Well, we have almost reached the end of the year. It is hard to believe that 2022 has come and gone. First, I want to thank everyone for allowing me to represent you for the last three years. It has been a rewarding experience. Granting me your trust has been worth more than anyone could imagine.
Second, please make sure you have a safe and happy holiday season. Third, don’t forget to make some time for yourself during this time of gathering and celebration. Last, I look forward to seeing everyone in 2023.
A Year in Review from the National Officers
It can be difficult to know or understand how much work the national officers are doing to protect our workplace rights. We would like you to know that we have spent many hours outside of the office preparing, reading, stressing, hoping, and working to make Passports a better place to work because we care about improving the work lives of our colleagues.
With the new year approaching we are reflecting on 2022, and a few of us would like to share our answers to the following questions:
- What was is your proudest moment/accomplishment/win from 2022?
- What do you regret/wish you had done better or a loss you’ve learned from?
- What is your vision/hope for NFFE 1998 in 2023?
- What do you wish BUE knew?
- How can BUE better support workplace improvements?
Vice President Boyd
- What was is your proudest moment/accomplishment/win from 2022? Providing confidence and empowerment for an employee to meet with the PDAS and helping the employee prep an agenda for the meeting.
- What do you regret/wish you had done better or a loss you’ve learned from? I did not provide enough evidence such as contact tracing data to win employees Hazard Duty Pay during an Arbitration Hearing.
- What is your vision/hope for NFFE 1998 in 2023? Provide another robust Master Agreement for employees in Year 2023.
- What do you wish BUE knew ? If you complain to Management about a working condition and do not get a remedy in at least two weeks, please consider filing a Step 1 Grievance to the Management but before the 45 day deadline of the date you complained.
- How can BUE better support workplace improvements? Document in writing to the Management of what you need to be improved upon in your workplace.
Communicator – Emilie
- What was is your proudest moment/accomplishment/win from 2022? Learning how to transition the newsletter to the nffe1998.org website. This was a simple solution that allowed us to focus on content instead of graphics. Thanks for the idea Lee!
- What do you regret/wish you had done better or a loss you’ve learned from? I learned that whenever the date a grievance is due could be calculated differently by the union and management, to clarify what the due date is, request an extension, and submit the grievance in a timely manner.
- What is your vision/hope for NFFE 1998 in 2023? Great discussions among representatives about FAM updates to propose effective changes that improve how we adjudicate, fewer untimely filed grievances, more cohesion and collaboration among stewards, more attendance on weekly steward calls, and training up more stewards and dues paying members in how to advocate for our workplace rights and conditions.
- What do you wish BUE knew? How fortunate we are to have an active, accomplished, successful union. We have one of the best scorecards when it comes to winning cases that go to arbitration. We do so much for employees, but a lot of cases are private so we can’t share some of our biggest wins with everyone. Secondly, the majority of Americans are pro-union, yet our union only has about 30% of us paying dues. The excellent work accomplished by the union exceeds the cost for representation.
- How can BUE better support workplace improvements? Be alert to changes in working conditions, establish and maintain good relationships with management and your local steward, and advocate for yourself and coworkers! Read the CBA and become familiar with topics you care about like overtime, scheduling, performance evaluations. Read the quarterly newsletters and emails from the Union President and talk to your steward regularly.
2022 SCORECARD & ACHIEVEMENTS
NFFE 1998 Representatives were very busy in 2022 negotiating better working conditions. Eight new dress codes were signed at local agencies.
13 New Local Agreements signed in 2022:
- Chicago Desk/seating
- SIA Dress code
- Washington D.C. Dress code
- Boston Desk/seating
- Buffalo Alternate Work Schedules
- New York Dress code
- Miami Dress code
- New Orleans Dress code
- San Juan Food/drink
- Los Angeles Dress code
- Seattle Dress code
- WPC Dress code
- WPC Alternate Work Schedules
Dues paying members are able to access and review all of the signed local agreements by logging in to the website, clicking on the Member Resources tab > Agreements > Local Agreements. Dues paying members can register for website access here.
Additionally, many formal complaints were filed. We value and protect our employee’s privacy. We can’t share specifics, but we can give you an idea of some of the topics of grievances that we’ve assisted with.
- Promotion denial
- Hardship transfer denial
- Promotion denial
- Payroll error
- HR Error
- Over Auditing
- Official Time Denied
- Fair, Reasonable Appraisals
- Training Denial
- Overtime Pay
Grievances are prioritized first by stewards. Local agreements also get a lot of attention and time because of the big impact it has locally. However, there are a lot of other things stewards spend their time on. In general, stewards prioritize their time around the following items:
- Grievances – written formal employee complaints to the employer, with strict deadlines
- PDI / Voting – feedback on proposed FAM sections and voting on moving grievances forward
- UMC – Union Management Committee meetings to maintain local working relationships
- BUE Engagement – Communicating with and assisting employees
- Locally negotiated agreements – Improving workplace conditions around dress code, scheduling, desks etc.
- Committees – legislative, bylaws, communication, education, finance
- Special projects – to serve the BUE well
FAM Pre-Decisional Input and Bargaining
Every year headquarters sends the union FAM revisions, giving us an opportunity to provide feedback or bargain sections of our passport manual. The Union provided feedback on over 50 FAM sections in 2022! Stewards take time to carefully review proposed changes to the FAM critically to improve the quality of the FAM. Some of the questions that guide our critiques are:
- What impact will this have on adjudicators?
- Does this make sense?
- Will it increase the time it takes to adjudicate?
- What type of error would not be following the FAM guidance result in?
- Is this reasonable?
- Is it different in practice?
- Can links to other relevant resources and FAM sections be added?
- Is this clear? How can confusing sections be simplified?
Many of the revisions proposed minor changes, but there were a few sections that there were significant discussions around. One of these significant discussions happened around the future MIS 8 FAM section that has yet to be published. Why? Because agency to agency there are many differences in how MIS is used. For example, days when we are not at work for a federal holiday. Some agencies change the number of scheduled hours to 0 and submit. Other agencies enter the entire day as “Administrative” under the Task drop down and submit.
The Union also asked for more clarity on when breaks should be used. Do we automatically add a 15 minute break when we complete 3.75 hours or less of lockbox? Do we add a 15 minute break when we adjudicate between 4.0 to 7.75 hours of adjudication? The Union proposed that the equations used in MIS completely remove the 15 minute break factored in, because it is rare for someone to adjudicate exactly 4.0 or 8.0 hours of lockbox. It may be more fair and beneficial for adjudicators to enter in the 15 minute breaks manually in MIS.
Voting Administrative Leave Denials
International Electoral Day Trivia:
True or False: Some countries’ Electoral Day falls on the weekend
True or False: Electoral Day is a holiday in some countries
True or False: In some countries voting is mandatory
True or False: In some countries you can vote for your top three candidates for each open position
The correct answer is true. There are many other ways to organize and carry out electoral days!
In March of 2022 OPM announced new paid time off for federal employees to vote, to include early voting or to serve as a non-partisan poll worker. It states that administrative leave should be granted for the needed amount of time up to 4 hours. According to the Department Notice “supervisors are generally expected to approve request of eligible employees for such leave.”
Nationwide, passport employees’ requests for leave to vote were being denied, while others were being approved. The Union stepped up, and quickly drafted a grievance that was submitted on 11/4/22, the Friday before the general election. The Union requested a meeting with Management to discuss the issue. The grievance requested the remedy of returning leave to any employee that took annual leave in order to vote. However, many of us were discouraged from submitting an admin leave request for voting, and never submitted a leave slip.
Management has requested an Alternate Dispute Resolution meeting regarding this grievance. Because there is clear evidence of leave denials, it is expected that all of those who used annual leave to vote will have the leave returned. This is a standard example of how employees must suffer the harm in order to receive a remedy in the future.
Union Wins! LA Signs New Dress Code
The Union Representatives at the Los Angeles Passport Agency drafted and signed a new dress code. Congratulations! Dues paying members may access all local agreements when logged in to nffe1998.org.
NFFE 1998 Wins Big – Back Pay for Delayed Promotion
One of our Union’s greatest successes in 2022 is winning back pay for a specialist whose promotion was delayed. One of the reasons this case was successful is because the specialist discussed their complaint to the union immediately upon their anniversary of
This case went to arbitration and the arbitrator sided with the union. The arbiter ordered the employer to pay the employee back pay for the months that they worked past their 1-year GS-9 promotion anniversary, because that is the date that they should have been promoted to GS-11. Reach out to your local steward if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Performance Evaluation Season
For new employees, the date that you receive your annual review and performance appraisal is often tied to your start date. For seasoned adjudicators, annual reviews and performance appraisals happen in January. This is a reminder of your rights during this performance evaluation season.
Every employee has the right to question the language used in their performance appraisals. Sometimes employees receive surprise negative feedback in the narratives written by supervisors. If this happens, please consider requesting the derogatory statement to be removed if you feel it is unfair or inaccurate.
For example, an employee was participating in a customer service rotation. The CSM and the employee were supposed to work together for 4 weeks, but there were only 6 days that they were in the office together, non-consecutively. Then the employee’s performance evaluation says that they didn’t manage the rotational workload well, or didn’t communicate well, etc. This could be considered an unfair statement because of the minimal time the CSM and the rotational specialist were in the office together.
The Union has successfully assisted employees in the removal of unfair derogatory statements. Reach out to your local steward or the national officers for support.
Finally, the Union is bargaining the redesigned performance evaluation, and passport specialists can expect to be rated with the same performance evaluation criteria in 2023 as in previous years. If you’d like to be involved in the redesign of our performance evaluations, please reach out to the national officers (NFFE1998-NationalOfficers@state.gov).
Hazardous Winter Weather
Many areas of the country were hit with life-threatening winter weather over the holidays. Please prioritize your safety. According to our contract in Article 32 Safety, Health, Security, “management will take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all employees.” And in Article 31 Leave, it states that the “Employer will make reasonable efforts to notify bargaining unit employees how to be informed of an office closing.”
The Department of State Notice on December 23, 2022 provided guidance on severe winter weather, “listen for emergency information and follow guidance from local and state officials.” At least 5 passport agencies were closed on December 23, 2022, and more closed early. National officers and local stewards have been monitoring the situations because your safety is our priority.
When an agency does not close in life threatening weather, the Union can file a grievance. This formal written complaint may include a request for leave to be returned to any employee who used annual leave because of the unsafe weather conditions. Let your local steward know if you would like more information on being a part of a winter weather grievance.
Membership Dues Increase to $33.50
Dues are increasing in 2023 from $30.94 to $33.50 per pay period. Our dues assist more than NFFE Local 1998. We currently have three entities that receive a portion of our Union dues:
The International Aerospace and Machinists Union (IAM) receives the largest portion of our Union dues. IAM is the umbrella Union organization for National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE). IAM lobbies against anti-federal employee bills in Congress, provides crucial training for our stewards at the Winpisinger Training Center, and provides numerous benefits for members through discounts, Veteran Services Benefits, and scholarships. NFFE receives the second largest portion of dues payments, focusing on representing federal government employees. We have been assisted numerous times in arbitrations, hearings, and settlements by NFFE legal counsel. NFFE legal counsel is currently working with us with the national payroll grievance; too many of our employees have gone without health insurance coverage, had $0 paychecks, and other issues because of the payroll errors. You can hear more from the NFFE President on the dues increase here.
Finally, the last portion of union dues goes to our local, NFFE 1998. We represent you! Our ability to fight payroll errors, and other mismanagement is a direct result from your financial support. Thank you. We work hard to uphold the contract and make passports a better place to work.
Please notify your local steward or fill out an online complaint if your 2023 pay period 1 dues deduction is incorrect.