NARFE Chapter 0717 News

 

Electronic copies  of our newsletters are available from the links to the left. Our newsletters are published monthly, except for July and August.

NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, August 3, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“This week, the Senate approved a 1.9 percent average pay increase for federal workers in 2019. That’s a big step towards ensuring our nation’s public servants receive a modest raise to keep up with rising private-sector pay in a time of economic prosperity. Now we need to make sure the House also approves the well-deserved pay bump for middle-class federal employees, who come to work every day dedicated to helping the American public.”

Senate Passes Federal Employee Pay Raise for 2019

The Senate passed a bill on August 1 that would provide civilian federal employees an average raise of 1.9 percent in January 2019. If signed into law, pay rates will increase by 1.4 percent across-the-board, and locality pay rates would increase by an average of 0.5 percent.

The raise was included in a package of four appropriations bills bundled into one “minibus,” H.R. 6147. The minibus passed by a vote of 92-6. The House did not include a pay raise in its version of the legislation. The bills now go to conference to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

NARFE members should contact their representatives and urge them to support the Senate’s version and include a pay raise for federal employees. Without congressional action, federal pay will be kept stagnant by the Trump administration, which has clearly stated its intention to freeze federal pay for calendar year 2019.

NARFE expresses its sincere appreciation to the Senate for advancing this modest pay increase, and particularly to Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, the chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, for including the pay raise in the subcommittee’s bill. NARFE President Richard G. Thissen and NARFE Oklahoma Federation President Randy Freeland requested the inclusion of the pay raise in a letter to Sen. Lankford in June.

Grassroots Corner

This week marks the beginning of August – NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month. In August, members of Congress return to their home states and districts from Washington, DC, to meet with constituents and listen to the concerns of their community. Because of this, August is NARFE's Grassroots Advocacy Month and the perfect opportunity to make your voice heard. During August, we hope you take time to advocate on your own behalf and that of the federal community. Click here to view grassroots resources and guidelines for your advocacy efforts this August. You must be logged in to view NARFE’s grassroots materials.

How should you take action during Grassroots Advocacy Month? Click here to watch a short video of two NARFE members explaining how you can participate in Grassroots Advocacy Month. We need every NARFE member to take action in order to prevent threats to the federal community from becoming law.

Click on the links below to send a message, call or tweet your legislators via NARFE's Legislative Action Center regarding NARFE's “Big 3” legislative priorities.

Thank you for contacting your legislators this August about NARFE’s “Big 3” legislative priorities. NARFE’s advocacy department appreciates your efforts. If you have questions about how to participate in advocacy activities this August, please contact advocacy@narfe.org.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis until September 7

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 7.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to August 3, 2018

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NARFE Headquarters, July 27, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“The House is now adjourned for the August recess, with the Senate scheduled to adjourn later in August. With legislators back in their home districts, the beginning of August marks the commencement of NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month. Below you will find tools to protect your earned pay and benefits and advocate for yourself and the federal community throughout this lengthy congressional recess. August provides the best opportunity to meet with your legislators, attend town hall events and build relationships with your senators and representatives at community events. Start preparing today!”

Representatives Introduce Resolution in Opposition to Postal Privatization

A bipartisan coalition of representatives launched a legislative response to the Trump administration’s proposal to privatize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). On July 16, Reps. Rodney Davis, R-IL, and Stephen Lynch, D-MA, introduced H.Res. 993 with original cosponsors: Reps. Don Young, R-AK; Paul Cook, R-CA; Brian Mast, R-FL; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA; Stephanie Murphy, D-FL; Marcia Fudge, D-OH; Cedric Richmond, D-LA; and David Loebsack, D-IA. This legislation would express the sense of the House that, “Congress should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the United States Postal Service remains an independent establishment of the Federal Government and is not subject to privatization.” Since introduction, H.Res. 993 was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and garnered the bipartisan support of 48 cosponsors. NARFE wholeheartedly opposes privatization of the Postal Service and supports the resolution.

The authoring representatives cite higher prices and reduced services, specifically for rural communities, as a supporting argument for why USPS should remain a public entity. They also cite the negative impacts privatization would have on the currently prosperous e-commerce sector and claim that privatizing USPS would “cripple a major part of the Nation’s critical infrastructure.” Privatizing USPS would jeopardize the agency’s constitutional obligation to provide universal service, which it has provided for more than a century. Privatization would also put postal employees in a precarious position and would threaten their jobs, pay, and health and retirement security.

This resolution seeks to counter a proposal put forward by the White House to privatize USPS as part of its reorganization plan, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations."

Senate Holds Hearing on Proposal to Transfer OPM Functions to GSA

Senators began a deep dive into specific proposals put forth in the president’s reorganization plan, scrutinizing how they will make government more efficient and how they will be executed. On July 26, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management held a hearing, titled “The Challenges and Opportunities of the Proposed Government Reorganization on OPM and GSA", at which Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Jeff Pon and General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy acted as the subcommittee’s witnesses. The focus of the hearing was a proposal within the administration’s reorganization plan to move functions within OPM to GSA, expanding its mission. Prior to the hearing, NARFE sent a letter to the subcommittee highlighting concerns with the reorganization proposal, which you can read by clicking here.

Administrator Murphy explained that GSA plays a role of mission support for other agencies by providing administrative services delivery and implementation. According to Murphy, a transfer of OPM human resources solutions, federal retirement services and healthcare and insurance administrative responsibilities fits well within GSA’s skillset. The witnesses further maintained that efficiency and effectiveness would be gained by having GSA act as a centralized “one-stop-shop” for agency support services. Additionally, Director Pon stated his belief that by allowing OPM to jettison its transactional and administrative functions, the agency would have a renewed focus on personnel policy and strategy matters, such as employee compensation, workforce supply and demand, identification of workforce skills, as well as leadership and talent management.

Pon and Murphy revealed that the reorganization of their agencies will be done in phases. They said that they are far along in the first phase, the transfer of OPM human resources solutions to GSA. In fact, they convened task forces to explore the details of this change and are currently exploring if they are able to execute the transfer unilaterally with administrative authority, or if it requires congressional oversight. Meanwhile, the agencies have much farther to go in exploring the rest the proposals regarding OPM and GSA, which will be further developed in later phases of the reorganization.

NARFE has grave concerns about the reorganization plan’s proposal to transfer OPM’s programmatic functions to GSA, as they may not receive the attention they are due. Federal employees work hard in exchange for their modest retirement benefits, and more than eight million people rely on the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. Congress must give careful consideration to the risk that a new agency, “the Government Services Administration,” with larger responsibilities may not be able to properly prioritize these vitally important programs.

NARFE also objects to moving federal personnel policy responsibilities to the Executive Office of the President, as this threatens to pull the federal civil service into a politicized environment. This especially raises red flags since the current administration demonstrated a disdain for the civil service by proposing a myriad of severe cuts to earned federal employee pay and benefits. We must ensure that federal hiring and firing remains merit-based and far removed from political strife. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, pressed Pon on this subject, to which he replied that the oath he swore to defend the merit system would overcome any pressure put on him to make HR decisions based on politics.

Grassroots Corner

With the House entering its five-week congressional recess, NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month has officially begun. Now is the best time to address your concerns with legislators because it is the longest period legislators spend in their state/district.

Not sure how you should take action to protect your earned pay and benefits during this time? NARFE’s advocacy department has you covered. Simply visit the advocacy page of the NARFE website or click here to find a brand new section of NARFE’s advocacy page dedicated to Grassroots Advocacy Month. There, you’ll find materials to refer to as you participate in August advocacy activities.

The “Big 3” legislative priorities NARFE members should address with legislators during Grassroots Advocacy Month are:

  • Support a Modest Pay Increase for Federal Employees in 2019
  • Prevent Federal Benefits Cuts
  • Modify Postal Reform Legislation

Click on one of the three issues above to be directed to NARFE’s Legislative Action Center where you can send a message to, call or tweet your legislators about that issue. For more information about these proposals, review the August 2018 Talking Points, also known as the “Big 3” Talking Points, here.

For the next five weeks, in lieu of the Legislative Hotline, NARFE’s advocacy department will send information about how to take action to address the most pressing issues affecting the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. Stay tuned! Questions about Grassroots Advocacy Month should be directed to the advocacy department at advocacy@narfe.org.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis until September 7

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 7.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to July 27, 2018

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NARFE Headquarters, July 20, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“Due-process protections for the civil service are a pillar of what makes the workforce effective. Without basic due-process rights, federal employees become vulnerable to political retribution and interference, which inhibits their ability to serve the American public. We must ensure that federal workers are insulated from political strife. Legislation aimed at attacking due process can only be viewed as yet another attack on the federal workforce, and it’s unfortunate the House advanced such legislation this week.”

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Reorganization Plan

On July 18, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing, titled “Reviewing the Administration’s Government Reorganization Proposal,” at which the Deputy Director of Management for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Margaret Weichert, served as the committee’s only witness. Prior to the hearing, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to committee members sharing NARFE’s grave concerns with aspects of the reorganization plan.

During the hearing, committee members raised numerous concerns about the reorganization proposals from the Trump administration. For example, some members were concerned with the proposal to privatize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), asserting that it could have dire consequences for rural communities. Members claimed that a privatized postal service would have less incentive to provide services to rural communities, diminishing the prized universal service the agency provides. If rural Americans are cut off from quality postal delivery, their quality of life and economic development would be severely impacted.

Some committee members put a spotlight on the lack of details, data and analysis showing how these reorganization proposals originated. Every member in attendance was in favor of making government more efficient and effective, but many were also wary to support any proposals that are not properly supported by cost-benefit analysis and data. This was a point of contention among the senators, as some asserted that the data and analysis can be expected in due time and that the initial release of the proposals is merely the beginning of the process.

On July 13, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report, titled “Government Reorganization: Key Questions to Assess Agency Reform Efforts,” providing Congress with questions it can ask in its oversight role as it proceeds with reorganization efforts. To create this report, GAO synthesized its prior experience with reorganizations, best practices and information from subject-matter experts. According to GAO, successful organizational transformations require “agreement on reform goals, and the involvement of the Congress, federal employees and other key stakeholders.”

Legislation to Diminish Federal Employee Due Process Advances

On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced H.R. 559, the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement and Transformation (MERIT) Act of 2017, and H.R. 6391, the Merit Systems Protection Board Reauthorization Act of 2018, out of committee and to the full chamber for consideration. Both pieces of legislation would deplete federal employee due process.

H.R. 559, sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-GA, would expedite procedures for disciplinary actions taken against federal employees, including termination. The bill would require appeals to termination to occur within seven days of the removal and for the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to rule on that appeal within 30 days. Troublingly, if MSPB fails to rule on the appeal within those 30 days, the termination is final without due process, even if the MSPB simply did not have sufficient time to review the case due to a heavy case load. Additionally, as amended, the bill would lengthen new hires’ probationary periods from one year to two, reduce the annuities of federal workers convicted of a felony and fired, and provide agencies with the authority to invalidate bonuses considered “wrongly paid” to workers. If passed, this bill would chip away federal employee due process and could lead to a system that does not properly defend against political retribution.

H.R. 6391, sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice, R-GA, would reauthorize MSPB, but would also deal a significant blow to employee due process. This bill allows for judges on the board to issue summary judgements, precluding a full trial for the employee and thus a proper defense. The bill would also reduce the evidentiary burden placed on agencies from the current “preponderance of evidence” to “substantial evidence” when justifying disciplinary actions. A “preponderance of evidence” standard is based on providing the more convincing evidence. “Substantial evidence” is defined as evidence adequate to support the reasonable conclusion that a certain act or omission occurred. H.R. 6391 would also require federal employees to pay a filing fee when appealing disciplinary actions taken against them. Rep. Hice, the bill’s sponsor, believes the fee would deter frivolous appeals. But, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, said, “Some federal employees work paycheck to paycheck, and they couldn’t afford a $200 filing fee, or even $100.”

Postal Banking Amendment Considered in House

H.R. 6147, the Interior-Environment and Financial Services spending package, was approved by the full House this week. Among the amendments considered was H. Amdt. 949 put forth by Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-NC, which would have prohibited the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from expanding the financial products it currently offers. As of now, these services are confined to money orders and international money transfers.

Many members of Congress see an expansion of USPS financial services as a way to fortify the agency’s finances with new sources of revenue, as well as an alternative to payday lenders for low-income customers. The suggestion was spurred on by a 2014 USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that proposed USPS could become involved in financial services including prepaid cards, small loans and savings products. The McHenry amendment would have prohibited the USPS from moving forward with these proposals.

Following a vigorous floor debate, McHenry’s amendment was defeated in a 201-212 vote. H.R. 6147 was later passed in a 217-199 vote.

Grassroots Corner

Find new and updated Advocacy Department materials to help you connect with legislators this August – NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month – by clicking here. Among our 2018 Grassroots Advocacy Month materials, you will find the latest talking points covering the “Big 3” topics to discuss as you meet with your legislators, fact sheets to leave with staff, and templates to use when you request meetings and send thank you letters after meetings, as well as various other resources available to offer best-practices guidance as you meet with lawmakers this August. August recess is just around the corner. Don’t delay!

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to July 20, 2018

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NARFE Headquarters, July 13, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Paid parental leave for America’s civil service employees is a long-overdue personnel policy. The prevailing lack of paid parental leave for civilian federal employees is out of sync with longstanding private-sector practices and the rest of the industrialized world. It is also smart human-resources management to boost the recruitment and retention of a well-qualified federal workforce, and helps maintain morale and productivity. I thank Rep. Barbara Comstock for introducing the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2018. NARFE members should contact their legislators and urge them to cosponsor this bill.”

New Paid Parental Leave Bill Introduced

On June 28, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-VA, introduced H.R. 6275, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2018. This legislation would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their new child in the event of a birth, adoption or foster placement.

Fixing federal parental-leave policy is necessary to remain competitive in today’s job market. Currently, federal employees must use their accrued vacation time and sick days or sacrifice pay to take time off to care for their new child. Most large private-sector companies offer paid parental leave to their employees, and this disparity is driving candidates away from public service. Offering competitive benefits is imperative for the government to continue recruiting and retaining top young talent into the ranks of the federal workforce. This is true now more than ever as we are on the cusp of a considerable federal retirement wave as more employees reach retirement eligibility.

As the largest employer in the country, the federal government should be a model employer that reflects the value we as a nation place on family and parenting. Presently, the United States is the only developed nation in the world that does not offer its civil service some form of paid parental leave. It is important that NARFE members contact their representatives and senators in support of H.R. 6275, as well as the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2017, H.R. 1022 and S. 362.

On July 11, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy held a hearing, titled “Examining the Importance of Paid Family Leave for American Working Families.” Subcommittee members and witnesses explored the merits, potential funding methods and potential policy implementation methods of enacting a national paid family-leave plan for parental leave and medical leave. However, the bills that are specifically focused on the federal workforce were not mentioned in the hearing.

Don’t Miss Out on Important Advocacy Training

FEDCon18 is right around the corner. Be sure to join us in Jacksonville, Florida, August 26-28, to participate in an entire track of advocacy best-practices sessions. The presentations will be loaded with valuable advice on how to maximize your NARFE advocacy efforts, spread awareness, become a leader in your federation and combat future threats to the federal community.

Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to learn, lead and advocate; it only comes along once every two years. To encourage our top advocates to attend, we are offering you a special promotion for $25 off registration by using the code FEDCONADV.

At FEDCon18, among the 30 sessions and workshops, NARFE experts will deliver Advocacy training and updates on a wide range of topics, including:

  • Legislative Update and Preview of the 116th Congress: A close inspection of legislation and policies threatening the security of current and retired Feds
  • People Matter in Politics: A review of why grassroots advocacy is essential to success, and how you can bolster your congressional outreach using NARFE resources
  • NARFE-PAC 101: How NARFE-PAC, NARFE’s political arm, helps change the perception of Feds and protect what you have rightfully earned
  • Advocacy Responsibilities 101:Suggestions for how to use your leadership position to spread the NARFE message and engage NARFE members
  • Getting Out of a Grassroots Slump: Out-of-the-box ideas for how to take action and foster deeper connections with legislators
  • The Power of Storytelling: How to become a more engaging storyteller and best utilize your voice – one of the most powerful tools to engage and persuade

But that’s not all: As the contentious November congressional elections draw near, are you in the know about the key races taking place across the country? Get the latest from Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, at the NARFE-PAC breakfast during FEDCon18 to make sure you’re up to date. Join your fellow NARFE members for this must see presentation, “Election 2018: Is a ‘Blue Wave’ Coming? Where Will It Crash?”

Your attendance helps support NARFE-PAC during this critical time for the federal community. NARFE members may attend the breakfast by making a $125 contribution to NARFE-PAC. NARFE-PAC sustaining members or those who have contributed $250 or more during the cycle are eligible to register free of charge. For more information, contact Ross Apter atRapter@narfe.org.

Space for the breakfast is limited. Don’t miss out! Register today by going here.

Grassroots Corner

In just over two weeks, NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month – August – will begin. Are you prepared to take action to prevent cuts to your earned pay and benefits?

Next week’s Advocacy webinar will guide you through the process of taking action during the August congressional recess – from building a meeting agenda to sending a thank-you letter afterward. Webinar attendees will be the first to learn about new documents being developed to support members’ advocacy activities and will review the “Big 3” legislative priorities to be addressed with legislators. Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield will go over all the materials available to make the most of this recess. RSVP today to ensure you are ready to hit the ground running when it’s time to engage with your legislator.

The “Grassroots Advocacy Month A - Z” webinar, including Q&A, will air on Tuesday, July 17, at 2 p.m. ET. Registration for this live event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, so click here to register now!

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to July 13, 2018

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