Delegates to the 45th Biennial National Convention determined that the ten issues listed below are of utmost importance to NAPFE.
Equal Employment Opportunity:
While federal laws prohibit job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, the system that enforces equal protection opportunity law (EEO) is broken. Many federal agencies have huge case backlogs and lack the human and financial resources necessary to properly enforce existing civil rights laws.
Current proposals and initiatives to reform the system puts at risk existing protections offered to postal and federal employees. Proposals discussed such as removing the right to an investigation and restricting access to a hearing before an administrative judge will undermine the efficacy of the system enacted to protect workers and will force workers to seek redress in the federal courts which is a very expensive proposition.
In determining whether mediation has a useful role within the EEO process, the right of employees to a detailed investigation and hearing should not be compromised or eliminated. Rather, agencies should be held accountable for missing deadlines and sanctioned appropriately when discrimination is found.
NAPFE supports strong and consistent enforcement of equal employment laws, a process that allows investigations so that employees can access evidence supportive of their claims, and the right to a hearing before an Administrative Judge.
The Postal Service is facing many challenges. In 2001, the agency has been heavily impacted by the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the anthrax attack in October. Its points of delivery are increasing as volume decreases. It is struggling to preserve its viability in the age of the internet and private mail companies.
The Postal Service has released a Transformation Plan which rejects privatization or a return to an agency financed by the government’s treasury. Instead it proposed restructuring the Postal Service into a Commercial Government Enterprise. The Postal Service is now focused on cutting costs to erode its billion dollar deficits.
President Bush has named a nine-member Commission on the U.S. Postal Service with a mandate to look at the Postal Service’s operations, structures and finances. The Commission will also look into privatizing part of the Postal Services operations.
NAPFE opposes privatization of the Postal Service as its primary purpose is to bind the nation together, not look at the bottom line. NAPFE supports preserving the universal service of the Postal Service by getting rid of its break even mandate that asks the Postal Service to act as a business while hampering its ability to do so. NAPFE also supports giving the Postal Service more flexibility in setting prices. Additionally NAPFE advocates for improved labor relations within the Postal Service so workers may feel that their well being is as important as the Service’s bottom line.
Despite spending more money per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world, the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th in meeting the health care needs of its people. Today, 41 million people are without health insurance. Racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from cancer, cardiovascular disease, infant mortality, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and are less likely to have child and adult immunizations. Studies have shown that while heart disease and cancer are the first and second leading causes of death, respectively, African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians lead Whites in incidences of death from these diseases. Also, while racial and ethnic minorities make up approximately 25 percent of the total population, these groups account for over half of all AIDS cases. These disparities persist even when racial and ethnic minorities are insured as they are likely to receive inferior care despite their insured status.
Further, many retirees must chose between food and necessary medication because of the great costs of prescription drugs. And, access to long term care is greatly needed as Americans are living longer and are increasingly facing the prohibitive costs of funding their long term care. In fact, medical bills are the principal reason for bankruptcy filings. Moreover, states, in the face of large deficits, are cutting Medicaid eligibility and benefits.
The National Academy of Sciences has issued a report stating that “[t]he health care delivery system is incapable of meeting the present, let alone the future, needs of the American public.” The report noted that private health insurance is increasing at an annual rate of more than 12 percent with insureds receiving few benefits.
NAPFE supports a national health care policy that mandates universal coverage of the highest quality at a cost that all can afford. It supports a national program providing long term care for the chronically ill. And, NAPFE supports Healthy People 2010, the initiative aimed at ending racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system.
Civil Service Protections:
The debate surrounding the creation of the Homeland Security Department raised the scepter that the civil service protections and union rights of federal workers may be in jeopardy. By insisting on the need for complete managerial flexibility in the new department dedicated to fighting terrorism, President Bush alarmed those of federal workers who feel that the system of managerial flexibility can lead to arbitrary actions against their interests and abolish the right to join unions.
Though the legislation establishing the Homeland Security Department does not apply Civil Service laws governing pay, promotion, performance evaluations, discipline and firing, job classification and collective bargaining to the new Department, its Secretary must consult with employee organizations when making rules. This is a welcomed provision and creates a new paradigm in the federal government for relationships between workers and managers. And one that must be monitored closely to ensure that managerial flexibility does not lead to the politicization of the new department.
Additionally, the legislation creating the new Homeland Security Department contains new rules that affect personnel provisions throughout the government including allowing for categorical rankings to improve the quality of hires, direct hiring authority for agencies with critical needs, appointments of “chief human capitol officers” and allowing for “workforce restructuring” buyouts.
As Congress considers legislation that seeks to reform civil service rules such as the proposed “Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2003,” NAPFE will work to ensure that proposed reform initiatives do not undermine the rights of federal workers.
NAPFE supports civil service protections and the right to unionize for all federal workers believing that these protections leave workers free to work on behalf of the country’s interests rather than be concerned about possible derogation of their rights.
Today’s working families encounter many challenges balancing their work lives and the needs of their family. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 employees or more to provide up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, child, spouse or parent with major health problems or for the employees health care without fear of losing their job or benefits, many workers are not covered by the FMLA. Or, a sizeable majority of those covered by FMLA cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
Studies show that many employees feel that they will need to use their FMLA benefits to take care of an ill parent. The need for affordable long-term care is reaching crisis proportions and many workers can’t afford the cost of caring for their parents or to take time off work to do so themselves.
Additionally, the need for affordable quality childcare has never been greater as more and more families find it necessary for both parents to work in order to meet the needs of the family. Most working parents must rely on childcare and the cost for quality care can be prohibitive.
The expansion of unemployment insurance programs or the use of temporary disability insurance would be a great help to working parents who should not be torn part as they try to provide for and care for their families.
NAPFE supports strong enforcement of FMLA coupled with programs to help families make the best use of FMLA’s benefits such as expanded unemployment insurance or temporary disability insurance.
The Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance program (“Social Security’) is at risk. Social Security provides benefits to families who lose wages because of old age, disability or death of a wage earner. It depends on the contributions of today’s worker’s to fund today’s retirees. In 2017, when baby boomers begin to retire, there will be even fewer workers contributing to the system than there is today. Projections show that by 2037, Social Security will be able to pay 75% of expected benefits. There are differing approaches on how to address the projected imbalance. The President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security issued its report recommending adding personal accounts to the Social Security Program. However, subsequent studies show that such a program would drain billions from the program and jeopardize the guaranteed benefits of the program.
Equally, the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination provisions reduce the Social Security benefits of hundreds of thousands of government workers undermining their overall retirement income.
NAPFE supports reforming Social Security so that all those eligible can receive all of their guaranteed benefits. However, NAPFE does not support setting up a program for personal accounts since it would cost billions to set up and drain benefits from those currently receiving benefits.