AFEU Goes to Washington

Ah, the District of Columbia in springtime!  That precious time
between dreary D.C. winter and humidity-filled summer!  Cherry-blossom
season!  Except when there’s snow and 20 mph “breezes”!

But weather could not daunt your intrepid union reps.  Four members of
the AFEU Executive Board (President Lee Stone, VP for Legislative
Affairs Mary Kaiser, VP for Benefits Janette Rocha, and Trustee Paul
Davis) headed to our nation’s capital March 24-28th for the 2014
Legislative Advocacy Week, hosted annually by our parent union
(International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers).  The
focus of this IFPTE annual event is supporting local unions’
legislative efforts, e.g., we four from Local 30 at ARC advocating for
NASA and its Civil Servants as only AFEU can.  (Seriously… your union
can lobby on behalf of ARC and NASA; Center management is legally
restricted from doing so.)

After caucusing all day Monday and Tuesday morning with the IFPTE
leadership and members of other IFPTE locals (including
representatives from Naval shipyards, Army Corps of Engineers, and the
Tennessee Valley Authority), the four of us from ARC joined with our
union brethren from other IFPTE-represented NASA centers (GRC, GSFC,
MSFC, and HQ) to storm Capitol Hill and speak the truth to power – or
at least not get lost on the Metro!

We met the congressional representatives (or senior members of their
staff) for the five districts where most of ARC’s employees reside:
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (whose district – CA 18th – includes ARC)
Congressman Mike Honda (CA 17th)
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA 19th)
Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA 15th)
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA 14th)
Because one of our critical issues was advocating for continued
funding for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
(SOFIA), we also visited the offices of Congressmen Kevin McCarthy (CA
23rd, where Armstrong Flight Research Center is located) and Howard
“Buck” McKeon (CA 25th, where most AFRC employees live).  We also had
meetings with staff members from Senators Boxer’s and Feinstein’s
offices.  The remainder of our busy week was filled with meeting
senators and representatives from Alabama, Maryland, and Ohio – 22
meetings in all!

Our general impression is that NASA enjoys healthy, bipartisan
support.  In particular, Californian representatives from both sides
of the aisle were working to restore SOFIA funding.  That said, one
would be hard-pressed to find Washington advocates for increasing NASA
funding in these trying fiscal times.  To that end, the union
presidents from the participating NASA centers did a masterful job of
keeping our budget recommendations within the FY14 funding box (which
is ~$186M more than the President’s proposed FY15 budget for NASA).
By “restoring” the FY15 funding to the two-year, bipartisan-agreed-to
level, we could then advocate for reasonable puts and takes that would
retain funding for critical programs and projects (such as SOFIA and
other Science projects; Exploration R&D; Aeronautics; Education; and
Cross-Agency Support) and reflect a better cross-center,
cross-discipline balance.  A copy of our IFPTE-endorsed appropriation
letter is attached.

I’ve also attached a copy of the IFPTE’s more global advocacy letter.
This letter reflects the priorities that our parent union emphasized
during the legislative week.  In addition to NASA’s budget being cited
as a critical issue (along with potential Base Realignments and
Closures, and the privatization of the Tennessee Valley Authority),
AFEU members should also note that the IFPTE is calling for an
increase in Civil Servant salaries (i.e., a 4% COLA in the FY15
budget) and no increase in pension contributions.

Overall, we believe our week in Washington was very successful.  In
addition to providing forceful advocacy to members of Congress, your
executive board members were able to strengthen ties with union
representative both from other NASA centers and from other locals
(including both government and non-government groups such as the
scientists and engineers at Boeing) who share common interests and
concerns.  These ties and activities are critical for us to maintain
an active, effective bargaining unit.  All of us appreciate the fact
that YOUR union dues pay for our airfares, hotel rooms, and per diem
(though, strangely, not our bar tabs… what’s with that?).  Yes, we are
the ones who speak in Washington, but we speak on your behalf; we are
grateful for your support, financial and otherwise.

On Wednesday, April 23rd, come to the membership meeting (Noon in
N204, Room 101) to hear more about “the situation in Washington,” as
well as ways you can become more involved in union efforts to continue
our conversation with our representatives via visits to their local
offices.  Thanks again for your support!

What?  You’re still not a AFEU member?  Well, there’s no time like the
present; we’re in the midst of a membership drive!  You can download
your “Sign me up!” form here.

Mary K. Kaiser
VP for Legislative Affairs
Ames Federal Employees Union
IFPTE Local 30