AFGE Mobilizes Members to Counter Anti-Worker Schemes

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Faced with anti-worker schemes by Congress' ruling Republicans right out of the starting gate, and an incoming Republican president who wants to freeze and cut the federal work force, the nation's largest federal workers union plans to mobilize its members, fast.

"The bottom line is that all of our members and all government employees could see our jobs outsourced and our agencies eliminated," American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox warned in a Jan. 12 conference call with tens of thousands of activists.

"We've already seen three pieces of legislation introduced” in the Republican-run U.S. House “attacking federal workers" just since the 115th Congress convened on Jan. 3, he said.

AFGE now has more than 310,000 active members, marking continued years of growth. And it will start a retiree affiliate to help augment those numbers in lobbying and out in the field, Cox told a retiree from Minnesota.

But members and retirees may have to move quickly to defend themselves. With a totally GOP-led government, Cox predicted anti-worker legislation could pass "within 60 days."

The most-immediate threats the federal government’s 2.2. million workers face include:


            * The Holman Rule, a provision the GOP successfully inserted in the rules of the House to let any lawmaker offer a provision to a money bill that could target an individual federal worker for firing or for a pay cut to $1 a year, or target an agency or group of workers for outright elimination.


            * The Page Act, reintroduced by Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., to all federal workers "employees at will" subject to management whims -- up to and including firing -- at any time and for any reason, or none at all.


            * Legislation to ban pay for the time federal union reps elected as shop stewards take to work out problems and handle grievances on the job.


"The Page Act will affect every federal agency, and we'll try to kill it," union Legislative Director Thomas Kahn told listeners on the conference call. Not only would Rokita's bill let bosses fire workers "for good cause, no cause or bad cause" but it would also restrict workers' rights to appeal those firings and other discipline, he noted. "And it greatly restricts our ability" as a union "to do our business" for both members and non-members whom AFGE represents.

To mobilize its members and other federal workers, AFGE assembled a tool kit, posted on its website, on how to contact lawmakers -- on employees' own time, own computers and own dime, Cox emphasized -- along with where and when. At it will send its regional vice presidents and other experts out to any of its locals that requests specialized training.            

Some AFGE locals have already banded together for joint appearances at lawmakers' home offices, especially in Pennsylvania. There, Elena Mullions told colleagues on the conference call "individuals gather together" on their lunch hours "in front of" Republican Sen. "Pat Toomey's district offices" to show their concerns.

Cox also said workers should emphasize the economic importance of federal facilities, services and workers to local communities and their economies. They should especially make that pitch to the new House Republican members. "In many areas, our entities -- defense bases, hospitals, prisons -- are the largest employers," he noted. Closures and cuts in those employers would devastate local communities.

Cox himself has already sounded the same theme in visits to more than 100 lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill, from both parties. He noted not all Republicans are hostile, and reminded his activists to thank those – he singled out Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, for praise – who back federal workers.

"We need to tell them about the vital services we provide -- holding the hands of near-and-dear veterans taking their last breaths," in VA hospitals, "protecting the border, and making sure our Social Security checks go out," among others, Cox told worker Robin Nicholas, who called from Michigan.

And there's one other point Cox drolly noted that workers could use in their e-mails, letters, phone calls and visits to solons' district offices: NIMBY. "I hear them (lawmakers) say, 'I want less government,' but I've not heard them say 'Please shut my VA medical center' or 'Please close my military base,'" the union leader commented.


Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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