Health care bill: ‘Mean’: Tell your senators not to take away health care from millions of working people

NALC Legislative Dept

Vote likely coming later this week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the Better Care Reconciliation Act last week, following seven years of promising the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and after weeks of negotiations following the House of Representatives’ passage of the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), a bill that the Senate said it could not health care bill 4and would not pass.

The Senate’s legislation, which is different from what the House passed in May, is expected to be voted on in the Senate in the coming days, before senators depart Washington, DC, for the July 4 recess. Following that vote, the Senate and House bills will need to be reconciled before a single bill heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature. Both measures are projected to increase the number of Americans who are uninsured by about 23 million.

Among the defining characteristics of the legislation are provisions to deregulate insurance companies, which would allow them to charge older and sicker Americans more for health insurance, and to eliminate the individual mandate to buy health insurance and the mandate for larger companies (with 50 or more employees) to provide employer-sponsored health coverage.

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Tell Congress to Reject the White House’s FY 2018 Budget Proposals

NALC Legislative Dept.

June 16, 2017

It’s time to hit the phones.

Budget talks for Fiscal Year 2018 are happening on Capitol Hill and they began with the White House calling for inexcusable hits to federal employees’ retirement benefits and to The White House Fiscal Year 2018 budget is placed on tables by House staff members in Washingtoncuts to the Postal Service, including:

  • Increased pension contributions for all federal employees (1 percent a year for six years— $3,600 pay cut for letter carriers).
  • Eliminating COLAs for current and future annuitants under FERS and reducing COLAs for those under CSRS.
  • Reductions in pension benefits by basing annuities on high-5 instead of high-3.
  • $46 billion in cuts to the Postal Service (through service and delivery cuts).

This is just the tip of the iceberg of unacceptable proposals laid out by the White House in its budget request. NALC opposes such attacks on earned benefits, attacks that serve only to hurt working-class families.

Call your House and Senate representatives and let them know that we oppose such measures—and that they should, too. Tell them that we have given enough—that they need to keep federal and postal employee retirement benefits off-limits and to reject service and delivery cuts at the Postal Service.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to tell your House representative and both of your senators to oppose such measures.

‘Official Time’ Bills Introduced in House, Cleared in Committee

NALC Legislative Update

Earlier this month, two pieces of legislation regarding the use of official time were introduced and passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The first bill (H.R. 1293), which was introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) would require that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) submit an annual report to Congress Capitol 1outlining the use of official time by federal employees. H.R. 1293 would require each agency to provide OPM with an annual report that includes: total amount of official time granted to employees; average amount of official time expended per bargaining unit employee; specific types of activities or purposes for which official time was granted; the impact of granting official time had on agency operations; the total number of employees whom official time was granted, total amount of benefits and compensation for those granted official time and a description of designated spaced used for official time activities.

The second measure, the Official Time Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 1364) was introduced by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), which would limit the use of official time by federal employees. Unlike previous versions of this legislation or official time amendments offered in the past, H.R. 1364 goes one step further by stripping employees on official time from receiving credible service under Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). During the markup, an amendment was also offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA) and accepted by the committee which would limit bonuses for those employees using official time.

Official time, which has been in place since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 has proven to be an invaluable tool for both labor and management to address workplace safety and working conditions, discrimination, training, efficiency and operational improvements and other union representational activity. The markup of both bills extended over a three-day period due to the contentious manner which the bills were being negotiated setting an unharmonious tone for future committee business.

“[H.R. 1364] would set a terrible precedent,” said Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) citing that it would “to strip the pensions of one group of employees they do not like: union members.”

While NALC’s review of both pieces of legislation indicates that neither would cover the Postal Service, NALC is adamantly opposed to bills that seek to undermine the rights of employees in the workplace.

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.

Uncertain Times

craig-schadewald_letter-carriers-for-hillaryBy Craig Schadewald, Vice-President, North Carolina State Association of Letter Carriers

Americans have cast their votes and Donald Trump is our president-elect. It’s unfortunate on a union-labor side of things, that our endorsed candidate wasn’t successful in her bid towards the presidency.

It is funny how this election stuff works; Clinton didn’t win, although she received more votes nationally than her opponent, Donald Trump. But the Electoral College process is how our country’s election system works and we must accept the outcome.

Another unfortunate issue is the lower turn-out of voters than we had in the last presidential election. I understand folks may not have liked either candidate, but men and women of our military have sacrificed, put their lives on the line, have been injured, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice, all to allow Americans to choose a leader of our democracy.

At the time of this election there were 241 million people of voting age in America, with 200 million registered to vote. Only 124 million people cast a ballot for president. Just under half of the voting age people chose to not vote. There were 5 million ballots less this year than in the 2012 presidential election, when 129 million voted.

These low numbers are not unusual. Since the 70’s voter turnout percentages for Presidential elections has been in the 50’s range. I believe it is our duty as Americans to vote, not only to choose a leader but to honor the sacrifices of our fellow Americans protecting our right to vote.

I realize many of our members did not support or vote for the union endorsed candidates, and that is their right and I accept that. What I don’t accept is how rude and nasty a few of our own members were to the NALC releases or volunteers when politely contacted asking for their support for the NALC candidates.

For those members who did not support the NALC candidates, you must understand the NALC endorses and supports candidates based on their positions regarding workplace issues important to letter carriers and in support of a strong postal service and the right for us to have a union to include collective bargaining. So it shouldn’t have been a shock with who our union endorsed and worked hard for in an attempt to get them elected. Our North Carolina NALC campaign releases worked many long hours to get the union’s message out and were aided by member volunteers, in hopes of getting our pro-letter carrier candidates elected.

Although, it didn’t play out the way we, as a union wished, I can’t thank our releases and volunteers enough. You put social issues aside and focused on what would help letter carriers with regards to the postal service, union activities and workplace issues and did it in a polite, non-confrontational and professional manner.

So where do we go from here during these uncertain times? Based on our President-elect actions and comments during his campaign, corporate life and his proposals for America, it may not be good for federal employees and unions, including letter carriers and the NALC. He has stated the second thing he will do within his first 100 days is place a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety and public health). I don’t need to remind you, letter carriers are federal employees.

His actions regarding unions, recognizing unions and contracts, has much to be desired. Take a look at what he is doing to his hotel employees in Las Vegas. Maybe he will spare us, who knows? But don’t be shocked if he doesn’t.

Had we prevailed in electing more pro-letter carrier candidates, we definitely would be in a better position to move our issues forward. Unfortunately, the NALC will now be required to expend more resources in hopes of maintaining the benefits and working conditions for all active and retired letter carriers.

The election is over and now it is time for all letter carriers to come together to ensure the postal service continues to provide quality service, six days a week, to include door delivery to businesses and households. You will be asked in the future to support your union if legislation develops attacking your job and benefits. We have been in this position before and I have no doubt our NALC officers at the national and state levels will work hard to protect letter carriers, the postal service and our customers, but we will need your help. I hope that’s something you can support.

I’d like to wish all of our members and their families a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday Season and a Healthy New Year.