‘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.

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.

The Irony of Working Class Americans Voting For Trump

In the November 8th elections, unions failed to deliver four very important Rust Belt states for Hillary Clinton: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio. This despite the fact that unions spent over $100 million on Clinton’s campaign. They thought it might be tight in those key states but, like so many others come election night, they were shocked by the results. As Steven Greenhouse wrote in The New York Times’ “What Unions Got Wrong About Trump,” union leaders were not on the same page with many working class donald-trump_champion-of-the-working-classfamilies. There was a definite disconnect between the leaders and the membership.

Donald Trump managed to do what the unions and Hillary Clinton didn’t do. He told them what they wanted to hear. He was going to make the middle class great again.

Leo Gerard, president of the steelworkers, wrote in a letter to his 600,000 members, that while the economy had improved, “the growth has failed to stimulate the manufacturing sector because of our nation’s failed trade policies….Trump used our own words to speak to these problems, and to the real suffering, fears and anxieties that so many feel.”

Based on Trump’s past practice and his rhetoric, his policies will do anything but make the middle class great again. Instead of making it greater, chances are good that he will make it crater.

Among the actions he will likely take will be reversing most of President Obama’s executive orders concerning labor issues like that of requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, provide for paid sick leave and paying a $10.00 minimum wage. In addition to rescinding those executive orders, he is likely to nominate to the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia, an anti-union judge. He or she, once confirmed, will likely rule along with the other conservative judges that government employees can’t be required to pay any fees to support the unions that must represent them when grievances are filed. Essentially the Supreme Court could make every state in the country a ‘right to work’ state. This would go a long way toward reducing union membership even further.

At last count, only 11 percent of America’s workers belonged to unions. That’s down from 35 percent in the 1950s.

There is definitely a correlation between the middle class and unions. As unions steadily decline, so does America’s middle class.

Jacob Hacker, political-science professor at Yale University notes the irony: “Unions are probably the most consistent voice for the broad middle class of any organization today, yet the voice of the middle class was seen as an important part of Donald Trump’s victory. The further decline of labor is going to hurt many members of the middle class”

Those white, middle class workers who turned out in droves and voted for Donald Trump based on his promises of prosperity, will eventually realize they had been bamboozled. But by then, it will be too late to do anything about it.

As one long-time union member observed after the election, Trump’s victory could very well be “an extinction-level event for American labor.”

We are anxiously awaiting to hear who Trump plans to nominate for Secretary of Labor.

Read: What Unions Got Wrong About Trump.

Trump Presidency Could Kill Labor Unions.

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.

 

 

Election 2016: Pent-Up Anger Rules the Day

Will the American electorate come to rue the day?

network_howard-beale_as-mad-as-hell

Have you ever seen the 1976 film “Network”? The main character is Howard Beale, a news anchor who is known as “The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves.” It’s obvious to everyone at the network that Howard has some mental issues and should be seeing a psychiatrist. But they keep him on the air because of his ratings. Viewers love him! When he’s on the air, the ratings at the network soar! Yes, Howard may be a loose cannon and he may say stuff that’s way out there in right field, but what he says resonates with his audience.

At one point in the film Howard really goes off the deep end and delivers a rant that has been called one of the most iconic in film history. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. If you would like to see that particular scene from the movie, go to Google and type in “mad as hell speech” or go here.

Even though the film came out in 1976, it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Here’s a snippet of Beale’s rant:

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad–worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy….” And this is how he proposes his viewers respond to what’s happening in the world:

“I want you to get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a human being! My life has value!’….I want you to get up right now and go to your window. Open it, stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!….Things have gotta change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!….”

What Howard Beale advocated in the film “Network” is basically what happened in America on November 8, 2016. On that date, millions of Americans, many of them white, middle-class workers and the working poor who have been struggling to keep their heads above water for their entire adult lives, decided to vent on election day. This anger had been building for a long time and the media, politicians, the pollsters, and even labor failed to recognize it. But there was one man who saw it and who capitalized on it.

Donald J. Trump.

Yes, these American citizens were as mad as hell and they decided they weren’t going to take it anymore. And there on their TV screen and perhaps in a venue somewhere in their state, there was a guy who understood their anger and frustration. He got it.

But instead of going to their windows and shouting, they did something much better. They went to the polls and did their shouting by voting. At the end of the day, their voices were reverberating through a stunned nation. They never saw it coming. Most everyone said it was going to be Hillary, but lo and behold, it was Donald who came out the winner.

So what exactly made these folks so angry? What caused them to turn out and vote for a reality TV star who had absolutely no public service record of any kind, a man who had said so many absurd and shocking things, alienating a huge swathe of the country?

Why the anger? Why vote for Trump?

They were angry because their government hadn’t been taking them seriously, had been making them promises that it hadn’t kept. Year after year they had been sold a bill of goods by their presidents and their representatives in Washington, lots of feel good rhetoric with no substance, the selling of the sizzle but the withholding of the promised steak.

These American citizens, many of whom were white working class, the working poor, the under-employed and the unemployed, were angry because they had seen their paychecks buy less and less, while Wall Street executives and the CEOs of big corporations had made more and more, millions more.

They were hot under the collar because they had seen foreclosures on their homes or businesses, or both, while the top one percent of the nation lived lavish lifestyles and the wealthy politicians in Washington sat on their duffs and wouldn’t lift a single finger to help them or punish the greedy. And then when they did lift a finger, it was usually the one in the middle.

These American citizens, your neighbors and mine–and quite possibly you–were livid over seeing their insurance premiums and medical bills skyrocket, who had seen their good paying jobs go overseas. Remember, it was Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, who saddled us with NAFTA.

They were fed up with the elitists and the establishment they represented, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired, of living under the heel of the status quo. They were boiling mad because despite the fact they were working harder and longer hours, they were incurring more and more debt.

They wanted change, the kind of change that Donald Trump was promising them, and by god they were going to get it!

Quite frankly, much of this anger was justified. If that many people perceived that our country was headed in the wrong direction, then their perception was and is their reality.

But here’s the problem. The solution they chose to solve their problems was misdirected. President-elect Donald J. Trump is not the solution to their grievances. He may make America great again, but it won’t be for them. It will be great for the one percent, the high-rollers, the folks who have been having it great for quite some time now. America will be greater for them.

Although the white working class folks who voted for Trump can’t see it now–and it’s senseless to try and convince them otherwise–it will eventually become obvious to many of them that they chose the wrong candidate, and the wrong party, to address their problems. And the sad irony is that the candidates they elected are only going to make the situation here in America much worse.

There was a reason the NALC and other unions supported Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump. Many of the country’s unions backed Mrs. Clinton because of her past record with working people. No, she wasn’t a perfect candidate, there never is. However, she was far and away better than the man who by his past words and actions, has shown no inclination toward helping working Americans. None. And I believe time will bear this out.

Labor could have worked with Hillary Clinton. But now, with the White House, the Senate and the House in the hands of the GOP, we have a formidable, uphill climb ahead of us. Not only is postal reform at risk, but so are our pensions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health care, just to name a few. By writing this we’re not trying to shame those who voted for Trump. However, we hope that once you discover the truth about this man and his administration, you will join with others in labor in channeling our anger in the right direction.