in 2011. The TSO successfully passed the Assessment and will be fully reinstated. –Staff Counsel Bobby Walia

FLRA UPHOLDS AFGE WIN AGAINST OFFICE OF CUBA BROADCASTING
The Federal Labor Relations Authority has upheld an arbitrator’s ruling in a case brought by AFGE that found the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) illegally used a reduction in force action to fire union activists and other employees who had been outspoken critics of the agency. In a November 2011 decision, an arbitrator ruled that former OCB Director Pedro Roig had ordered the RIF and conducted it in such a way to target employees who had spoken out to Government Accountability Office investigators. The arbitrator discounted agency claims that the RIF was necessary because of budget shortfalls and lack of work, finding compelling evidence that Roig rejected attempts to explore cost savings in other areas before implementing a RIF, because he wanted to use budget shortfalls to target employees. The agency also refused the union’s demand to bargain over the impact of the RIF as required under the negotiated labor-management agreement. The agency had appealed the arbitrator’s ruling, but the FLRA rejected every argument made by the agency. AFGE Assistant General Counsel Leisha Self, who represented the AFGE Local 1812 members in their grievance, said that the decision should put every agency on notice that they cannot use budget shortfalls or funding cuts as an excuse to go after specific federal workers who the agency doesn’t like. The FLRA’s decision should have cleared the way for the 16 employees who were separated or otherwise affected during the RIF to be reinstated without loss of seniority or benefits. However, BBG has appealed the FLRA’s ruling to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which will result in further delay for the employees.
DO YOU OR YOUR LOCAL NEED REPRESENTATION? The Legal Representation Fund now refunds to AFGE local unions $2,000 from the Fund, in winning cases handled by AFGE attorneys in which attorney’s fees are awarded and deposited into the Fund. These refunds help to offset some of the costs incurred by the Local going to arbitration. For more information on this unique AFGE program, which provides a free attorney for your back pay arbitrations, email AFGE’s Office of General Counsel at backpay@afge.org.

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