Week Ending September 30, 2016
Congress Averts Shutdown, Funds Government Until Dec. 9; Includes Zika and Flood Aid
With scarcely 48 hours to spare, Congress passed a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government from shutting down, then immediately recessed until after the November elections. The Senate passed the stop-gap, known as a continuing resolution (CR), by a vote of 72 to 26; the House passed the package by a vote of 342 to 75. The CR nearly maintains current funding for federal programs through December 9 except for a .5% cut across all programs to comply with budget laws. This reduction can be adjusted in an expected year-end final package that will fund the government for the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2017. The CR also includes new funding levels for Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs, combating the Zika virus, and $500 million in flood relief to Louisiana and other states.
The $1.1 billion in funding to support efforts to reduce the risk of the Zika virus, particularly in pregnant women, will be used to better control the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus, develop vaccines and tests for the Zika virus, and conduct research on the impacts of the Zika virus on infants and children. The Zika funding does not include either “poison pill” provisions that would have prohibited funds from going to Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico or waived environmental rules on applying pesticides to battle mosquitos. The Zika funding for the most part is designated as emergency aid, and does not require offsets in other spending to pay for the new funds.
The CR does not include federal aid to Flint. Instead, the House passed the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) with an amendment to include $170 million in aid to Flint and other localities with serious lead problems. The House language authorizes spending but stops short of actually appropriating Flint funds and is $50 million less than the proposed Senate funding level. Both Republican and Democratic Senate leaders say they have an “ironclad deal” to ensure the final package will release the full $220 million included in the Senate bill later in the year. The House and Senate WRDA bills will go to a “conference committee” to work out differences in their bills when Congress returns for its “lame duck” session.
Despite demands for a CR bill free of policy riders, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) inserted a provision to block the Securities and Exchange Commission from taking action to require the disclosure of public companies’ political spending, otherwise known as “dark money.” AFSCME and our allies will work to keep this provision out of the longer-term spending bill.
AFSCME continues to urge Congress to pass all 11 remaining funding bills with needed funding increases in a package free of all poison pill riders before the year’s end, and to pass a comprehensive Flint aid package that releases funding immediately.
Don’t Take Away Overtime Pay
By a vote of 246 to 177, the House passed a bill (H.R. 6094) that would block implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) newly issued overtime regulations for six months. These regulations – scheduled to go into effect December 1 – provide new wage protections to an estimated 12.5 million workers. The largely partisan bill shortchanges working people who work long hours and their families. Only five Democrats – Reps. Brad Ashford (NE), Henry Cuellar (TX), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Collin Peterson (MN), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) – voted in favor of the delay.
The current overtime rule, which at one point covered over 65% of the salaried workforce, only protects about 7% now. H.R. 6094 is nothing less than an attempt to undermine the opportunity to earn more pay for the unpaid extra hours of work that many have endured for decades. AFSCME, along with allies, urged all members of the House to vote no on H.R. 6094. The Senate is expected to take up this measure once Congress returns after the November elections. President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
For months, AFSCME and our allies have met with members of Congress in both chambers to educate them about the necessity of updating the salary threshold for eligibility for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. We will continue to support DOL’s new rule and protect it from efforts to overturn, weaken or delay it.
Call Your Senators
Urge Them to Oppose any Delay or Repeal of the New Overtime Rule
Call your Senators at 202-224-3121. Tell your Senators that the updated overtime regulation will help millions of workers who are required to work
Paid Sick Leave for Employees of Federal Contractors
Unable to move federal legislation through Congress, this week, the DOL announced a final rule that requires federal contractors and subcontractors to provide at least seven paid sick days annually for their employees. This requirement will go into effect on January 1, 2017. Currently, about 600,000 employees of federal contractors do not have even a single day of paid sick leave. Under the new rule, these employees will be able to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick days are good for America and will make a huge difference in the lives of workers and their families.
AFSCME applauds the administration’s efforts to require common-sense sick leave policies for employers that receive federal funds. We will continue to support worker and family-friendly policies that are good for job retention, reduce unemployment and contribute to the overall health of working families as well as oppose congressional efforts to block or delay this new requirement.
New EEOC Rule Promotes Equal Pay
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will begin collecting employees’ demographic information by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more workers thanks to a new, final rule from the DOL. This information is critically important in addressing pay disparities especially between men and women who do equal work.
Women typically make less than their male peers for doing the same work. American women who work full time, year round are only paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. And, for women of color, that wage gap is even larger. Collecting data from employers will help significantly with achieving larger policy changes. AFSCME continues to advocate for federal legislation strengthening fair pay.
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