July 2022 Newsletter

Presidents Message

Welcome to July, or whenever you get around to reading the NFFE-1998 newsletter. And of course, we appreciate you taking time to read the newsletter. I will attempt to keep the message short this month. 

The main topic I would like to write about is taking some time off. Yes, it is summer vacation season, so I am going to encourage you to do just that, take some vacation time. We all know we need a break occasionally, so please take some time to recharge your body, mind, and spirit. Whether that means taking a couple of days or two weeks. 

In the famous words of “Nike” “Just Do It.”

Have a great summer!

 

Sincerely,

Lee T. Wentz

President, NFFE-1998

 

Union Wins!

SIA Negotiates New Dress Code

SIA’s new dress code policy allows BUEs to use their best judgement and outlines only a few restrictions.  Having such an open policy allows BUEs to dress casually every day of the week and not just Fridays!

Logged in members may access the signed agreement by clicking on Member Resources – Agreements – Local Agreements – Capital Region – Washington (SIA)

Union Secures MIS Time for FEVS Survey

The Union pushed back after the FEVS survey was released without giving MIS time for employees to complete it. Employees now have 30 minutes to complete the survey.

UNION WIN! Employee Safety & Leave addressed in an Arbitration; Union had merit 

On June 17, 2022, Eric Fine arbitrated and rendered a decision on the Union’s grievance that PPT Management denied the Union’s right to address leave concerning the safety of its employees. He ordered the review of Annual leave be converted to Weather and Safety leave for certain employees as the appropriate remedy to make whole the Union’s complaint. 

In the decision, he determined that “despite the Union’s protests older adults were left off the list for self-certification to remain on WSL…no explanation was provided to the Union for this determination by the Agency…I find that the Agency’s actions involved changes to leave usage as well a safety concerns at work…the Agency has not adequately or reasonably explained the rationale behind its action of dropping older adults from the high-risk category pertaining to COVID-19…and therefore it did not have a reasonable basis for disqualifying these employees from WSL”.

-NFFE 1998 Vice President Boyd Hinton

National NFFE 1998 News

Change of Guard

Since the fall of 2019, NFFE Local 1998 changed considerably. Certainly, COVID has had an impact that affects all aspects of our lives. The Union, however, has faced other challenges, and fortunately we have had exceptional Bargaining Unit Members step up to meet those challenges.

In the fall of 2019, we transitioned NFFE 1998 Union leadership, as several of our legacy talent moved on with their careers. Those that remained, mentored the next generation of advocates. Again, seasoned Advocates cycled up with their careers, and junior representatives stepped up. In the years since we have seen many a member grow and excel. The contributions from these Union members as advocates for their fellow co-workers has enhanced workplace conditions. The talent that lies within Local 1998 is truly remarkable. 

NFFE 1998 leadership has been in the trenches fighting to preserve the rights of its members, and in so doing have cultivated an everlasting bond with one another. A unity indisputably strengthens when working together against such overwhelming odds. The Union position in dealing with Management has been more formidable because of density (increase in membership), volunteerism from our ranks, and skilled advocates. We depend on these three things to ensure proper working conditions. 

Recently, several of our representatives have caught the attention of Management and they are being promoted. Once again, the Union must pull from its members to replace distinguished talent. NFFE 1998 is doing great things for the bargaining unit employees and will continue to make notable strides in securing and preserving employee rights. To do this, however, takes effort and a willingness to sacrifice some of oneself for the benefit of all. 

While bittersweet to see our friends and colleagues move on with their careers, we are encouraged and eager to create new bonds with the changing of the guard. The departure of this latest group of talented individuals makes way the opportunity for other members to rise to the challenge and grow their expertise. Members make the Union what it is, and what it will become. Participation helps to steer workplace conditions in the direction members want. 

This is an exciting time for NFFE 1998. The future is uncertain, which can make some uneasy, but considering the vast resources of talent, and diversity of skill our membership possesses, the future of NFFE 1998 leadership is in good hands. Elections are around the corner, and now is the time to start thinking about how you can be a part of the team to make positive changes in the workplace. Get involved and see how you can make a positive impact.  

 

2022 Union Officer Election Information

The election committee is trying something new regarding the upcoming 2022 elections. Because many times people think they might want to run for office, but they hesitate because they are not quite sure what the job entails. So, the plan we have come up with hopefully helps people make an informed decision. 

Over the coming weeks the election committee will be sending out short job description blurbs to dues paying members. In order to run for a position, you must be a dues paying member for at least 1 year. Please to review and consider as you contemplate the upcoming election. Of course, we realize this may prompt questions. And that is what the election committee is here for. To answer those questions.

So please take same time to review the flurry of emails you will see over the coming weeks. We look forward to hearing from you.

nffe1998nominations@gmail.com 

Sincerely, 

The NFFE-1998 Election Committee

 

Local 1998’s Hazard Pay Grievance Enters Into A Mediation (ADR) 

Management denied the Union’s Final Step Grievance to pay all bargaining unit employees Hazard Duty Pay while working during a COVID -19 Pandemic. Management claimed the filed grievance was untimely. 

The Union requested an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure, prior to an Arbitration Invoking to resolve the grievance. Management agreed to the ADR, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) will provide a mediator to supervise the Union and Management’s efforts to resolve the Hazard Duty Pay grievance, prior to it being considered into a binding Arbitration. The Union is seeking availability with the FMCS for an ADR schedule in June.  

-NFFE 1998 Vice President Boyd Hinton

 

Appeal Filed for Denial of Mission Critical Grievance, Conditions with Compensation for Hazard Duty Pay

The Local 1998 filed an appeal to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) when Arbitrator Johnson denied the Union’s Final Step Grievance regarding the designation of all bargaining unit employees (BUE) as Mission Critical. The Union appealed to the FLRA that Arbitrator Johnson’s decision was contrary to law, agency wide regulation, public policy, and was based on non-facts.

At arbitration, Union requested that Arbitrator Johnson remedy all BUEs with Hazard Duty Pay for risks of exposure to COVID 19 while working during the Pandemic in passport offices. Johnson’s decision to not grant Hazard Duty Pay opinioned that “[A]bsent specific contact tracing evidence regarding the death and the COVID-19 cases, a finding cannot be made that the death and the COVID-19 cases resulted from the Agency’s critical mission decision which required non-high risk employees to return to the office. Under the above circumstances, a compensatory remedy for employees who worked in the Agency’s offices during the pandemic cannot be substantiated” (Case Number 01326 Mission Critical: Discussion and Analysis, p. 17; Award dated December 12, 2021)

The Union’s appeal to overturn the arbitration decision is currently pending before the FLRA, and no further information has been provided to the Union from the FLRA if an appeal hearing might be scheduled. Also, no further information has been provided when an appeal decision will be rendered if no hearing is conducted. 

This appeal was docketed by the FLRA as case number 0 – AR – 5790. All appeals to Arbitration Awards by Unions or Agencies are public and can be viewed on the FLRA website www.flra.gov, under Decisions as Authority Decisions.

-NFFE 1998 Vice President Boyd Hinton

Payroll Errors

Imagine starting a new job and getting your first paycheck 2 months after your start date. This is what is happening to some of our new passport specialists. Payroll errors are egregious. Our Union submitted a formal complaint against the agency, as a grievance, and the agency denied it. 

According to our contract with management, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) Article 6 Section 16 payroll errors are supposed to be fixed within a timely manner, usually within 2 pay periods. Our nationwide grievance regarding all these payroll errors requested as a remedy that payroll mistakes be corrected within 2 pay periods, to restore leave and pay, and to make any BUE’s who lost insurance coverage whole.

If you discover a payroll error, you have the right to ask for official time to discuss, prepare, and file a complaint about it. Email your local Steward or submit an online complaint form if you have been affected by payroll errors: https://nffe1998.org/complaint-form-submission/ 

Civil Service Appraisal System Redesign

In a few months we will find out if in 2023 passport specialists will be evaluated using a completely redesigned performance appraisal system. Currently we are rated on the following work commitments, critical performance elements (CPE):

CPE1a – Application of Passport Laws, Regulations, and Procedures

CPE1b – Passport Fraud Prevention

CPE1c – Production Standards (applications per hour)

CPE1d –Suspense & IRLs

CPE2 – Organizational Results

CPE3 – Demonstrates Job Knowledge

CPE4 – Participation and Teamwork

CPE 5 – Interpersonal Skills and Communication 

Our main concern is that the proposed changes to our evaluation system will make it even more difficult to achieve exceeds expectations and outstanding overall ratings. Historically, passport management received overall outstanding ratings at around 70%, while passport specialists and other bargaining unit employees average about a 25% outstanding overall rating. 

If you want more information on the redesign, check out our website post from May 18, 2022, and if you want to assist your Union in problems solving the performance appraisal system please reach out to your NFFE1998-National Officers NFFE1998-NationalOfficers@state.gov

 

Time & Motion Study – Performance Standards Review

The Time & Motion study is currently under way. Twelve agencies have been selected to be observed, and the local steward works with management to determine which specialists are observed. If you’d like more details and the list of observed agencies, please read the Representational Email our President sent on 5/27/2022. 

We would like your help in keeping the time and motion study fair and reasonable. We want to remind folks this process is not about speed.  It is about doing everything accurately and thoroughly. Work like you would on any normal day, “the right way to perform [your] duties” (e.g., CBA Article 18 Provision 14 (b) use the restroom like you normally would, look up FAM references, and in general seek assistance as you normally would, if it is required.  Additionally, the Safety, Health, and Security portion of the CBA, Article 32.7, states that you are entitled to a stretch break each hour.  Please take advantage of your rights. We are not encouraging anyone to purposefully go slow. However, we are aware that the Hawthorne effect may cause those specialists to work faster than normal because of the pressure of being observed.

 

Local Agency Union News

Rodents in the Washington Passport Agency, OSHA Requests Agency Action

On May 26th, 2022, Management reported back to the Dept of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because of Union and Employee complaints of mice within the Washington Passport Agency. The OSHA complaint stated the nature of the alleged hazardous working condition as the “[L]ack of an effective vermin control plan resulting in alleged mouse infestation”.

The DOS Domestic Environmental and Safety Division (DESD) investigated the OSHA complaint. When the DESD issued a report back to OSHA of the findings, they provided five remedies to the complaint, such as: funding for additional housekeeping services; performing daily inspections of traps; extra traps on the first floor and loading dock and sealing penetrations on the building; additional waste bins with lids for discarded food waste; and installing devices for tracking mice and movement, to include mouse activity in ceiling cavities. 

The OSHA docketed this complaint as number 1891848. OSHA provides rights to information, and rights to complaint procedures for employees on their website www.osha.gov in the section of Help and Resources under File a Complaint.   

 

Steward Shout Outs

We would like to recognize the fantastic work of local stewards!

Paddy S. at PPT/VT – Indoor office temperatures of 77 degrees have been recorded at the Vermont Passport Agency and are expected to remain high throughout the summer as the HVAC system is replaced. Paddy has proactively offered many solutions for accommodations to help with the heat and has demonstrated resilience in persistently encouraging management to do what’s best for employees and drafting a local agreement proposal to address extreme temperatures in the office. 

Siamand H. at PPT/MN – Siamand has taken the lead on two very important local agreement negotiations on dress code and scheduling. These proposals, if signed, would result in a Monday through Friday casual dress code and more than one morning start time.

 

IAMAW News

2022 IAM Legislative Conference

Four NFFE 1998 representatives attended legislative week – an annual conference where unions discuss their concerns with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Topics we encouraged lawmakers to move on were:

  1. We requested Congressional members to provide DOS with funding and more resources to address our antiquated databases problems e.g., TDIS.  We specifically asked Senators and Congressmen to investigate our HRD/Payroll issues. Many of you know bargaining unit employees are experiencing various types of pay discrepancies in their biweekly pay.  Several of our own bargaining unit employees have grievances pending.  We have at least one of our BUES who has not been paid their time and half for all the overtime they have performed in past several months.  While many of these cases are being addressed through union advocacy, we also need to apply more pressure on Congress to address these issues as they have an adverse impact on our livelihoods and wellbeing.
  2. Pass the Pro Act- Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021. This is a Union friend ly bill that would create conditions where it would be safe for CGI passport employees to unionize. This article explains how the Pro Act would change current conditions. 
  3. Expand SLRP to a maximum limit from $60,000 to $120,000. The $60,000 maximum limit was set nearly 20 years ago. Since then, college costs have risen dramatically. Additionally, many passport employees have college age children, and would benefit from being able to use the SLRP on parent plus loans. 

 

NFFE 1998 Wins Newsletter IAMAW Awards

Our Union, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) 1998 won two newsletter awards! We submitted our entries to the 2021 contest last month as well. 

3rd Place Award – 2020 Newsletter General Excellence 

Third Place: NFFE 1998 Monthly All-BUE Newsletter. Editor: Haley Larkin. Features strong union history, member spotlight, helpful messages. The General Excellence award reviews two consecutive issues of the lodge’s publication were judged on overall effectiveness. Judges considered content, appearance, consistency, effective writing, and editing.

3rd Place Award – 2020 Newsletter Best Layout and Design 

Third Place: NFFE 1998 Monthly All-BUE Newsletter. Editor: Haley Larkin. Clean layout, good use of white space, effective headlines. Publications were judged on overall appearance and adherence to standards of readability and impact. Regardless of the publication (tabloid, newsletter size, professionally printed, or copied in-house), graphics play an important role in effectiveness.

IAM Photography Contest Deadline Extended  

Submissions for the IAM photography contest must be received by August 5, 2022. Winning photos will be featured in our parent Union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, IAMAW 2023 calendar and cash prizes will be awarded to top winners. Check out the 2021 Winners Gallery for ideas. 

IAM Free College Program Participants Graduate 

New IAM graduates walked across the stage thanks to the Free College Program. Several IAM members graduated with degrees from the Eastern Gateway Community College. Dues paying members who are interested in this benefit can find out more information on the Union Plus website. 

Contract Corner

This Contract Corner is provided to us by our President, Lee Wentz. Our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is our contract with passport management. The contract covers many topics, including management’s rights, grievance procedures, overtime, leave, awards, promotions, transfers, performance standards, etc. 

CBA Article 6 Section 14 discusses Employee Rights & Responsibilities, to include official time for bargaining unit employees. You always have a right to ask for official time to discuss ANY concerns related to working conditions. You also have the right to official time to prepare official complaints, or to do the investigation necessary to determine if you’d like to file an official complaint in the form of a grievance. 

Article 6 Section 14:

Bargaining unit employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of official time whenever discussing, preparing, or filing complaints, and when meeting with Union representatives or Management representatives concerning any complaint or working condition of the Employer.

Employees requesting official time in accordance with this section shall make the request via email or in person to their immediate supervisor. Normally a bargaining unit employee will be released as soon as possible when the requested. 

Dues Paying Members

  • Address Change REMINDER – Dues Paying members who moved in the last two years- please email Jessica Percifull and your local Steward to keep our records up to date. 
  • All Dues Paying Member Call are scheduled for the last Sunday’s of the month at 1pm PST/2pm MST/3pm CST /4pm EST. Future calls will be on: 
  • July 31
  • August 28
  • September 25
  • October 30
  • November 20
  • December 18 

Want to become a dues paying member? You can apply online here.

Departmental Deadlines

SLRP – The Student Loan Repayment Program application closes on 7/31/22.

FEVS – The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey closes on Friday 7/22/22. BUE may use up to 30 minutes of MIS admin time for it. Ask for more time from your supervisor if needed. DOS responds to survey results to improve scores; this is an opportunity to be heard. 

COVID Workers Compensationhttps://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/FECA/InfoFECACoverageCoronavirus Must file within 30 days of positive Covid test.

Updated: July 13, 2022 — 11:57 am