Statement: AFGE 704: Proposed EPA budget cuts will mortally wound environment, local economies

CHICAGO (March 16, 2017)–Following is a statement from Michael Mikulka, President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, the union representing employees of the Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, in response to the drastic proposed Trump administration cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget:

“These cuts amount to the White House sending a wrecking ball into the heart of the Environmental Protection Agency–and they’ll put American lives at risk.

“The cuts would cripple EPA employees’ ability to do our duty to protect the nation’s natural and economic health. Communities across the country could now be subject to long-banned practices such as the dumping of industrial and mining waste and untreated sewage into lakes, streams and rivers. Wildlife and fish populations will likely be reduced, and human health will be directly damaged as a result of dropping longstanding environmental safeguards. And make no mistake: if these cuts are implemented, the safety of the nation’s drinking water and the air we breathe will be at stake.

“The proposed federal budget would shift the responsibility for water, land and air quality to the states and localities; but that is nothing more than a pipedream. The White House must face the hard truth that states are already struggling and lack the capacity to manage these programs. Here in Illinois, we’ve been without a state budget whatsoever for two years.

“EPA Region 5 manages the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for which funding has been zeroed out in this proposal. The Great Lakes are the biggest fresh-water supply on the planet and source the drinking water for most of the Midwest. For recreation, health and safety, the protection of the Great Lakes ought to be top priority. Instead, they are being slashed. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin will be in grave danger as a result.

“We urge lawmakers in Washington to roundly reject these EPA cuts, and protect human health and the environment for all Americans.”


Media Coverage

Links to AFGE media coverage:

In Chicago, EPA Staffers go to PR School

Nicole Cantello speaking on Ben Joravsky show

The Sunday Spin: Politics with rick Pearson Full Show 4/2/17

The Atlantic – I Ran George W. Bush’s EPA – and Trump’s Cuts to the Agency Would Endanger Lives

Chicago SunTimes- Editorial – Because of EPA, Chicago is cleaner and safer — let’s not go back 

Chicago Tribune – Local science community rallies around opposition to Trump, plans march

Chicago SunTimes – Brown: Clearing the air on people, issues hit by Trump’s EPA cuts

Washington Post (US) – Hundreds of current, former EPA employees urge Senate to reject Trump’s nominee for the agency

Chicago Tonight, WTTW – Great Lakes Funding Threatened

MSNBC (US) – EPA employees rally in opposition to Trump’s choice to lead agency

Chicago Tribune (IL) – Hundreds of current and former EPA employees protest Trump’s nominee in Chicago

Associated Press (IL) – Scores of EPA workers object to Trump’s pick to lead agency

Reuters (US) – U.S. EPA employees protest Trump’s pick to run agency

Univision Chicago (IL) – Ambientalistas y activistas en Chicago alzan su voz contra el nominado de Trump para liderar EPA

WTTW Chicago (IL) – Story on Senator Dick Durbin Pruitt Announcement and Rally

CLTV Chicago (IL) – Story on #SavetheEPA rally – Qutoe from Dan Biss and shots of large crowd

WGN Chicago (IL) – Story on #SavetheEPA rally – Qutoe from Dan Biss and shots of large crowd

UPI (US) – Current, former EPA workers urge Congress to reject nominee Pruitt

ThinkProgress (US) – Scott Pruitt hasn’t even been confirmed and EPA employees are already protesting

In These Times (US) – EPA Workers to Trump: We Don’t Want Scott Pruitt as Our New Boss

GOOD (US) – 100 EPA Officials Turned Their Lunch Break Into A Rally To Protest Their New Boss

ColorLines (US) – Former and Current EPA Employees Denounce Trump’s Pick for Top Administrator

Daily Kos (US) – EPA employees put their jobs on the line to protest Scott Pruitt

E&E News (US) – GOP bill to scrap agency prompts backlash, protests

E&E News (US) – Former employees blast Pruitt in letter to Senate

E&E News (US) – Chicago staffers rally against spending cuts

WOWK-TV Charleston (WV) – News reader on #SavetheEPA rally in Chicago


Durbin Event Press Hits:

Chicago Sun-Times (IL) – Durbin says he’ll vote against Scott Pruitt for EPA chief

Chicagoist (IL) – Illinois Senators Durbin & Duckworth To Vote No On Trump Cabinet Picks

Crain’s Chicago Business (IL) – Durbin on blocking Trump cabinet picks: ‘That’s my job’

Chicago Tribune (IL) – Durbin, Duckworth say they’ll vote no on education nominee

WMAQ Chicago (IL) – Story on Senator Dick Durbin Announcement on Pruitt with footage of Sierra Club press conference

WTTW Chicago (IL) – Story on Senator Dick Durbin Pruitt Announcement and Rally

Univision Chicago (IL) – Ambientalistas y activistas en Chicago alzan su voz contra el nominado de Trump para liderar EPA


Ethics Reminder and Hatch Act Refresher

ethicsMany EPA employees have inquired about the possible ethical implications of sharing your personal opinions on science, policy or politics, particularly in social media.  You as a United States citizen are free to express yourself about matters that are important to you, including ones that relate to EPA.  Your ability to express yourself includes doing so in the workplace and in personal social media. But, when you do express yourself in the workplace or EPA (which is your workplace), there are three things you should bear in mind:  the federal ethics rules continue to apply to you as they always have; the rules depend on whether you are speaking in your official EPA capacity or your individual personal capacity; and your expression of your views in the workplace needs to comply with agency orders prohibiting conduct that is “abusive or offensive,” or that constitutes harassment.

Understanding the Ethics Rules

 While you may express yourself, please remember that you can’t misuse your federal position when doing so.  We want to help ensure you understand every employee’s ethics obligations while being clear that we are not limiting or expanding your ability to act or communicate, nor taking any position in support of or against such actions or communications.  This message explains the ethics rules you should consider when you speak or write or otherwise express your opinions.

Let’s start with the basics.  The ethics rules have not changed because we have a new Administration.  We, as EPA employees, are still bound by the Hatch Act and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employee of the Executive Branch, and the conflict of interest statutes.  The ethics rules do not change depending on the type of forum.  The same rules about misuse of position, EPA’s limited personal use policy, fundraising and the Hatch Act apply to your use of social media, tweeting or blogging as they do to non-virtual, more traditional forms of communication.

Understanding the Capacity In Which You Are Acting

In terms of ethics rules, we view any activity in one of two ways:  either you are acting in your OFFICIAL EPA capacity, or you are acting in your INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL capacity.  There is no in-between, no “professional” capacity category.  It’s either official duty or individual personal capacity.

When speaking or writing, including blogging and in social media, you should be clear in what capacity you are communicating.  We liken it to staying in your designated lane when driving:  you can be in one lane of the highway or the other, and you can also switch lanes, but don’t straddle the dotted line or weave back and forth.  The safest drivers stay in the middle of their designated lane and signal appropriately when they are changing lanes.  It’s the same with ethics.  The ethical employee knows and makes clear to others when she is acting in her official capacity versus her personal capacity.

Typically, an activity is undertaken in OFFICIAL CAPACITY when it is consistent with statutory authority and Agency or office mission and assigned duties.  When working in your official capacity, you can use EPA time and resources, including EPA email address, EPA phone number, EPA equipment and property and, if applicable, subordinates.  To participate in INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL CAPACITY, we urge you not to use your EPA email address or contact information and, if possible, not refer to EPA position or title.  If you feel you must refer to your EPA position or title, then the prudential advice is to do so as one of several biographical details with EPA not having any undue prominence.  You should be clear you are expressing an individual personal opinion, not speaking on behalf of the Agency.  While the agency does have a limited personal use policy that allows some personal use of EPA equipment such as computers, if expressing a personal opinion publicly on a subject, it is safest to avoid the use of EPA equipment.

Understanding Some Limits on Conduct

Displaying offensive materials or engaging in conversations that constitute “abusive or offensive language, gestures, or other conduct” as listed in EPA Order 3120.1 is prohibited.  Harassment based on conduct that is threatening, intimidating, and/or bullying will not be tolerated, per EPA Order 4711.

For Those Who Want to Know More

To assist you in navigating the ethics and Hatch Act rules that apply to communications, whether in personal or official capacity, we created a couple of charts.  We hope they help guide you to stay in the correct ethics “lane.”  Treat your fellow employees with the dignity and respect we all deserve and to stay committed to and focused on our core mission, protecting human health and the environment.  As always, if you have an ethics question, please don’t hesitate to contact the OGC Ethics team, your regional ethics counsel or your Deputy Ethics Official.  To reach OGC Ethics, send an email to Printable handouts on Hatch Act and “staying in the right lane” are here:

Wisconsin’s Legacy for Unions

The New York Times


“It’s had a devastating effect,” the labor leader Marty Beil, said of Wisconsin’s law curbing union power. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Three years ago, a labor leader named Marty Beil was one of the loudest opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill,” a proposal that brought tens of thousands of protesters out to the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison in frigid February weather. A gruff-voiced grizzly of a man, Mr. Beil warned that the bill was rigged with booby traps that would cripple the state’s public-sector unions.


He gets no satisfaction from being right. Since the law was passed, membership in his union, which represents state employees, has fallen 60 percent; its annual budget has plunged to $2 million from $6 million.

Mr. Walker’s landmark law — called Act 10 — severely restricted the power of public-employee unions to bargain collectively, and that provision, among others, has given social workers, prison guards, nurses and other public employees little reason to pay dues to a union that can no longer do much for them. Members of Mr. Beil’s group, the Wisconsin State Employees’ Union, complain that their take-home pay has fallen more than 10 percent in recent years, a sign of the union’s greatly diminished power. Continue reading “Wisconsin’s Legacy for Unions”

Tea Party teams with union leaders to fight Obama’s trade plan

Tea Party teams with union leaders to fight Obama’s trade plan

By Alexander Bolton – 02/04/14 06:00 AM EST

Normally the bitterest of enemies, labor unions and the Tea Party are reaching out to each other to defeat President Obama’s trade agenda.

The groups are at separate poles when it comes to taxes, ObamaCare and who should be the next president, but they agree that making it easier for the administration to negotiate and win congressional approval of trade deals is a bad idea.

“This is one of those issues that 90 percent of the left and 90 percent of the right agree on,” Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, said. Continue reading “Tea Party teams with union leaders to fight Obama’s trade plan”

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