Proposed law would “silence voices of federal workers”
AFGE Pres. J. David Cox. Photo/ Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP

WASHINGTON – As part of the Trump administration’s all-out attack on federal employees and their rights, Trumpites in the U.S. House are now pushing a bill that would penalize union stewards for representing their fellow workers on the job.

If HB 1364 passes, many of the hours stewards spend performing their duties will not be counted when calculating their pensions.

David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) stated in a news release that “[The bill], called The Official Time Reform Act of 2017 is a blatant attempt to bust federal employee unions and silence the voice of workers … .”

The release continues, “This legislation would limit an employee’s access to union representation and financially penalize employees who voluntarily serve as union representatives.”

The bill calls for putting an arbitrary cap on how much time union volunteers can spend per day on representational work, such as resolving workplace conflicts between employees and managers, or meeting with agency leaders to discuss workplace improvements.

“It creates a financial disincentive,” Cox states, “for employees to volunteer as union representatives by cutting their retirement for any time spent on representational work above the arbitrary caps.

“Federal managers and their employees are fully competent to negotiate the terms of official time, when it is needed, how much is needed, and where it should be used to address unique agency and workplace issues.”

Cox points out that “employees are allowed to use [their time as stewards] only to perform representational activities such as setting procedures that protect employees from on-the-job injuries, enforcing protections from unlawful discrimination, providing workers with a voice in determining working conditions, and representing employees in grievances and disciplinary actions. Union representatives are not allowed to use official time to conduct union-specific business such as organizing new members, holding internal union meetings, electing union officers, or engaging in partisan political activities.”

The “time” bill was introduced March 6 by right-wing U.S. Representative Jody Hice, R-Ga). He is a Baptist minister and former talk radio host who brags about his hatred for Muslims and gays, believes that wives should be “within the authority” of their husbands and is dead set against a woman’s right to choose her own form of healthcare.

Hice represents Georgia’s 10th district, which Salon online magazine says is gerrymandered to assure the election of right wingers.

Salon named Hice “America’s worst new congressman.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of the People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C.   Gruenberg has been editor-in-chief of PAI since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jarvis bureau chief for the Middletown NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for the Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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