March 2022 Newsletter

Presidents Message

Well, we are almost a third of the way through 2022. It is so hard to believe. The older I get the faster time seems to fly unless there is a huge issue to be fixed then time seems to stand still. I never did believe my mother when she told me that time will start to fly when you reach age 30. I should have listened to her better. Which in short, means enjoy each day we have!

So, the topic for this month revolves around grievances and arbitrations. One issue that seems to have taken years to get settled was finally closed out near the end of 2021. And yes, folks may or may not believe it, but sometimes things take time to get resolved whether we all agreed that the topic should have been raised in the first place.

The topic I am referring to is the grievance regarding the Storage Bins/Overhead Desk Bins which ultimately did end up in arbitration. After days, months, years, and COVID, the highlighted results will benefit each one of us for years to come:

  • Each adjudication workstation is to have no less than (2) storage units, at least one of which will be lockable.
  • If for some reason you have overhead bins and your office is removing those bins, you are entitled to request up to 2 hours to scan any printed reference materials pertinent to everyday work assignments.
  • Future trainings will provide additional guidance on our continued pivot to electronic reference materials, but BUE(s) are also encouraged to look at FSI for relevant organizational courses.
  • BUE(s) may request file hangers, desk organizers, and/or lamps, which will be provided by the Agency/Center.
  • Agency/Centers should create a centrally located information station that holds relevant passport forms, as space allows.

If you need to know more information about this settlement you can read the 2021 Storage Bin Agreement or  arrange a meeting with your local Steward to find out more.

 

Reminders for Dues Paying Members

  • Address Change REMINDER – Dues Paying members who moved in the last two years- please email Ryan Gallerani and your local Steward to keep our records up to date.
  • Next All Dues Paying Member Call is Sunday April 24, 2022. Set a calendar reminder for future calls. Calls are at 1pm PST/2pm MST/3pm CST /4pm EST, and on:
    • April 24
    • May 22
    • June 26
    • July 31
    • August 28
    • September 25
    • October 30
    • November 20
    • December 18

Success: All-Steward Training in Maryland

In January, 2022 our passport Stewards, many for the first time, gathered in Maryland at The Winpisinger Center and an entire week learning how to handle disciplinary cases, unfair labor practices, and how to write grievances.

“Attending W3 allowed me to touch base with Stewards from across the country and gain a greater understanding of the role played by NFFE 1998 in supporting passport bargaining unit employees” said Jim Esson of NPC. “I came away from W3 with new friends and new ideas.”

“Going to the Winpisinger Center training gave me the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of being an effective steward,” said Brianne Martinen, an NPC steward. “I have more confidence in performing my duties well, and more prepared to address the variety of issues when my coworkers approach me. Finally, the opportunity to network and create more working relationships has given me more stewards to work with outside of NPC.

Steward training at the Winpisinger Center allowed me to put a name with a face and forge stronger relationships with our fellow stewards. The in-depth training allowed my brain to calibrate my thought processes to better serve our brothers and sisters in NFFE-1998, said Bill Charland, of NPC. “I feel more confident now that I know how to interpret, navigate, and apply the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Federal Labor Relations Authority statute, and other federal and state laws.

Every-other-year passport Stewards meet for a weeklong passport Steward training. We are very fortunate our parent Union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) owns and operates The Winpisinger Center, a training center for Union representatives. The center teaches Stewards the roles unions play in our society, labor history, and how we are a part of a larger movement towards economic and social justice with dignity on the job.

 

2021 Steward Awards

2021 Awards for exceptional representational work were presented Stewards in January at the All-Steward training in Maryland:

Member Generator Award: PPT/NPC. This award goes to the Steward or office with the largest number of new dues paying members in the past year. The 2021 Member Generator Award goes to PPT/NPC for the largest number of new members. Eight NPC specialists signed up to become dues paying members in 2021.

PDI Phenom Award: Emilie Wardrip – PPT/MN. This award goes to the Steward who most consistently responds with meaningful comments to proposed FAM changes through Pre-Decisional Input requests from headquarters. Emilie Wardrip, the Steward at the Minneapolis Passport Agency is 2021’s PDI Phenom recipient. Bill Langer PPT/BU and Julie Giessler PPT/NPC were honorable mentions.

Above and Beyond Award: Corinne Nielson – PPT/NPC. This award goes to the Steward who exemplifies going above and beyond to complete the mission of NFFE1998. Corinne, from NPC, truly went above and beyond. Her leadership and contributions made the 2022 Steward Training a huge success.

Exceptional Contributions to the Cause: Gerald Moore – PPT/S/TO his award goes to the Steward who demonstrates exceptional service for NFFE1998.  Gerald was pivotal in producing and presenting Mission Critical Arbitration.

NFFE1998 President’s Award: Boyd Hinton – PPT/CPC. This award goes to Boyd for his dedication to NFFE1998 and to all of you. He is our contract king whom we rely on for his expertise in contract knowledge, writing grievances, and winning arbitrations.

Federal News Round-Up: Federal Pay Raise

 Federal Pay Raise

According to this govexec.com article “Plans for a 2023 Pay Raise, and More” written on 02/16/2022, when President Biden unveils his fiscal 2023 budget proposal, he is expected to recommend federal employees receive their largest pay raise in 20 years.

The Office of Management and Budget reportedly has instructed agencies to prepare final budget proposals to account for an average pay raise of 4.6% in 2023, a figure that would be the largest pay increase for federal employees since 2003.

 

The Employees Win with a Union-Management Agreement

PPT/NO Signs New Casual Dress Code Agreement

A new workplace dress code agreement has been reached between the Union Stewards and Management at PPT/NO. Employees are now allowed to wear casual dress Monday through Friday. We are excited that everyone was able to work together to produce a document that is beneficial to making the New Orleans Passport Agency a better place to work.

2022 New Orleans Casual Dress Code Agreement

Unfair & Excessive Discipline – Arbiter Ruling on Department of State

An employee was disciplined with three days of suspension without pay for failure to follow adjudication policy/procedure. When the employee wrote a complaint stating that the suspension was excessive and requested leniency, the request was rejected. The Union assisted the employee by filing a grievance to the Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in which the DAS denied the grievance and claimed it had no merit. The Union responded by invoking the Arbitration procedure.

The Arbitrator issued a decision and sustained the Union’s grievance. Among the many findings in his decision, he determined that the Management did not properly consider the employee’s notice to the supervisor, the reasoning for not following procedure, and the inconsistencies with the penalty for similar offenses. The Arbitrator ordered Management to remove the three-day suspension from the employee’s e-OPF, restore back pay and all service-connected benefits, and cover the arbitration legal fees.

 

Union Wins! Employee restored 2 months 17 days of annual leave

 Management disqualified an employee from using Weather and Safety Leave (WSL) when they were properly following all WSL guidance. The employee was forced to use over two months’ worth of annual leave because of this disqualification. With the Unions help, a written complaint was filed, but management responded saying that the grievance had no merit, and that the employee was not harmed.

The Union took the case to arbitration, where the Arbitrator “…[concluded] that the Agency did not have a reasonable or fair basis for disqualifying [the employee] for WSL…” The Arbitrator ordered the Agency to return the annual leave to the employee, which totaled 2 months and 17 days.

Send your Union Representative a thank you email/message for the fantastic representation that they provide on your behalf.

 

In Case You Missed It!

NFFE 1998 has two formal complaints regarding Hazard Duty Pay:

  • One is currently at Exceptions before the FLRA filed by us, NFFE 1998
  • One is stalled at an Alternate Dispute Resolution Grievance Mediation because of allegations that the case was not filed timely must be resolved first.

Free OTC Covid Tests- Dept. Notice 94171

OPM (Office of Personnel Management) issued in January 2022 guidance requiring FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits) insurance carriers to provide coverage for over-the-counter COVID tests. Check with your insurance carrier!

Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests from USPS

https://special.usps.com/testkits USPS is giving 4 rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to each household.

Payroll Errors

Our Union has been  investigating options to expedite corrections to payroll mistakes. We have had BUE’s not get paid an entire weeks salary, not have health insurance coverage, leave taken out incorrectly, and overtime calculated incorrectly. These are all serious issues. According to our CBA Article 6 Section 16 payroll errors are supposed to be fixed within a timely manner, usually within 2 pay periods. A nationwide grievance was submitted regarding all of these payroll errors, requesting the 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 complain form if you’ve been affected by payroll errors on our website: https://nffe1998.org/complaint-form-submission/

Transit Subsidy Increase – The maximum monthly amount has increased from $270 to $280 per month. If your transit costs have changed, recertify your transit subsidy application.

 

Get Involved

There are more opportunities for dues paying members to get involved.

  1. Ask your local Steward what projects they are working on.
    1. Help draft, edit, and negotiate local agreements
    2. Discuss major concerns with your coworkers to brainstorm solutions
    3. Attend a local Union-Management Committee meeting
  2. Need to boost your resume? Tell us what skill you want to work on and we’ll find a task related to it.
    1. Money management- join the finance committee. Email your local steward and NFFE1998-NationalOfficers@state.gov to volunteer
    2. Written communications – write a newsletter article. Email your local steward to volunteer
  3. Host a virtual or in person happy hour to strengthen relationships and solidarity among your colleagues.

2021 Annual Survey Results

Our voices are strong when they are united. Thank you to all who used the given 30 minutes  MIS time (under CBA article 7 Section 9) and completed the annual union survey.

Statistics:

Response Rate: 16% Out of 1280 bargaining unit employees, 239 responded.

Top issues for your Union, NFFE 1998 to focus on in 2022:

  1. Telework – 167 mentions
  2. Audit/error procedures – 55 mentions
  3. Leave – Covid leave specifically
  4. Systems Issues – because they hurt our numbers

Contract Corner

This Contract Corner is provided to us by Emilie Wardrip from PPT/MN. CBA Article 32.7 is her favorite part of our contract because it tells us to take stretch breaks.

Article 32.7

Video Display Terminal: Operators will not be expected to work continuously at a terminal in excess of one hour periods. Operators are encouraged to briefly interrupt their video display terminal work (for example, by standing, stretching, etc.) at the end of every hour before resuming work. Approved breaks and lunches may also be used to interrupt the work periods.

 

Updated: April 7, 2022 — 12:57 pm