North Carolina: Call Senator Thom Tillis and Tell Him to Oppose Confirmation of Betsy DeVos As Secretary of Education

From the NALC e-Activist Network:

Our brothers and sisters in education, represented by the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, need our help.

The U.S. Senate soon will consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, and the vote looks to be split 50-50—which would result in the vice president casting the deciding vote. Only one more “no” will prevent confirmation of this nomination. Sen. Thom Tillis may be on the fence on this issue and he needs to hear from call-congress-2you in order to make his decision.

DeVos didn’t attend public schools or send her children to them. Instead, she has lobbied for vouchers, which take away public school funding and funnels it to private school funding. During her confirmation hearing, it was clear that she lacks the history and experience to lead the Department of Education. Her nomination is a direct threat to teachers, schools and children in the public education system. She also opposes teachers’ right to collective bargaining and her family has helped to fund paycheck deception and so-called “right to work” bills across the country.

Please join our brothers and sisters and tell your senators that we need an experienced, qualified Secretary of Education who actually wants to strengthen and improve all public schools.

Call (855) 882-6229 now and urge Sen. Thom Tillis to oppose Betsy DeVos.

Also: 5 Reasons to Oppose Betsy DeVos

I Never Cared Much About Politics. Then Trump Nominated Betsy DeVos to His Cabinet

Letter Carriers and Other Activists: Tell Your Representative to Oppose the PAGE Act

NALC Legislative Update

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) is preparing to introduce the Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency (PAGE) Act, a proposal that calls for taking away newly hired federal employees’ union representation and grant political appointees overseeing federal federal-employees_californialongtermcareagencies the power to terminate, demote and discipline workers’ for “good reason, bad reason, or no reason.”

The measure specifically calls for:

  • Making new federal employees “at will” workers.
  • Allowing agency heads to immediately suspend an employee without pay or appeal.
  • Subjecting pay raises to an arbitrary new formula that is still being developed.
  • Denying retirement benefits to anyone under investigation for a felony (including retirees).
  • Allowing agency heads to demote career executives and reduce their pay without cause.
  • Preventing union representation on the worksite.

Before Rokita formally introduces the measure, he is seeking other members of Congress to add their names as co-sponsor of the bill. NALC is urging letter carriers to contact their House members and urge them to oppose the PAGE Act.

Please call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for your representative, and ask him or her to reject the PAGE Act.

(Illustration page credit: californialongtermcare.com)

Also of interest: Anti-fed bill introduced; mark-up scheduled.

State action on anti-labor state proposals.

NALC: Five immediate threats to federal employees in 2017

NALC Legislative Update

With Congress and the White House in Republican control, the GOP is preparing to pursue an aggressive agenda against federal employees during the 115th Congress. Fortunately, NALC will be playing a larger role in the Federal-Postal Coalition, which represents 2 million civil servants from 30 organizations, by leading the coalition.

Based on what we know and have seen so far, there are at least five areas of concern for gop-logo2017:

1. Shrinking the federal workforce. President-elect Donald Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter,” which outlines proposals for his first 100 days in office, promises to immediately to reduce the size of the federal workforce by implementing a hiring freeze and by not filling vacancies. While it’s unclear how this would affect letter carriers and the U.S. Postal Service, it remains an obvious concern. This promise goes hand-in-hand with what lawmakers have planned. The House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee has indicated that a top priority in 2017 will be making it easier to fire “bad apples” in the federal workforce. Since 2009, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has called for across-the-board workforce reductions.

2. Reducing pay. In its first week of business, the House of Representatives passed a rules package that reinstated the “Holman Rule,” allowing for amendments to appropriations bills that would eliminate federal agencies, cut salaries and even terminate particular federal employees and eliminate positions. In addition, the GOP’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposed cutting civil servants’ pay by $318 billion. Lawmakers are going after the what they call “overcompensation” as a way to reduce the federal debt, despite the fact that $182 billion in deficit reduction savings has already been made on the backs of federal employees, thanks to past cuts made by Congress.

3. Shifting benefit contributions to workers. The 2016 budget, prepared by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), suggested forcing federal employees to pay an additional 6 percent of their salaries toward their retirement benefits without a corresponding increase in pay or benefits. This increase follows previous increases from the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” and from the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013,” which, combined, forced new employees to contribute between 3 and 4 percent more toward their health and retirement accounts without any pay increase or additional benefits.

4. Shutting down union business. Eight bills in the 114th Congress—H.R. 4392, H.R. 3600, H.Amdt. 149, H.Amdt. 646, H.R. 1658, H.R. 1658, H.R. 4361 and H.R. 6278—attempted to strip union-represented federal employees of the right official time (i.e., when union representatives represent their co-workers on government time). In fact, last February, Chaffetz sent several heads of federal agencies letters requesting the names, titles and salary grades of any employees who had used official time.

5. Chipping away retirement security. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) has often been proposed to serve as a kind of “piggy bank” for infrastructure and other spending, and we’re likely to see similar proposals resurface in the 115th Congress. In fact, the GOP’s 2016 budget would have raided nearly $32 billion from the TSP’s G Fund by reducing the rate of return on that fund’s investments. Under a previous proposal from the OGR Committee in the 114th Congress, new employees would be given a market-driven 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

Meanwhile, Speaker Ryan has suggested that he intends to use any momentum built up by attempts to repeal Obamacare to privatize Medicare, turning the entitlement program into a voucher system (emphasis added).

Stay alert and ready. NALC anticipates a very busy year for defending federal employees. Letter carriers should remain ready to respond to any legislation targeting civil servants.

Related: Your guide to activism in the 115th Congress.

Get the NALC member app.

Photo credit: GOP logo: daytondailynews.com

NALC: Your Guide to Activism in the 115th Congress

NALC Legislative Update

Jan 09, 2017

We’re bracing for a lot of activity on Capitol Hill in the 115th Congress, which means it’s important for us to begin the new year with strong relationships on both sides of the aisle. With lawmakers having already been sworn in and with an aggressive agenda ahead for civil servants, now’s the time to work on local relationships with your members of Congress.

capitol-hill-1We have always said that the U.S. Postal Service is not partisan. We need friends—rural and urban, red state and blue state—to be our allies. One way we can gain such friends is by simply sharing our stories with lawmakers who may be unaware of postal issues.

Whether it is six-day mail delivery, door delivery, service standards or postal reform, you are the local expert. Members of Congress can rely on your stories and personal input to help them make decisions in Washington.

The easiest way to put a face on the work that letter carriers do is by scheduling a meeting with your members of Congress and by sharing NALC’s issues. This is particularly important if you have a member who is new to Congress. Check out the congressional calendar to see when members will be home, and schedule your meeting well in advance. Many members of Congress also host town halls; to see a list of such events, click here.

Before you meet, do your research. Review your representative’s policy positions and press releases, and search the internet to see what they have been up to. Be prepared to relate NALC’s issues using your personal story, and leave behind a fact sheet. And always schedule a follow-up meeting for when they’re in the district next.

Your letter carrier congressional liaison can help. Get in touch with him or her to discuss how you can coordinate meetings with your representatives or to learn where your representatives stand on NALC’s issues. If you are unsure who your members of Congress are, click here to find your representative and click here to find your senators.

Be sure to use resources provided by NALC for activists. These include downloading the NALC Member App, signing up for e-Activist e-mail alerts and using our bill tracker to follow relevant legislation.

Related articles: Service standards resolution reintroduced.

Five immediate threats to federal employees in 2017.

115th Congress convenes.

The GOP: The Party of the Ethically Challenged

You know something is really bad wrong when one of your country’s two major parties decides, behind closed doors, to eviscerate the nation’s independent ethics committee on day-one of the new Congress. That’s what House GOP leadership attempted to do last week.

Meeting secretly the night before the new Congress was to begin, House Republicans voted gop-being-silly_getty-images119 to 74 to nullify the authority of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent body they created back in 2008 to investigate congressional ethics violations. The plan would have placed charges of corruption and ethical misconduct under the House Ethics Committee which is controlled by Republicans. Rules they planned to implement would have disallowed any findings be made public and that referrals to law enforcement couldn’t be made without their approval.

That was the clandestine plan of the House GOP last Monday, on the eve of Congress being gaveled into session. But fortunately, among all those ethically challenged GOP members there was at least one member who realized this was wrong and notified the media.

Once the word got out and the media–both social and news–got wind of the plan and relayed it to the American public, the response was overwhelming from all sides of the political spectrum.

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) told Bloomberg News the next day, “We have got just a tremendous number of calls to our office here and district offices concerned about this.”

As the result of the outcry against such a move, the House GOP was forced to back-peddle on the idea. At least for now.

A number of the media outlets gave credit for this turnabout to president-elect Donald Trump and his tweets on the matter. But they were wrong. Trump didn’t have a problem with the idea per se, just the timing of it. The timing wasn’t good, he said. And Trump is a master of timing.

Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum predicted that “they’ll ‘study changes’ and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.”

There is good reason for the GOP to be concerned about ethics and ethics violations. Their in-coming leader, president-elect Donald Trump, is ethically challenged. The man doesn’t have an ethical bone in his body, which should be obvious to anyone who has seen and heard him speak or tweet over the past year. He has huge ethical issues. And these issues are going to be addressed.

As a matter of fact, those ethical concerns have already been raised by the office that the House GOP tried to muzzle last week. Writing to Senate leaders the other day, the director of the OGE, Walter Shaub, expressed their concern over the cabinet hearings that are due to take place this week.

“During the presidential transition” writes , not all of the nominees presently scheduled for hearings have completed the ethics review process. In fact, OGE has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees scheduled for hearings.”

This, like most of what Donald Trump has done in his run for president, is unprecedented writes Shaub. Up until this week such financial disclosures have been required by the Ethics in Government Act, which was passed after the Watergate scandal.

“In the past,” writes Shaub, “the ethics work was fully completed prior to the announcement of nominees in the overwhelming majority of cases.”

Despite this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, says the confirmation hearing will proceed as scheduled this week. It should be noted that if every unethical bone were to be removed from Senator McConnell’s body, he would bear a striking resemblance to a large jelly fish.

Norm Ornstein, writing in The Atlantic, observes that “the core of America’s political system depends on real checks and balances, on a Congress that puts country ahead of party. The House leadership (has shown by its actions) that party comes first.”

Ethics shouldn’t be a partisan issue, it shouldn’t be a part of GOP ideology. Those of us who believe a strong democracy depends on our ethical values, need to do what we did last week and pressure our legislative leaders to do the right thing and require all the president-elect’s nominees to complete the required paperwork before they are voted on by Congress.

Who would have thought that we as American citizens would have to force our elected leaders to do the ethical thing, but unfortunately, we now live in such a time.

Related articles: Ready or not, Republicans say Cabinet hearings will begin Tuesday.

APNewsBreak: Several Trump picks’ ethics reviews incomplete.

The GOP ethics disaster.

The lesson to be learned from the GOP’s ethics fiasco.

Photo: GOP leadership having a good laugh, probably at the expense of America’s voters.

Photo credit: Getty Images

It’s a New Year, But the NC GOP is Up to Its Same Old Tricks

As the old year drew to a close and new one was about to begin, North Carolina Republicans, filed an “emergency motion” with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that special elections slated for the state in 2017 be declared null and void.

The special elections were ordered for the state after a federal court determined last year that over a quarter of its districts had been redrawn illegally, claiming that they were Ethics“racially gerrymandered.” The deadline for redrawing the districts is March 15 of this year with special elections to follow later in the year.

Attorneys for North Carolina’s GOP in submitting the petition called the court’s claims “erroneous,” “highly debatable” and “so obviously wrong.”

Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, posting on the Election Law Blog, commented that the object of the petition is fairly obvious. “The goal here,” he writes, “is to preserve as much Republican power in the state as possible despite the election of a Democratic governor, attorney general and a new majority in the State Supreme Court.”

Currently, as the result of their gerrymandering tactics, North Carolina Republicans have a veto-proof super majority and they would like to keep it that way. If voters have another opportunity to vote with re-drawn districts that more fairly represent the state, the GOP could lose that.

Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at UNC, says the petition is about politics. “It fits into the pattern of the legislative leadership and outgoing governor (Pat McCrory) trying to box Cooper in.”

Along those same lines, before lame-duck governor McCrory left office last week he signed into law a number of bills taking away the newly-elected governor’s powers. Among those was a law designed to take away his authority in making appointments to the state elections board. The incoming governor, Roy Cooper, responded with a lawsuit regarding the elections board law labeling it unconstitutional. A Wake County Superior Court judge has put a temporary hold on that law until the court can review it further later this week.

Cooper’s legal team says more lawsuits against the state’s GOP leadership will follow.

Regarding the NC GOP’s special petition, Rick Hasen says it “seems unlikely to succeed.”

Let’s hope so.

Also read: GOP legislative leaders ask US Supreme Court to halt 2017 elections.

North Carolina Republicans appear to make one last attempt to stick it to incoming Democratic governor.

North Carolina Republicans sue to preserve racial gerrymandering.

North Carolina GOP: “Curses, Foiled Again!”

Two weeks ago in a special surprise session of the North Carolina General Assembly, Republicans passed several laws aimed at stripping governor-elect Roy Cooper of his power to govern the state. The laws were quickly signed by outgoing governor Pat McCrory. Roy Cooper is a Democrat. North Carolina’s Republicans don’t believe Democrats snidely-whiplashshould have the same powers as they do, thus the making and the signing of the new laws.

When the laws were passed, Cooper said he had every intention of suing the state legislature. On Friday, December 30, Cooper made good on that promises, stating that a law ending the control governors have over statewide and county election boards was unconstitutional because it gives legislators too much control over how election laws are administered.

Currently, the board of elections has three members, with a majority from the governor’s party. The new law would undercut the governor’s authority by having it made up of four members, two from each party.

On Friday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Don Stephens ruled in Cooper’s favor, temporarily blocking the law that was due to go into effect on January 1, to coincide with Cooper being sworn in as North Carolina’s governor. Stating that the law was a risk to free and fair elections, Stephens said he would review the proposed law in more detail next week.

No doubt, Republicans will be irate.

Curses, foiled again!

In addition to Cooper’s lawsuit against the state legislature, this past Wednesday the Republican-controlled state board of education said it would be suing the state legislature as well. In this lawsuit Republicans will be suing members of their own party.

The board of education is suing because one of the new special session surprise laws transfers many of its powers over to the state’s newly elected Republican state superintendent of public instruction. That lawsuit, like the one filed by Cooper, claims that this new law is also unconstitutional.

See also: The latest, NC: Law stripping gov.-elect’s power blocked.

North Carolina court temporarily blocks laws stripping governor’s power.

North Carolina judge temporarily blocks law that strips incoming Democratic governor’s power.

Illustration: Snidely Whiplash from Rocky and Bullwinkle Wiki.