Week Ending July 26, 2019

Multiyear Budget Deal Approved

  • AFSCME Retirees Storm Congress for Working Families
  • Senate Sends Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund to President
  • Agreement Reached on Legislation Lifting Budget Caps
  • House Democrats Pass Needed Standards for Immigration Detention
  • House Passes Multiemployer Pension Bill

AFSCME Retirees Storm Congress for Working Families

This week, 125 AFSCME Strong retirees flooded the halls of Congress to fight for current and future benefits that help working families and retirees. Their efforts included meetings with House and Senate members as well as key staff to promote the protection and expansion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen health care and labor rights. Pennsylvania retiree Michael Cangelosi said, “I just want to fight for the AFSCME members who are still working, to preserve these benefits that help us all.”

  • Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid: Congress must protect and expand these programs and oppose any efforts to privatize or create individual retirement accounts. Beneficiaries deserve a cost-of-living adjustment that lifts everyone up and pushes no one down and opposes chained CPI. AFSCME also supports repealing the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). 
  • Protect and Strengthen Health Care: Congress must ensure that the price of prescription drugs is lowered. It should also provide consumer protections from surprise medical bills and unexpected charges from out-of-network providers for emergency care. Additionally, the Senate must approve the House-passed bill to repeal the 40% tax on high-cost worker and retiree health benefits. 
  • Labor Rights: Congress must provide the same protections to public service employees as those afforded to workers in the private sector. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463 and S. 1970) as well as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474 and S. 1306) are two pieces of legislation that protect collective bargaining rights and make it easier to form unions.  

What You Need to Know: Retirees demanded support for these and other issues in the House and Senate as they met with members of both parties to ensure that their message and stories got across.

Call your representatives today at 1-866-584-5728.

Urge them to support H.R. 3463, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, to level the playing field for working families. This bill will protect our rights as public employees to have a voice on the job and to join together in a union for a fair return on our work.

Senate Sends Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund to President

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 97-2 to pass H.R. 1327, the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Act. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law. The legislation extends through at least fiscal 2092 the Sept. 11 victims’ fund that provides assistance to the firefighters, police officers and other first responders who were hurt and families of those killed as the result of the 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as those involved in the cleanup operations.

  • Harmful Amendments Defeated: Votes on harmful amendments sponsored by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) were easily defeated. The two senators voted against the bill’s final passage.
  • AFSCME Represented at Historic Vote: DC 37 Retiree Director Ed Wysyc, who is registered under the VCF, witnessed the historic vote from the Senate Gallery.

What You Need to Know: In February, it was determined that the fund contained insufficient money to pay all outstanding and projected claims. Without this act, payments to victims would have to be cut by at least 50% and as much as 70%.

Agreement Reached on Legislation Lifting Budget Caps

This week, congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement on a budget deal for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The agreement will increase spending on nondefense discretionary programs from $597 billion in 2019 to $621.5 billion in 2020 and $626.5 billion in 2021. 

  • AFSCME Jobs Supported: Federal discretionary spending supports AFSCME jobs in many different fields, including education, social services, transportation and other critical public services. In recent years, federal funding for many discretionary programs has failed to keep pace with inflation or the needs of our growing population. Funding for nondefense discretionary programs declined from 3.7% of our country’s GDP in 2010 to just 3% in 2019, representing hundreds of billions in lost investment. AFSCME members who have dedicated their careers to public service are seeing their neighbors struggle and their communities suffer.
  • Deal is Step in the Right Direction: That is why AFSCME has fought for an increase in federal nondefense discretionary spending and is supporting the deal reached by congressional leaders and the White House. While the increases are not as large as AFSCME requested, they represent a positive first step in strengthening the public services that our communities rely on.

What You Need to Know: Now that leaders have reached an agreement on the total level of spending, Congress will need to pass the annual spending bills that will determine how much money goes to each specific federal program. AFSCME will be fighting to ensure that the programs most important to supporting the work of AFSCME members receive a fair share of federal funds. 

House Democrats Pass Needed Standards for Immigration Detention 

Only one Republican joined Democrats to create a minimum standard of care for immigrants in detention following official reports of migrants who died under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. 

  • Medical Screening and Standards: The Standards for CBP Detention Act (H.R. 3239) passed the House by a vote of 233 to 195. The bill would require individuals under CBP custody to receive an initial medical screening and set minimum standards of detainment for hygiene, nutrition and safer shelter arrangements that government officials must meet.

What You Need to Know: There is no specific humanitarian standard beyond the current enforcement policy that treats all immigrants, including children, as a security threat. Like the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which passed the House on June 4, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and the GOP are unlikely to consider this legislation.

House Passes Multiemployer Pension Bill

The House passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act (H.R. 397) by a vote of 264 to 169. The bill would create a federal loan program for struggling pension plans. The bill now moves to the Senate.

  • Pension Relief Needed:  More than a million Americans are in multiemployer pension plans that are quickly running out of money, putting families across the country at risk of unexpected financial hardship. The bill, also known as the Butch Lewis Act, establishes a new Pension Rehabilitation Administration (PRA) and a new trust fund in the Treasury Department to make loans to affected multiemployer plans. The PRA would be authorized to issue bonds to finance loans to “critical and declining” multiemployer pension plans, plans that have suspended benefits, and some recently insolvent plans receiving financial assistance from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The PRA would be headed by a director, who will have a term of five years and be appointed by the president.

What You Need to Know: The program will be funded entirely through premiums paid by pension funds. The beleaguered plans are mostly in Rust Belt industries where retirees outnumber employees. One of those funds, the Central States Pension Fund, is forecast to run out of money by 2025.

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