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House Bill (HR 1881) would give TSA screeners union rights, end performance pay


House Bill (HR 1881) would give TSA screeners union rights, end performance pay

July 10, 2009

More than 45,000 federal airport screeners could get collective bargaining rights and be put under the General Schedule pay system — instead of the pay-for-performance pay system they are under now — if a bill advancing in the House is approved by Congress.

The House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday approved HR 1881, the Transportation Security Workforce Enhancement Act, which would extend traditional federal labor rights protections to the Transportation Security Administration’s airport screeners. The bill also would give them more whistleblower protections.

TSA has been plagued by low morale and high turnover, with roughly one in five screeners leaving each year.

Unions and other critics have said the agency’s pay-for-performance system, called the Performance Accountability and Standards System (PASS), is unfair and fails to accurately measure how well a screener does his job.

“Under PASS, not only do the criteria for evaluation differ from year to year, but so does the passing grade,” said Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. “Under this system, it is possible that a few points separate a poor performer from an exceptional performer. As a result, TSA workers do not know whether to expect a pink slip or a bonus.”

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who sponsored the bill, said giving screeners more workplace protections such as collective bargaining rights will improve morale and encourage them to stay longer. High turnover rates increase the government’s training costs and hurt transportation security, she said.

“If we continue to treat them like replaceable parts, we’re going to be forced to perpetually replace experienced staff with inexperienced staff, and lose the money we’ve invested,” Lowey said. …

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Virginia offers employees $500 loans


Washington Business Journal - by Jeff Clabaugh Staff Reporter

State employees in Virginia may be eligible for emergency loans of up to $500, under a new program announced by Gov. Tim Kaine Monday.

The governor’s office has established the Virginia State Employee Loan Program, a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign and Virginia Credit Union. Loans are available in amounts between $100 and $500 to state employees facing financial difficulties.

In order to qualify for the loans, state employees must complete an online financial fitness course and pass a brief exam.

“This program will allow our state employees to receive small loans without having to go to predatory lenders,” Governor Kaine said in a statement. “If the Commonwealth can offer this kind of program, other large employers may consider similar initiatives of their own.”

The loans don’t require a credit check, but won’t come cheap. They will carry an interest rate of 24.99 percent and be payable within six months. Employees must also belong to Virginia Credit Union and have a savings account with a balance of at least $5.

Loans will be backed by the Virginia State Employee Assistance Fund.

The National Association of Letter Carriers Union members collect more than 73 million pounds of food


The National Association of Letter Carriers Union members collect more than 73 million pounds of food

REGION, July 1st- The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union in Washington, DC announced that despite the difficult economic times Americans donated a record 73.4 million pounds of non-perishable food in their annual Letter Carriers National Food Drive. The event is intended to restock community food banks and pantries throughout the nation.

The food was collected by letter carriers on May 9th as they delivered mail along their postal routes in over 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and United States jurisdictions. It is the nation’s largest one-day effort to “Stamp Out Hunger.”

NALC President William Young expressed profound appreciation to the millions of Americans who left food by their mailboxes and the thousands of his members, rural carriers, and other postal employees and volunteers, many who are members of other unions, who collected, processed and delivered the donations to local food banks and pantries.

“This is an amazing testimony to the generosity of the American people even as they themselves struggle to make ends meet in these hard times. Our members take pride in being able to serve their postal customers and help them assist millions of needy Americans, including many working families, children and the elderly,” said Mr. Young.

Final results showed 73,414,533 pounds of non-perishable food were collected in the traditional event on the second Saturday in May, a slight increase over the previous record of 73.1 million pounds set in 2008. It was the sixth consecutive year above 70 million pounds and brought the total for the drive’s 17 years to over 982 million pounds.

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 17 in Scranton, Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre and Branch 162 in Pittston, participated in the event.

Jobs report signals more job loss to come in Pennsylvania


Jobs report signals more job loss to come in Pennsylvania

REGION, July 2nd- The Keystone Research Center (KRC), a Harrisburg based nonprofit, nonpartisan economic research organization, analysis of the Pennsylvania economy suggest the Commonwealth must maintain spending to forestall additional job loss.

The Keystone Research Center said the carnage in the national job market continued unrelenting in June, with the United States shedding 467,000 jobs and the national underemployment rate reaching 16.5 percent, roughly one in every six Americans in the labor force.

KRC believes the decline in the United States jobs report signals more job loses are to come for Pennsylvania.

The KRC stated the June national job report number place the debate about Pennsylvania’s state budget in a new context. It is well known to economists that the best way for state government to limit job loss in an economic recession is to maintain spending levels. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and others have shown that direct spending reductions may generate more adverse economic consequences than tax increases, particularly tax increases on higher-income households. That means tax increases can be the least damaging way to close state fiscal deficits in the short run and provide for long-term economic growth..

Basic economics underscores that Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell’s proposal to balance the state’s budget in part through an increase in the state’s personal income tax is on target and that alternative course of draconian cuts in state spending would reduce job creation and increases unemployment. So far Pennsylvania unemployment remains about a percentage point lower than the national rate, an advantage that translates into 60,000 jobs. The wrong budget agreement would jeopardize that Pennsylvania advantage, the KRC wrote.

The Keystone Research Center analysis states the basic economic reasons that maintaining state spending ideally through revenue increases that fall on higher earners are straight forward:

• Government injects every dollars it raises into the economy.

• Taxpayers, by contrast, save some of their income and those savings do not stimulate the economy in the short run. The income of higher earners is most likely to be saved rather than used for consumption or investent in a deeply depressed economy.

• State spending financed through bonds, in effect, through future state revenues, can be especially stimulating to the state economy in the short run, one reason that bond-financed water and sewer infrastructure and the state’s $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund are so well timed.

The organization states from the point of view of maximizing short-term creation, an even better alternative to the Governor’s current proposal would be to collect needed state revenues more substantially from higher earners, through a differentially higher tax on investment income. It can be done in Pennsylvania without a constitutional change.

While Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is lower than the national one, it continues to move higher as the United States labor market weakens further. Moreover, initial claims for unemployment benefits were above 40,000 in Pennsylvania this past week, for the third week in a row.

The unemployment rate is higher in every part of Pennsylvania.