May 31, 2012
In my capacity as President of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO (MTD) along with our executive council and affiliated International Unions, I ask that you strike language pertaining to the pay freeze provision of HR 5854.
I am a veteran and fully support a robust spending aimed at providing services to our Veterans, and towards fulfilling military construction projects, I am however, opposed to the provision in the bill that extends the current two year civilian pay freeze to a third year for Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) workers.
On November 29, 2010, President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for our nation’s federal employees. While reminding the public that federal workers were, “patriots who love their country,” he also said that, “getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government.” Federal employees stepped up to the plate and accepted that two year pay freeze. As federal workers continue to experience the current pay freeze, employees hired into federal service next year will also sacrifice – this time with a more expensive, watered down, third-tier pension system approved by Congress and signed into law earlier this year. All total, so far middle-income federal workers (less than 1% of the population distribution) have given a total of $75 billion towards deficit reduction, while Wall Street millionaires and billionaires (the top 1% of the distribution), who caused the economic collapse and profited handsomely from the ensuing federal bailouts, have contributed nothing to getting America’s economy back on track.
Now, with the pay freeze set to end in FY13, the House continues to take aim at federal worker pay through various legislative vehicles, including HR 5854. Unfortunately these workers have become an unwitting political football. The most glaring example of this is the incorrect notion that federal workers are overpaid. The truth is that federal workers lag far behind their private sector counterparts. For example, last October the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data showing that federal employees are compensated an average of 24% less than workers in comparable private sector jobs.
The truth is that that the impact of this freeze is quite significant. For example, under the current two-year federal pay freeze a federal worker earning an annual salary of $70k represents up to a $29,000 cumulative pay cut over the next decade, and a $66,000 cumulative pay cut over 20 years. If this pay freeze were to be extended to 3 years, as would be the case for DoD and DVA workers under HR 5854, the 20 year loss would increase to $95,970. For an employee earning $55,000 a year, they will experience a 20 year cumulative pay cut of $75,405.26 under a three year pay freeze. Needless to say, these are significant and deep sacrifices our federal workers are making.
The MTD strongly opposes the pay freeze provision of HR 5854. I urge you to strike that language from the Bill.
Thank you for your consideration.
Ronald E. Ault
May 24, 2012
Dear Avondale Worker,
For the past two years, the Metal Trades Department has worked ceaselessly to keep Avondale open. We remain committed to that effort because we are convinced that Avondale has a future in shipbuilding and we are determined that union members like you are part of that future. We have formed a cooperative relationship to save Avondale with our International Union affilaites, the national AFL-CIO, Louisiana lawmakers, the White House and federal agencies having jurisdiction over commerce and maritime industries. Not a week goes by that we are not in meetings, discussions, and actively working with financial institutions trying to put together the necessary components to make Avondale a successful commercial shipyard.
In the media, Huntington Ingalls insists that the 2013 shutdown date is firm, yet we know that they would welcome the opportunity to continue to build ships at Avondale if a viable plan emerges. We thought that the American Feeder Lines plan to build four ships at Avondale with an option to build up to 10 was just such a plan, but unfortunately that company could not secure financing.
The Metal Trades Department is not giving up on Avondale and its hard working, skilled workers. We promised you that if you did your part and put out high quality ships on time, we would leave no stone unturned to save Avondale- You have fulfilled every thing we could have hoped for and we are proud of your work and your skills. We will not give up. There is hope and good opportunities for success.
Over the past several months we have had multiple meetings with HII management, lawmakers and government officials, including DOT Secretary LaHood, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and their staff, to fight for the future of Avondale. We believe there is a future for Avondale.
Keeping Avondale open and building ships is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do in view of the growing need for commercial ships in U.S. commerce and transportation. Although AFL may no longer be in the picture, there are other companies that we believe are poised to move forward and transform Avondale into a commercial yard. We never focused on any one company as the sole savior of Avondale.
We will continue to fight for the future of Avondale—working with the Obama Administration, local government officials, HII and Secretary Mabus to bring commercial shipbuilding back to the US and turn Avondale into a commercial shipyard building the best ships in the world.
Ron Ault, PresidentMetal Trades Department, AFL-CIO
The Administration appreciates the House Armed Services Committee’s continued support of our national defense and supports a number of the provisions in H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. In particular, the Administration appreciates the support of the Committee for authorities that assist the ability of the warfighter to operate in unconventional and irregular warfare, counter unconventional threats, or support contingency or stability operations. The Administration is disappointed, however, with the many provisions in this bill that impede the ability of the Secretary of Defense to carry out the 2012 defense strategic guidance.
While there are a number of areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration has serious concerns with provisions that: (1) depart from the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget request – in particular, increases to the topline request for the base budget; (2) constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions consistent with the new defense strategy; or (3) impede the ability of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy to make and implement management decisions that eliminate unnecessary overhead or programs to ensure scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities for the national security. The overall funding level supported by H.R. 4310 would violate the Budget Control Act of 2011, the bipartisan agreement reached between the Congress and the President to put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal course. If the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources, the President’s senior advisors would recommend to the President that he veto the bill.
VIEW THE FULL STATMENT FROM THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION >
Health and Safety of Nation’s Nuclear Workers and the Public in Jeopardy
Washington, DC—If the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) successfully consolidates its operational contracts at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas thousands of work years of institutional knowledge could being lost, putting the nation’s national security at risk.
The NNSA plans to issue just one contract that will cover both facilities. This Request for Proposal (RFP) does not require the successor contractor to employ the existing workforce. Failing to include this provision in the RFP could prove dire at high-hazard nuclear operations such as these. “Without this provision contractors could employ unskilled labor putting the health and safety of the public and these skilled workers in jeopardy,” said Ron Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO that represents workers at both facilities.
It has been a requirement since these facilities began operations that the workforce carries over. The MTD and its affiliated unions have asked DOE Secretary Dr. Stephen Chu to step in on the worker’s behalf and direct the NNSA to amend their current RFP so that it specifically requires the successor contractor to maintain the current workforce and the rates of pay and levels of benefits; a practice that has been followed for these facilities for more than sixty years.
The Metal Trades Councils—the Atomic Trades & Labor Council at Y-12 and the Metal Trades Council of Amarillo, Texas and Vicinity at Pantex—represent employees who work under five year contracts between the NNSA and private contractors. Although contractors change every five years most of the employees do not, some having been at the facilities for decades. Most hold the highest security clearance levels.
Workers at these facilities are also facing separate attacks to their health and safety in the form of HR 4310 House Armed Services Committee’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill. Legislation pending in Congress would shift the entire safety & health program to NNSA and eliminate current DOE worker health and safety standards and enforcement, substituting ineffective standards and “performance-based” oversight.
The MTD and its affiliated unions strongly oppose changes in worker safety and health contained in HR4310, and believe it will put nuclear workers and the public’s health and safety at risk.
Changes Will Put Nuclear Workers, Public Health and Safety at Risk
Washington, DC—The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions strongly oppose HR 4310 House Armed Services Committee’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill—especially provisions changing the nuclear weapons worker health and safety programs.
The Metal Trades points to objections raised by Dr. Peter Winokur, Ph.D, Chairman, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, that proposed changes are based on a misunderstanding of research into work practices at nuclear laboratories.
Provisions included in the pending bill would shift the entire safety & health program to NNSA and eliminate current DOE worker health and safety standards and enforcement, substituting ineffective standards and “performance-based” oversight.
Contrary to claims that the bill would simply subject NNSA facilities to the same requirements as those under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the bill would eliminate workplace inspections and strip away protection against retaliation for raising safety and health concerns. It would eliminate any requirements for employers to record and report injuries and illnesses.
According to Dr. Peter Winokur the proposed changes to health and safety oversight at the nation’s nuclear facilities are based on a misunderstanding by the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s of the research and testimony of Dr. Shank, Co-Chair of the Committee to Review the Quality of the Management and of the Science and Engineering Research at the DOE’s National Security Laboratories. Dr. Winokur maintains that Dr. Shank focused his review on the need for laboratories to do research more efficiently and effectively, and how to improve morale at the laboratories. His committee did not review the high-hazard complex nuclear operations or any associated consequences of operations.
“[T]his testimony should not be used as the basis to argue against the need for independent oversight or eliminate transactional oversight at defense nuclear facilities,” Dr. Winokur asserted in a May 7, 2012 letter to Hon. Loretta Sanchez, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Committee on Armed Services, Dr. Winokur is opposed to the proposed switch from “transitional oversight” to “performance-based oversight”.