Week Ending February 1, 2019

Effects of partial federal shutdown widen rapidly, negatively impacting workers, communities and the economy.

  • Another Potential Shutdown Looms Without Budget Deal
  • Pay Raise for Federal Government Civilian Workers Approved
  • House Democrats Introduce $100 Billion School Infrastructure Bill
  • Paycheck Fairness Introduced
  • Repeal of 40% Tax on Worker/Retiree Health Benefits Unveiled

Another Potential Shutdown Looms Without Budget Deal

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended on January 25 after 35 days. The legislation reopening the government provided funding through February 15, allowing federal employees to get back to their work on behalf of the American people while Congress debates the issue of border security. The legislation did not include any of the border wall funding demanded by President Trump. Instead, lawmakers will work through a joint House-Senate conference committee to negotiate funding for border security, with the goal of passing legislation to fully fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. At AFSCME’s insistence, Congress also guaranteed back pay for furloughed federal workers, as well as for any state and local workers furloughed due to the shutdown.

What You Need to Know: Shutdowns harm government employees, waste taxpayer dollars, and accomplish nothing. AFSCME is working to ensure that elected officials understand that we can’t afford another ill-advised shutdown, and that they must pass funding legislation before the February 15 deadline.


Despite signs of progress in discussions, another government shutdown is still possible. Thanks to your previous calls, the government reopened last week.  Let’s ensure it stays open!

Please visit this website and help us keep employees working!

Pay Raise for Federal Government Civilian Workers Approved

The House of Representatives approved a 2.6 percent increase in 2019 base salaries for federal government civilian employees.  The House voted 259 to 161 along party lines with unanimous support from Democrats. Only 29 of the House’s 198 Republicans supported the bill.  AFSCME strongly supports this bill, the “Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019” (H.R. 790).  It is an important step forward and demonstrates support for America’s dedicated and hardworking federal employees while countering the harmful effects of President Trump’s 2017 hiring freeze and the Trump shutdowns, which demoralized many federal workers.  In December 2018, Trump issued an executive order freezing federal workers’ pay and providing them no pay increase in 2019. This bill would help federal workers struggling to make ends meet, narrow the wage gap with private sector employees and help continue attracting the best and brightest to federal public service.  In the Senate, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-VA) introduced a companion bill, which AFSCME also supports. 

The House of Representatives also voted 249 to 163 in support of a resolution, which expressed the sense of the House that government shutdowns are detrimental to America and should not occur.  The House voted along party lines with unanimous support from Democrats. Only 21 of the House’s 198 Republicans supported the bill. 

What You Need to Know: This Resolution strongly supports federal government employees amid ongoing congressional negotiations over funding to keep the federal government open before current enacted funding expires on February 15.  AFSCME opposes another shutdown and advocates for the necessary funding to continue employing federal employees and maintain vital public services and infrastructure at all levels of government.

House Democrats Introduce $100 Billion School Infrastructure Bill

Democrats put forward their first infrastructure bill when House Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (H.R. 865) this week along with 151 other House Democrats. The bill is nearly identical to legislation Rep. Scott introduced last year. A companion bill was introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), S.266, in the Senate. 

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would create a $70 billion grant program and a $30 billion tax credit bond program targeting school issues posing health and safety risks. The National Center for Educational Statistics reported in 2014 that about half of schools said they needed repairs, renovations or modernization for the buildings to be in good condition. The funding would last throughout the next decade. Implementation of the bill would also create nearly two million jobs, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute.

What You Need to Know: Rep. Scott’s legislation will be one of the first pieces of legislation geared toward upgrading America’s infrastructure that the new Congress will take action on, and could lead the way toward broader infrastructure policy. The issue is a top priority for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and many Democrats who see infrastructure needs as an issue that must be addressed.

Paycheck Fairness Introduced

The gender wage gap impacts too many hard-working Americans. On average, a woman earns roughly 80.5 cents for every dollar a man makes in nearly every occupation where there is sufficient earnings data. That disparity is even worse for women of color. This is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic lawmakers introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7) this week, launching a campaign that will lead to eventual passage by the House. This legislation provides employees with the remedies to challenge workplace pay discrimination and workplace policies that do not support women, their families, and a thriving economy.

What You Need to Know: House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) has promised to move the bill quickly, and Speaker Pelosi plans for House passage by April 2 – Equal Pay Day. AFSCME strongly supports this legislation and will participate in coalition efforts to help make it happen. 

Repeal of 40 percent Tax on Worker/Retiree Health Benefits Unveiled           

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) reintroduced the bipartisan “Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act” (H.R. 748), which would repeal the 40 percent tax on employer-sponsored high cost worker/retiree health benefits.  AFSCME advocates for repeal of this 40 percent tax, often derisively labeled the “Cadillac Tax”, because it already is forcing insurers and employers to reduce worker and retiree health benefits, thereby raising their medical copays, deductibles, and related out of pocket health expenses. This tax is regressive, disproportionately burdens working families, and weakens health benefits.  While this tax does not take effect until 2022, AFSCME is already negotiating many contracts that would extend into or beyond 2022 and thus, this tax affects AFSCME’s contract negotiations. 

What You Need to Know: In Congress’ last session, the identical bill was co-sponsored by 70 percent of the House of Representatives. AFSCME is again helping lead the effort and we intend to generate even more congressional support.  In addition to AFSCME’s support, this bill is endorsed by more than 30 allied unions, many national businesses and employer associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Airlines; and government interest groups like the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National League of Cities. We expect an identical bill will be introduced in the Senate soon.

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