Issues / Legislation

Week Ending January 18, 2019

Effects of partial federal shutdown widen rapidly, negatively impacting workers, communities and the economy.

Workers Miss Paychecks as President Trump’s Shutdown Continues

Damage continues to mount from the federal government shutdown that began on December 22, when Trump rejected legislation to fund the government because it did not include $5.7 billion that he is demanding for a border wall. Millions of Americans are being denied critical public services and nearly 800,000 public service workers are no longer being paid, putting many families at risk of financial ruin.

The impacts of the shutdown are reaching into every corner of American life. Routine food safety inspections are not being performed, increasing the risks that contaminated foods will make it on to grocery store shelves. Wildfire prevention efforts have been affected, putting lives and homes at risk as the next wildfire season approaches. Airplane safety inspectors have been off the job, leaving it up to airlines to police themselves. States are delaying transportation projects, putting local jobs at risk. Independent economists are warning that the shutdown could lead to a recession, and even the White House has acknowledged that the shutdown is harming the economy. If the shutdown continues, large federal programs relied on by tens of millions of Americans, including SNAP benefits (previously referred to as food stamps), the National School Lunch Program, and rental assistance programs could be affected, creating a national humanitarian and financial crisis.

AFSCME is continuing to demand that Senate Republicans and Trump accept legislation passed by the House of Representatives that would reopen the government at funding levels previously agreed to on a bipartisan basis, allowing federal employees to get back to work and public services to be restored, while negotiations continue over the issue of border security. The legislation includes language originally drafted by AFSCME ensuring that any federally funded state and local workers furloughed during the shutdown are provided back pay.  

On Wednesday, the House voted 237 to 187 along party lines to approve legislation that would reopen the federal government until February 8, 2019 at prior funding levels and would appropriate $14.2 billion in emergency spending for relief and recovery to assist Americans all over our country harmed by recent wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.  For example, this provides $600 million for disaster nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico, which will help thousands of U.S. citizens still suffering from the hurricane there. No Democrats opposed this bill and only six Republicans voted for it.  Trump’s Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) opposed this legislation and claimed, “H.R. 628 contains $600 million in excessive and unnecessary funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program.” 

Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow a Senate vote on this and other funding legislation passed by the House of Representatives. Trump, having stated that he is “proud to shut down the government,” is continuing his threats to veto any legislation that does not include funding for his border wall.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME President Lee Saunders has demanded President Trump not use public service workers and their families as pawns in his fight over the border wall. AFSCME and other unions representing public sector workers continue to mobilize and speak out about the harm being done to public employees and their families, and to demand an end to the shutdown. On January 17, multiple unions joined together for another rally in Washington, D.C. to reopen the federal government and similar events and activities are being held across America.  AFSCME members are reaching out to members of Congress to make their voices heard.  

END THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN NOW!

The partial federal government shutdown continues despite increasing harm to public service workers, families, communities and the entire U.S. economy. The Democratic-led House has acted to reopen the government but has been thwarted at every step by the president and Senate Republicans.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to hold a vote in the Senate on the House-passed bills to reopen the government. 

Please call your senators and urge them to end President Donald Trump’s government shutdown. Let’s put people back to work!

CALL CONGRESS

1-866-803-8830

American Workers Deserve a Raise

On Wednesday, Democratic leaders Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Patty Murray (WA), along with Reps. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA), Mark Pocan (WI) and Stephanie Murphy (FL) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2019. Like previously introduced versions, the legislation would raise the federal minimum wage to $8.55 this year and increase it over the next five years until it reaches $15.00 an hour by 2024. The legislation would also phase out the subminimum wage for disabled workers and gradually increase the tipped minimum wage to $15.00, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991. After 2024, the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation.

What You Need to Know:  Too many workers in America are paid too little to meet basic family needs. A $15.00 minimum wage would give nearly half of American workers a raise with roughly 58 million people currently making less than that. The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was in July of 2009. This type of wage stagnation poses serious threats to our families and our economy. AFSCME supports a uniform minimum wage for all hourly workers to ensure basic fairness and pay that keep the U.S. economy functioning and moving forward.

2020 Census Citizenship Question Blocked

This week, a federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s push to add a new citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the Trump administration to stop its plans to add the controversial citizenship question to the decennial survey. Judge Furman called the decision to include the question arbitrary and unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons. Opponents of the citizenship question fear its addition would have a chilling impact and lead to a serious undercount.

What You Need to Know:  At a congressional hearing last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended the move saying the administration wanted to use the responses to better enforce Voting Rights Act provisions. However, data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey already contains questions about citizenship status and is sufficiently robust for civil rights and Voting Rights Act enforcement. While the district court ruling in New York is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, AFSCME applauds Judge Furman’s decision and continues to monitor the five other lawsuits across the country that call for the citizenship question to be removed.  (Katie Smith- ksmith@afscme.org)

William Barr Nomination for Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee held two days of hearings on the Trump nomination of William Barr to be the 85th Attorney General of the United States. His record as Attorney General during the administration of President George H. W. Bush, and his subsequent statements and publications are concerning for many. It is well documented that throughout his decades-long career, Mr. Barr has supported controversial policy positions that demonstrate a troubling pattern of hostility toward current legal protections for working families.

What You Need to Know:  Many groups opposing Barr are concerned about how he would enforce federal laws on fundamental policy issues like affordable healthcare, criminal justice reform, immigration, and campaign ethics, which his decisions could compromise in the role of our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.  Democratic Senators on the panel also questioned his ability to be independent in leading the Department of Justice, to operate with transparency with the outcomes of lawful investigations including the ongoing work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and to be responsible for safeguarding the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans.

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