December Report – 2023 Overview


AFSCME Retirees held their annual meeting and headed to the Hill to talk to their representatives and senators. AFSCME Retirees lobbied Congress to adequately fund the federal government. They also stressed the need to avoid a government shutdown — which they accomplished — and advocated for the repeal of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO-WEP). They also thanked lawmakers who voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan, which provided much-needed aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which allowed Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

In the waning hours of September, we narrowly avoided a shutdown. President Saunders said at the time, “Once again, extremists in Congress played a dangerous game, manufacturing an unnecessary crisis that would have imposed reckless cuts to programs working families depend on every day for food, health care, child care, housing and more. But bipartisan majorities have shown grown-up, responsible leadership, avoiding the pain and disruption of another government shutdown.” Congress must still fund the government through the fiscal year and avoid two more government shutdown deadlines in January and February.  

Union members and workers across the nation had a great victory when Laphonza Butler, the former president of SEIU California and president of EMILY’s List, was appointed to fill the term of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.


In mid-November, President Biden nominated labor lawyer Nicole Berner to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. President Saunders said: “While there are many lawyers in the federal judiciary with experience representing corporations, there are too few with experience fighting to uphold workers’ rights. Berner would also be the first openly LGBT judge on the Fourth Circuit. We are confident that Berner will take her experience in the labor movement with her to the Fourth Circuit where she will add much-needed diversity of experience to the bench. We applaud President Biden for nominating her, and we call on the Senate to confirm her without delay.” 

In early November, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced legislation to help providers like family child care homes, child care centers, Head Start programs and after-school programs that feed more than 4.2 million children and receive support from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act makes multiple improvements to increase the reimbursement rates for meals. That will help make sure that millions of children receive nutritious meals and also ease the financial burdens on child care providers and parents struggling to afford child care. 


AFSCME member Wendy Smith spoke at an event on Capitol Hill supporting a bill to strengthen our nation’s public health nursing workforce. The twin House and the Senate proposals would help public health departments across our country recruit, hire, train and pay licensed registered nurses. Called the Public Health Nursing Act, the bills would go a long way toward addressing a national health care staffing shortage that worsened during the pandemic as many health care workers left their jobs.

Former AFSCME member and 911 dispatcher Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) introduced the 911 SAVES Act. The 911 Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services Act is a bipartisan bill to reclassify 911 dispatchers as a protective service occupation. Dispatchers are currently classified as serving in “administrative and clerical” roles. The bill’s impact will go beyond recognition and respect. It would make 911 dispatchers eligible for funding to receive more training and expand access to mental health support. 


After years of advocating for expanding the World Trade Center Health Program, we finally saw Congress increase funding for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act that was recently sent to President Biden for his signature to become law. Our nation will never forget those — including many AFSCME members — who jumped into action and put their lives on the line to save others on that tragic day. “Never Forget” means we must continue to honor their service and sacrifice, with actions and not just words. And now, thanks to the leadership of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) , Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), they will have access to the health care they need.  


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