‘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.

Together, One Powerful Voice

By Craig Schadewald, Vice-President, North Carolina State Association of Letter Carriers

As I write this article, it is the month of February. Since 1976 every President has officially designated February as Black History Month. One notable African American is Rosa Parks, civil rights activist widely known for her arrest in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks’ challenge of authority international-civil-rights-museum-1to assert her rights as an American and human being became an important moment in the American Civil Rights movement.

Another notable Civil Rights moment occurred in our own state in Greensboro, North Carolina. On February 1, 1960 four freshmen (Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond) attending NC A&T University sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter at F. W. Woolworth protesting racial segregation. This act of courage fueled the sit-in movements and led to positive results for human and civil rights.

The Woolworth building is now the home of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum where you can see the lunch counter and stools where the four students sat. Greensboro is the site of our Region 9 Rap Session this August. I would encourage attendees to visit the museum. We union members could learn something from those who stood (or sat) together in an attempt to achieve their goals during the Civil Rights movement.

The actions of Rosa Parks and the “Greensboro Four” were courageous to say the least. However, without the actions of the thousands of people who joined in support of the movement, there likely would not have been positive changes enacted.

We have similar thinking in our union movement with the motto, “in unity lies our strength.” Like those mentioned above, our NALC leaders can be the spark to our actions on our legislative issues, but we need our members to take action individually. When I hear, members say I’m just one call, my Congressmen won’t do anything, I follow with, how do you know if you don’t try? Your call may be the one that helps persuade your Representative to side with our position.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” James Baldwin-African American novelist, playwright, poet wrote.

We all need to at least make an attempt.  Most people know you can’t hit the ball if you don’t swing the bat! Although we are acting individually, you are not the lone voice; together our voices are many forming one powerful voice as we pursue positive change for the USPS, our livelihoods and our customers.

There are pieces of legislation being introduced in the new Congress that if enacted could be good for us being postal employees, federal employees and union members, but unfortunately on the flip-side, there are many that would have extremely harmful effects on us, our employer and union.

If you’re not an e-Activist, sign up now. Contribute to the Letter Carrier Political Fund. Attend Branch meetings. We need everyone to stay alert and act when called upon. Our strength is in our collective efforts. Imagine what we can accomplish.

I’ll end with this quote, “At the time of my arrest I had no idea it would turn into this. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of people joined in.” – Rosa Parks.

(Photo credit: Visit North Carolina)

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.

Rep. Virginia Foxx’s Plan For Organized Labor: Hell On Earth

With Donald Trump due to become president next month, what does that mean for America’s workers, blue collar workers, America’s middle class? During his campaign Trump said he would do for the middle class what previous administrations had neglected to do: to ensure that wages and benefits improved and to see to it that those who were unemployed would  find gainful employment. A lot of working people, tired of struggling to keep a roof over their heads, voted for him based on his promises to help them have a better quality of life. Now that he’s been elected and will take office in January, will those virginia-foxx_dailykos-compromises become a reality for the working class over the next four years?

Based on his past performance before his election, his selection of potential cabinet members, and the fact that both the House and Senate are controlled by the Republican Party, the answer is: not likely.

Not only will those promises made on the campaign trail regarding the working class of America not become reality, but the plight of the American worker–the middle class–will become increasingly more dire.

Take for example the position of the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, North Carolina’s own Virginia Foxx. Back in September Ms. Foxx was hopeful she would become that committee’s chairperson. In an interview with Politico she admitted she had big plans for the future of education and labor should she become the committee’s chairperson. Big plans indeed.

After stating that a Donald Trump administration would be “akin to heaven on Earth” compared with the Obama administration’s labor policies, she articulated plans that would help make this “heaven on Earth” scenario a reality. A reality for big business. A reality for big banks. A reality for America’s one percent. A reality, in general, for the 21st century’s robber barons.

However, for the working class, her plans and the Trump administration’s plans will be more akin to hell on Earth.

In an interview with Reuters a couple of days ago when it was announced that Ms. Foxx would become that committee’s chairman next month, Ms. Foxx opined that organized labor has “sort of lost its reason for being,” stating that it is no longer necessary because of the many laws that have been enacted to protect workers.

However, even if that statement were true–which it isn’t–Ms. Foxx’s plans regarding workers in the new administration would make organized labor extremely relevant because she plans over the next four years to dismantle every conceivable law that has ever been passed to benefit and protect workers.

Among the many items on her To Do List are the following:

  • To repeal a wide range of Obama’s regulations that benefit workers and “to do whatever we can to stop the rules coming out of the Labor Department–either block them or repeal them.”
  • Will work to repeal the National Labor Relations Board’s rule that is designed to speed up union elections.
  • Hold hearings to reexamine the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Eliminate a rule that would extend mandatory overtime pay to more than four million workers.
  • Repeal the National Labor Relations Board’s revised standard for “joint employment” making it easier for unions and regulators to hold companies accountable for the employment practices of staffing agencies, contractors and franchises with which they partner.

Of course, Ms. Foxx is aware that the Democratic Party will take issue with these and other plans to bolster companies bottom lines at the expense of the worker. Her response?

“I think that they (Democrats) will bring up their tired arguments about how we are destroying the world by doing the things that we’re doing, but frankly I think this last election shows that the American people aren’t buying those arguments anymore.”

However, we would argue that the “American people” weren’t aware that the destruction of labor and the middle class was what they were actually voting for. We’ll see what their response is when these plans become more apparent.

(photo credit: dailykos.com)

Read: New House labor committee chair questions need for unions.

Virginia Foxx makes play for House education and labor committee chairmanship.