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FLRA denies bid for TSA union election

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The Chicago regional director of the Federal Labor Relations Authority today denied the American Federation of Government Employees’ bid for an election to determine which union will represent Transportation Security Administration employees.

The regional FLRA upheld its previous determination that because TSA screeners do not have collective bargaining rights, it has no jurisdiction to process the petition for an election. AFGE said it will appeal to the full FLRA within 60 days.

AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union are each seeking to represent roughly 40,000 TSA screeners. NTEU has filed a similar petition with FLRA.

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“A company of heroes”

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450px-UnknownsoldguardEnjoy your Memorial Day weekend, but take some time in between cookouts to remember our nation’s veterans, both of past wars and of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And for those of you in the Washington area, there’s no shortage of great events this weekend:

  • The Rolling Thunder motorcycle run technically begins this Sunday at noon at the Pentagon’s north parking lot. But there also will be motorcycles streaming up 395 to get to the staging area for hours beforehand, and I’ve had fun watching them from the Arlington bridges that span the highway. Veterans from all over the country gather each year to ride — as loudly as possible – from the Pentagon to the National Mall, and it’s really something to see.
  • PBS will broadcast a Memorial Day concert live at 8 p.m. Sunday from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The concert will be hosted by Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise and Joe Mantegna and features Colin Powell, country singer Brad Paisley, R&B singer Lionel Richie, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many other entertainers.
  • The National Memorial Day Parade will begin Monday at 2 p.m. at 7th St. NW and Constitution Ave. Medal of Honor recipients, Marine veteran R.V. Burgin (who was depicted in the recent HBO miniseries The Pacific), and former Marine drill instructor and actor R. Lee Ermey will participate in the parade.
  • Arlington National Cemetery will display the Fallen Heroes Project in Section 60, where service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, from Saturday through Monday. The project is a series of portraits of fallen service members drawn by acclaimed artist and Vietnam veteran Michael Reagan.
  • The Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Ave. will have a wreathlaying ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a rock band and then a Navajo dance ceremony by the Black Creek Gourd Society. A second wreathlaying will be on Monday at 10 a.m.
  • Other wreathlayings will be held Monday at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns (11 a.m.), Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1 p.m.), and the Air Force Memorial (9 a.m.).

Federal Times and Army Times Publishing Co. would like to salute all those who have served. But because nobody can better express the experiences of veterans than they can, we leave you with the closing minutes of HBO’s Band of Brothers, where the actual veterans of the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company are revealed and eloquently sum up their service. It’s hard to listen to Maj. Dick Winters’ final comment about serving in a company of heroes without getting at least a little choked up.

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Senate wants plan on NSPS conversions

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The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to know in detail how the Pentagon plans to convert about 226,000 employees from the National Security Personnel System back to the General Schedule or other pay system. The request for an action plan on conversions is part of the Senate 2011 Defense Authorization Act, which the committee finished marking up today.

The bill also:

  • Clarifies that the repeal of NSPS has no effect on the direct hiring authority of defense laboratories, and increases the number of positions for which that authority can be used,
  • Temporarily authorizes overtime pay for Navy civilian employees working on the USS George Washington aircraft carrier,
  • Extends for one year the authority to waive limitations on the aggregate basic and premium pay available to civilian employees working within the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility,
  • And authorizes enhanced appointment and compensation authority for certain Defense health care occupations.

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Cantor seeks to attach pay freeze to Defense spending bill

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House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s office tells me that they’re hoping to attach a proposal to cut out next year’s federal pay raise to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, possibly today. Cantor, R-Va., plans to use the so-called “motion to recommit” — a House rule which gives the minority party one last chance to amend a bill — to force a vote on the issue.

If a pay freeze is attached to something as big and crucial as the Defense authorization bill, that could make it tough to extricate. There’s a lot that could happen – it could get stripped out in a conference committee if the Senate’s version doesn’t contain a similar provision, for example. But if the 2011 NDAA arrives on President Obama’s desk with the pay freeze included, would he go so far as to veto the entire bill over that issue? It’s hard to say, but given the fact that Obama’s already taking serious political fire over the size of the deficit, he may not want this fight.

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Senate votes down federal pay freeze

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The Senate just voted 53-45 to table an amendment that would have frozen federal employees’ raises, bonuses and salary increases for one year.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to break ranks and vote to kill the measure, which was sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But six Democrats — Evan Bayh of Indiana, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, and John Tester of Montana — voted to continue debating the amendment. Of course, that’s not necessarily the same thing as voting for it, but it does suggest Democrats may not be united in their support for federal employees’ raises.

The amendment would also have imposed a hard cap on federal staffing, and required all agencies to cut one existing full-time employee for each new full-time employee hired. This section of the amendment did not allow any exceptions to the hiring freeze.

A House bill with similar provisions could come up for a vote later today.

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Limbo FAIL: Census worker snaps off parking gate arm

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How low can you go? Seriously, how low?

How low can you go? Seriously, how low?

Omaha police on May 2 cited a Census specialist for a “failed attempt at public limbo,” which may be the five saddest words I’ve ever read. News station KETV reports that 26-year-old Elliott Bottorf was taking a stroll when he saw a parking gate arm. So he did what comes naturally: try to limbo under it.

Unfortunately, Bottorf’s balance wasn’t quite up to snuff and he couldn’t make it. As he fell, he grabbed the $397 arm and it snapped off. He was technically cited for criminal mischief, and not for crimes against the future Olympic sport of limbo.

We kid because we love. At least Bottorf wasn’t like some other Census workers who have been accused of assaulting a police officer, or lying to hide being a sex offender, or drug possession. Mr. Bottorf, for brightening up our Thursday, you earn a coveted Sad Trombone:

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Fed Times on the air: Intel pay and the politics of raises

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Shameless self-promotion time: I’ll be on News Channel 8′s Federal News Tonight program this evening at 7:30 to talk about a few controversial issues we’ve been covering lately.

I’ll first talk about Federal Times’ exclusive look at an upcoming report on problems with the intelligence community’s pay-for-performance system. And then we’ll discuss the growing controversy about federal pay raises and the Republican push to cut them to help balance the budget.

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NARFE: Don’t make feds the ‘whipping boy’ in deficit debate

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Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, just put out a statement urging senators to oppose a spending bill amendment that would freeze federal salaries. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., want to cover the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan war spending by eliminating expenses such as federal civilian raises and bonuses. Their proposal — as well as a House bill also targeting the 2011 raise — would not affect military service members. Baptiste said:

We believe it is wrong to single out federal workers for cuts that others serving our country are not being asked to make. More specifically, why would the Congress take a punitive action against the thousands of federal civilian employees who are working alongside their uniformed colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan by requiring them to forgo a small salary increase to partially pay for the wars they are helping to win?

It’s also a mistake, Baptiste said, to think of the civil service as a cost burdening the nation instead of a resource to invest in:

Civil service pay and benefits have been a perennial target of budgeteers and “bureaucrats” have long been an easy “whipping boy” for voters. If we are to make wise choices about putting our fiscal house in order, members of Congress and the public need to be educated about the invaluable contributions made to our country by Americans who devote their careers to the public service.

The drive to strike the 2011 pay raise seems to be picking up steam. HR 5382, a bill sponsored by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that would cancel the proposed 1.4 percent raise, is likely to come up for a vote tomorrow. A vote on the McCain and Coburn amendment hasn’t been scheduled yet, but also could come soon.

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McCain, Coburn: Freeze feds’ salaries to pay for wars

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., today filed amendments to the Iraq and Afghanistan war supplemental spending bills that seek to offset its costs by cutting spending elsewhere — and feds aren’t going to like what they’ve got in mind.

McCain and Coburn want to save about $2.6 billion by freezing federal employees’ raises, bonuses and other salary increases for one year. This comes on the heels of their House counterparts’ move to put federal raises on the chopping block as part of their YouCut program.

They also seek to eliminate non-essential government travel ($10 billion over 10 years), collect unpaid taxes from federal employees ($3 billion), dispose of unneeded government property ($15 billion), reduce government printing and publishing costs ($4.4 billion over 10 years), eliminate bonuses for poor-performing government contractors ($8 billion over 10 years), and auction off unused and unneeded government equipment ($250 million over 10 years).

All in all, McCain and Coburn say the proposed cuts would cover $120 billion in war spending costs, although it’s worth noting that $33 billion of those savings would come over 10 years. But is the tax thing really fertile ground for finding new money? The IRS already levies feds’ salaries to recover those funds under the Federal Payment Levy Program, and apparently there’s a good bit of turnover on the list, which suggests tax-delinquent feds do eventually pay off their debts.

So feds, what do you think? Sound off below, or shoot me an e-mail at slosey@federaltimes.com.

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GOP’s YouCut targets federal pay raises

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The House GOP’s YouCut program this week seeks to put next year’s proposed 1.4 percent civilian raise on the chopping block. And so far, it’s the top choice to be cut — House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today that 40 percent of the nearly 218,000 votes cast so far this week were in favor of eliminating the 2011 raise. (People must really want to keep those mohair subsidies.)

YouCut combines the democratic ideals of American Idol with the excitement of a Heritage Foundation seminar. Each week, Republicans propose five programs to be cut, and then let people vote online or via text message on which one they want to slash. The GOP then tries to force a vote on the cuts on the House floor, but lawmakers last week voted 240 to 177 to keep the first YouCut “winner,” the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program’s $2.5 billion emergency fund.

Cantor said the proposal to cut the 2011 raise could be brought to the House floor this week. Eliminating pay raises would save $2 billion next year and, if it is continued, $30 billion over the next decade, he said. ”This vote won’t be easy for everyone, but it is exactly the kind of choice we must begin to make to get us off the path towards financial ruin,” he said.

The proposal would not affect the military’s pay raise. The Obama adminstration wants to give service members a 1.4 percent raise, but some lawmakers want to bump it up to 1.9 percent.

This is sure to increase the political temperature surrounding federal raises, and may make it difficult for lawmakers to support pay parity, at the very least. What do you think about YouCut taking aim at federal salaries?

Video of Cantor after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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