Week Ending November 22, 2019

AFSCME workers cited in House action to prevent Workplace Violence.
Congress Ready for Holiday Recess; To Return Dec. 2.

  • House Passes Bill to Help Prevent Workplace Violence
  • Congress Avoids Government Shutdown

House Passes Bill to Help Prevent Workplace Violence 

No worker should ever experience workplace violence, but they do in the form of verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, assault, rape and even homicide. The House took a stand to protect health care and social service workers and their right to have safe workplaces by passing the “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act” (H.R. 1309). The vote was 251 to 158, along party lines.

  • AFSCME Members Cited in the Debate: During the debate on the bill, Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) and others cited AFSCME members who suffered workplace violence as part of the evidence for why this legislation is needed. For two decades, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided employers with voluntary guidance but has issued no specific enforceable rule on preventing workplace violence, despite the clear need.
  • Weakening Amendments Defeated: AFSCME opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) as a substitute for H.R. 1309 that would have stripped any deadline for OSHA to issue either an interim or a final rule on preventing workplace violence. With no deadline, Congress would, in effect, allow OSHA to indefinitely delay issuing a rule. The Byrne amendment also would have undermined whistleblower protections, which allow workers to speak out against employers who fail to address the detectable risks and patterns of workplace violence. The amendment failed. The Trump administration has promised to veto H.R. 1309. 

What You Need to Know: President Saunders has made it clear that this is a high priority for AFSCME, saying: “Every year, hundreds of nurses, social workers and others are killed, and thousands are injured, due to workplace violence incidents. The cost of inaction is too high, and we can no longer allow employers to skirt their duties to protect employees who step up every day to keep us safe, care for our loved ones and make our communities strong and healthy. Our health care and social service workers deserve to be safe at work and to go home to their families at the end of the day. We celebrate the passage of this bill as a major step forward in ensuring that workers are protected and urge the Senate to take this bill up.” AFSCME Local 557, Council 3 (Maryland), member Miriam Doyle participated in a press conference with House members to urge passage of the bill. She told lawmakers that House passage “is a game changer because OSHA will have a real deadline to issue a rule on preventing workplace violence. My employer will have to seriously look at how their understaffing has contributed to my co-workers and myself facing violence at work.” 

Congress Avoids Government Shutdown

The House passed by a 231-192 vote a relatively “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the federal government at fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels through Dec. 20. The Senate also passed this measure and the president has signed the bill to avoid a government shutdown. The CR includes a pay raise for service members, cancels a reduction of state transportation funds and extends health and various other programs. It also includes the necessary level of funding for the 2020 census.

  • Important Decennial Census Funding: The CR provides annualized funding of $7.28 billion for the Census Bureau to carry out operations for the 2020 census. This funding was important to achieving an accurate population count. Census data helps determine many important things for our country, including the allocation of government funds to where they are most needed.

What You Need to Know: The four-week stopgap measure will hopefully give the House and Senate time to agree on subcommittee funding allocations, and for the Senate to pass the remaining spending bills that have been approved by the House. If this does not occur, Congress could pass another CR to avoid a government shutdown before the Christmas break and keep the government running into the new calendar year. Congress has yet to decide whether to prevent the Trump administration from reallocating funds that Congress approved for other purposes for a border wall.

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