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Snap: Union protests Obama’s Labor Department

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

President Obama’s Department of Labor, considered one of the most pro-Big Labor ever, is being protested by the union that represents 4,000 department workers.

Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union is “up in arms” over a seven-fold hike in parking fees in the department’s garages at the Frances Perkins Building, local Vice President Eleanor Lauderdale tells Secrets. “That’s a steep climb.”

Department official Al Stewart announced in a email that the General Services Administration plans to farm out management of the lots and over 900 parking spaces to a private contractor, ending the cheap $35 monthly parking fee paid by most Labor employees. The eventual contractor will charge “slightly below” the average Washington rate of “$220 to $260/month,” he said. The parking fee be deducted from paychecks.

Lauderdale said that AFGE considers the inexpensive parking to be a negotiated employee benefit and an especially nice one for workers who haven’t had a cost-of-living salary increase in three years. She said that AFGE is trying to negotiate down the cost, but that Labor is “treating it like it is a given.” Labor spokesman Stephen Barr said there are negotiations taking place but that GSA wants to make the move by June 1. He added that most employees carpool, so the higher fee could be split among riders.

But the shift will end Labor’s parking subsidy to department workers, and Stewart said that would free up tax dollars “for our work on behalf of American workers.”

Local 12 is planning a protest in the next two weeks. Its earlier plan to launch a silent protest this week was thwarted by their union printer who didn’t put the union label on the protest buttons.

Labor is selling the price hike as an Obama green initiative that will force workers to carpool or take mass transit. “This change will support the administration’s sustainability goals to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by federal employees,” said Labor.

And beware all federal workers toiling in GSA buildings: All GSA parking lots are going to make the change this summer.