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January 30, 2015
ACTion Request = Tues 4-24 Call Your Senators on AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034
Updated On: Apr 28, 2012

ACTion Request

 Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees for cuts. Buried in the Postal Reform Bill (S.1789) are provisions that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers who are injured on the job.

Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” would eliminate the harmful provision that reduces benefits for federal workers injured on the job.

We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees by voting YES on the Akaka Amendment (Amendment 2034).

Tell Your Senators:

 Vote “YES” on Akaka Amendment 2034 to Postal Reform Bill on Tuesday April 24th

 Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees to pay for other initiatives…

On Tuesday, April 24th, the U.S. Senate will vote on Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” to strike language that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers injured on the job…

Tell the Senate to Protect Injured Federal Employees…

We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees. You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 

 

SUMMARY OF AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034

Senator Akaka, joined by Senators Inouye, Harkin, Murray, and Franken, filed an amendment to strike Title III of S.1789, which reduces workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees, and replace it with the text of H.R. 2465, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act. This bi-partisan bill (introduced by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)) passed the House by voice vote last year and amends the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101 et seq., the federal workers’ compensation program.

Specifically, this amendment would:

Allow the Department of Labor (DOL) to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration to combat fraud.

Expand DOL’s ability to collect from third parties.

Authorize DOL to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker, promoting greater accountability in the program.

Streamline the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.

Ensure that Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Nurses are reimbursed for their services and can certify disability for traumatic injuries.

Ensure injuries or illnesses sustained as the result of terrorism are covered as a war-risk hazard. This will help guarantee federal workers injured abroad or in the line of duty are appropriately compensated.

Raise the maximum disfigurement benefit from $3,500 (set in 1949) to $50,000 and provide additional support for funeral expenses (up to $6,000).

Why support this amendment:

Workers’ compensation cuts do not belong in postal reform:

Title III of the Postal Reform bill would cut workers’ compensation benefits for federal employees government-wide. Most of the workers affected by this are not postal employees. This is the only provision in the legislation that is not specific to the Postal Service.

These cuts do not even help the Postal Service in the near term. According to CBO, through 2016, the changes would result in a net increase of $10 million in Postal Service costs. Over the long run, these benefit cuts would only reduce a tiny fraction of the Postal Service’s deficit.

Senator Akaka said we need to take a closer look to make sure we do not harm disabled employees. This reform should not be included in postal reform legislation. The sponsors of this bill claim that this reform mirrors a proposal from Obama Administration (actually proposed by the Bush Administration but the Obama Administration has carried it forward). However, the Administration proposal is not as severe, and it is not retroactive.

Retroactive changes are unacceptable:

The proposal to apply these changes retroactively to many workers already injured is particularly concerning. It changes the rules after the fact for disabled employees who were relying on the promise of these benefits.

Reducing benefit levels for a past injury may invite litigation. FECA provides such employees’ their exclusive remedy against the federal government, and employees may not recover non-economic losses such as compensation for pain and suffering. Retroactive changes to benefit levels after the injury has occurred violate the government’s part of this bargain. Just as a litigant is not permitted to unilaterally change the terms of a settlement after it is made, the federal government should not be able to unilaterally change its workers’ compensation liability after that liability has attached.

Retroactive changes violate a basic premise of insurance. A responsible employee may choose to further insure himself or herself against disability, but that is not possible if their coverage under the workers’ compensation statute can be changed after the fact.

These cuts will harm senior citizens:

The reductions at “retirement age” are very concerning as well. Like most states, the federal government currently provides permanent benefits for permanent injuries. This is necessary because employees who cannot work because of injuries do not experience normal wage growth, do not earn Social Security credit, cannot contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan, and may have little ability to save. Moreover, the employees in the Civil Service Retirement System this applies to are not even eligible for Social Security.

Congress has gone down this road before, in 1949 passing a law (P.L. 81-357) that allowed workers’ comp benefits to be reduced at age 70. Congress repealed that law in 1974 (P.L.93-416), citing concerns about age discrimination and the burden on recipients.

Low-wage workers will be hurt most:

Proponents of these cuts often point to the tax-free status of FECA benefits. While this provides significant benefit to higher-wage workers in high tax brackets, low wage workers receive little or no benefit from FECA benefits being tax free.

These cuts remove the FECA supplement for dependents. Low-wage workers, in particular, may rely significantly on tax advantages provided to families with dependents, including filing as a head of household, exemptions for dependents, child and child care tax credits, and the Earned

Income Tax Credit. All of those tax benefits are lost during receipt of FECA, and the FECA dependent supplement helps offset those losses. Removing that supplement will harm low-wage workers. These cuts provide no relief to families and they will be driven into poverty by the reduction.

House-passed bill offers a bipartisan alternative:

This amendment replaces the problematic FECA cuts with the text of the H.R. 2465, which makes common sense changes to the FECA program without reducing benefits. The Republican-led House decided not to change workers compensation benefits at this time, and instead to study the issue. This bill was sponsored by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and passed on suspension by voice vote on November 29, 2011.

At the request of both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee (Klein, Walberg, Miller and Woolsey), which has jurisdiction over workers’ compensation in the House, the GAO is reviewing workers’ compensation benefits right now. It makes no sense to legislate before the studies Congress requested are final, Senator Akaka said. 


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This Week in Labor History

Weekend Labor History
January 30
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is born in Hyde Park, N.Y. He was elected president of the United States four times starting in 1932. His New Deal programs helped America survive the Great Depression. His legislative achievements included the creation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows workers to organize unions, bargain collectively, and strike - 1882

January 31
Some 12,000 pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas—mostly Latino women—walk off their jobs at 400 factories in what was to become a three-month strike against wage cuts. Strike leader Emma Tenayuca was eventually hounded out of the state - 1938

Ida M. Fuller is the first retiree to receive an old-age monthly benefit check under the new Social Security law. She paid in $24.75 between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484; her first check was for $22.54 - 1940

After scoring successes with representation elections conducted under the protective oversight of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the United Farm Workers of America officially ends its historic table grape, lettuce and wine boycotts – 1978
(The Fight in the Fields tells of legendary United Farm Workers of America founder and leader Cesar Chavez and his union’s struggles: to raise farmworker pay from .40 an hour; to win union recognition from savagely resistant grape and lettuce growers; to stop the use of deadly pesticides that were killing children in the fields. The pacifist Chavez endured several month-long fasts to counteract what he saw as a growing tendency toward violence in the farmworker movement, and many think those heroic acts contributed to his early death, at the age of 64.)

Union and student pressure forces Harvard University to adopt new labor policies raising wages for lowest-paid workers - 2002

Five months after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school board fires every teacher in the district in what the United Teachers of New Orleans sees as an effort to break the union and privatize the school system - 2005

February 01
Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullaney, the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y., and raises earnings for female laundry from $2 to $14 a week - 1864

Bricklayers begin working 8-hour days - 1867

Some 25,000 Paterson, N.J., silk workers strike for 8-hour work day and improved working conditions. Eighteen hundred were arrested over the course of the six-month walkout, led by the Wobblies. They returned to work on their employers’ terms - 1913

The federal minimum wage increases to $1.60 per hour - 1968

Int’l Brotherhood of Firemen & Oilers merge with Service Employees Int’l Union - 1995
— Compiled and edited by David Prosten, Union Communication Services

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