Cox: AFGE to Push End of Sequestration

WASHINGTON (PAI)–The American Federation of Government Employees will push lawmakers, especially in a coming lame-duck session, to end “sequestration,” the GOP-mandated federal budget cutting that hampers government services to all Americans, union President J. David Cox says.  And that’s no matter who leads Congress, he adds.

Cox set that goal during a November 5 post-election telephone press conference.


Sequestration, which could take effect again next year, particularly hit the federal workers his union represents, freezing their pay, increasing their pension contributions – without a corresponding payout promise – and, thanks to a shutdown, reducing their paychecks.


“We’ll be fighting to end sequestration, not just amend it,” Cox said.  It cuts everything from protecting airplane passengers to staffing federal prisons to inspecting food to providing veterans hospital services, said Cox, a retired Veterans Administration nurse.


To end sequestration, “We’ll encourage the outgoing” – and lame-duck – “Congress to pass a full fiscal year budget” for the year that runs through nextSeptember 30, he explained.   Lawmakers are due to return to D.C. in mid-November and a current, temporary budget expires on December 11.


A full-year budget “will let Americans and employees know” what spending levels and policies will be in effect, Cox added.  Other leaders’ reactions to the election results varied:


Teachers President Randi Weingarten hailed Democratic businessman Tom Wolf’s defeat of Pennsylvania GOP governor Tom Corbett, virtually the only incumbent Republican governor to lose.  Corbett slashed education spending, particularly in minority-majority Philadelphia. Weingarten called Wolf’s win “a clear and resounding rebuke of Corbett and those politicians intent on stripping our schools of funding, ignoring the needs of children, parents and communities, and blaming educators to score political points.”


Communications Workers President Larry Cohen warned of coming attacks on the National Labor Relations Board and workers’ rights. He called Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., incoming Labor Committee chair, “the newest worst expert on U.S. labor law.”  Alexander wants “to render the NLRB useless,” Cohen says.


“The big Alexander fabrication is his contention that he would return the board to its initial umpire status…But in the U.S., with union-busting management and their $1,000-per-hour corporate lawyers hiding behind free speech rights, collective bargaining in the private sector is on the verge of extinction.


“Now the Republican Party and its ‘labor’ leadership want to return to 19th-century capitalism,” including “laissez-faire capitalism and a race to the bottom – cutting wages and worker protections rather than adopting national trade policy that sets minimum standards for imports that include labor rights.”


To stop that policy, CWA will kick off “a week of action” next week to halt Obama’s plan, which the GOP supports, to enact “fast track” trade promotion authority.  Fast-track eliminates worker rights in trade pacts and forces Congress to vote on them without changes.  “We’ll demand the White House and Congress put citizens before the corporate and financial interests that already define and dominate the global economy,” the union said.


Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley hailed voters in five metro areas who approved pro-mass transit referenda, some of which raised taxes for expansion.  “Hopefully Congress will get the message” from the votes in Atlanta, the Bay Area, Seattle, Bay City, Mich., and Rossford County, Ohio, he added.  “The people of these communities have spoken at the ballot box, and they want more public transit and are willing to pay more taxes to make that happen,” he said.


Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan said the new GOP-run Congress may actually surprise everybody and act on national problems, such as infrastructure.  “Safe roads and bridges are not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue,” he said.  He also urged lawmakers to “secure energy independence and unlock hundreds of thousands of good jobs by passing a long-term fully funded transportation bill and encouraging a sound all-of-the-above energy policy,” and to “tackle comprehensive immigration reform and make the necessary changes to the Affordable Care Act so that multi-employer plans, which have responsibly and effectively provided healthcare for generations, are not dismantled and destroyed.

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