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ENOUGH SAID!

Newsletter of

AFGE LOCAL 2505

Representing SSA Field Office Employees in Oklahoma

October, 2009 – Volume IV, No. 4

AFGE Local 2505

Contact Information

Ralph de Juliis - President

ralph.dejuliis@ssa.gov or ralph.de.juliis@suddenlink.net

http://www.afgelocal2505.org/

Cell: 918-781-3096

Work: 866-931-7110 ext 27873

Carol A. Lewis – Executive Vice President

carol.a.lewis@ssa.govWork: 918-423-1631 ext. 117

Magda Mashburn – Secretary - Treasurer

magda.mashburn@ssa.gov

Work: 405-605-3001 ext 3981

Mitzi Brooks – 1st Vice President

mitzi.brooks@ssa.gov

Work: 580-237-1664 ext. 202

Mary Roberts – 2nd Vice President

mary.roberts@ssa.gov

Work: 866-964-4262 ext 26412

Amanda Lamb – Webmaster

Amandal.lamb@ssa.gov or lambamanda@msn.com

Work: 866-563-9693 ext 18216

Reynaldo Vasquez – Editor

reynaldo.vasquez@ssa.gov

Work: 866-964-4260 x 26403

 

 

Meeting Notice

AFGE Local 2505

Saturday, October 24, 2009

At 11:00 AM

(Magda Mashburn’s home)

3837 Highpoint Court, Norman, OK

Time: 11:00 AM

 

 

Agenda

Call to Order

Secretary’s Report

Treasurer’s Report

Legislative Report

Litigation Report

Vote on taking member grievances to arbitration

New Business

Unfinished Business

By-Laws Changes

 

Adjournment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDITORIAL

Reynaldo Vasquez

Nowadays, some people, including many politicos, argue that Unions are a thing of the past—that they have served their purpose and to have them in our workplaces only aids in the downfall of our economy.

These pundits contend that Unions cause pay to rise out of control, that companies have no other choice but to take their business to many of the ‘needy’ countries around the world. These labor experts, as they are often self-proclaimed, say that the government, whether local, State or Federal, has established laws and procedures to protect this nation’s workforce against discrimination, unfair labor practices, sexual and physical harassment, and physically unsafe environments.

Although, the argument against any of the establishment of this occupational progress is certainly difficult to voice, there is still—unfortunately—a long way to go.

First of all, let me quote a few facts about unions:

  • A union is an organization established by and for workers to pursue collective workplace goals: wages, benefits, work rules, power
  • Unions arose after the Civil War as one response to modern industrial economy
  • Unions grew rapidly from 1930s-50s, shrank from 1960s-present
  • Workers have always disagreed amongst themselves over whether to have unions and what kinds of unions they should have
  • Changes to federal labor law have largely determined whether unions grew or shrank

Facts also make point that Unions have been shrinking, in terms of both membership and power and that today, only about one out of every eight American workers belongs to a union—and if you don't count government employees that figure drops even lower, to about one in twelve. Some argue that Unions in the 21st century have less influence on American society than they have at any time since the 1920s.

Are we saying that unions are now irrelevant? That they are simply fading away, becoming only anachronistic relics of the distant past? Not so fast!

Unions still matter in the automotive companies. The autoworkers are nearly all members of the United Auto Workers union and the contracts negotiated between the auto giants (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). These unionized workers (and retirees) are reluctant to give up what they won at the bargaining table in the past. They also recognize that they must make some concessions or their jobs will simply cease to exist—likely taking the union down along with it. Can the UAW and the auto giants forge some kind of productive new partnership, allowing the company to become competitive again in the twenty-first century? Or will the UAW insist on full enforcement of its existing contracts, ensuring that their jobs will crash into oblivion? The future of the American auto industry largely depends on how the union chooses to play its cards. In Detroit, unions still matter.

Similarly, unions still matter in classrooms all across the country. While unionization of workers in the private sector has long been in decline, the opposite is true for public employees. In recent decades, union government workers—including schoolteachers—has actually increased. Today the teachers' unions wield great power over the American educational system. Nearly everyone agrees that American public schools need improvement; whether meaningful reforms will take place depends largely upon how the teachers' unions choose to react. Will they use their power to push for much-needed improvement in American education, making it easier for good teachers to succeed? Or will they focus narrowly on enforcing sometimes-onerous work rules and tenure hierarchies, fighting potentially beneficial changes in order to protect their own self-interest? The future of our education system depends on how the unions choose to use their power. In our schools, unions still matter.

And, finally, unions still matter in our nation's politics. In 2008, they played a major role in electing Barack Obama to the White House and enlarging Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Now they hope that their Democratic allies will deliver labor-friendly policies. First on the unions' wish list: the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would allow so-called "card-check voting" in workplace union elections. The current system requires employees who wish to join a union to go through a rather lengthy process of certification. The process makes it relatively hard for workers to unionize. A switch to card-check would make it much easier for unions to organize workers. If card-check passes Congress and President Obama signs it into law, it is quite likely that unions would stop their decades-long shrinkage and begin growing once again. Thus, in American politics, unions still matter—maybe more than most of us realize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AWOL

Charlie Estudillo, 1st Vice President, AFGE Council 220

We are finding out that across the nation, managers are deceitfully charging AWOL to employees without informing them. Per the contract, AWOL can only be charged in the following situation: "If the employee's leave status has not been clarified by the end of the shift, the absence may be charged to AWOL. This will not preclude a later change in leave status for good and sufficient reasons" (Article 31 Section 5 last 2 sentences).

Employees with emergency family problems are being hammered with AWOL by insensitive and uncaring management officials. NEVER TAKE AN AWOL. If think you will be late for work or for a staff meeting or training, CALL IN and request credit hours or leave. Put in a leave slip. If they deny it, file a grievance. If you are late for work, put in a leave slip "under protest" and get your leave request on the record. If you don't put in for leave then per the above contract section your "leave status has not been clarified" and you can be charged AWOL. Get the leave slip in - management has to accept it, though they can deny it.

Many managers are misusing the AWOL procedure. It was intended to address situations where an employee doesn't show up for work, doesn't call in for a day or more and goes AWOL, just like in the military. Protect yourself! AWOLs can be a later basis for discipline.

If you are going to be late for your lunch return period and your management is tweaking on the minor details of management (as bad managers do) - call in before your lunch period expires and ask for flex lunch or for credit hours or leave. Some managers freak on the minutes and seem to forget about all the hours you put in. Don't get caught on the losing end of this game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first AFGE Convention

By Magda Mashburn

We arrived in Reno on Thursday, August 20, ready to participate in Council 220’s Convention spanning August 21 and August 22 and AFGE’s National 38th Triennial Convention spanning August 24 through August 28. We were allotted two delegates based on our average membership. Ralph and I were Delegates by Virtue. Also attending and representing Local 2505 was 2nd Vice President, Mary Roberts.

After Council 220’s welcome and calling the convention to order, we received reports from the Credentials Committee and membership and financial reports. We discussed the Contract Campaign and strategy. The mantra was to seize the moment that started with the Democratic majority in both the US Senate and the House and the election of President Obama. Council held out great hope to get rid of Commissioner Astrue, no friend of AFGE.

Council 220 emphasized how important it was for the delegates to support its proposed per capita rate increase of $1.00. They explained the need for the increase was created because dues hadn’t gone up since 2003 and inflation had decreased Council’s ability to effectively operate. They stated anything less would make them lose ground. Many of the attending delegates felt based

on feedback from their members, the requested increase would be very difficult to make palatable.

Guest speakers Barbara Jackson and Augusta Thomas (both running for National Vice President of the Women’s and Fair Practices Office) visited and answered questions. The overriding complaint voiced by delegates was the failure of response by that office. Both Barbara and Augusta promised to change this under their direction.

Both Rita Pyle (Treasurer) and Ken Keillor (Secretary) stepped down after many, many years of service. Debbie Dodd was elected as new Treasurer and Rosendo Rocha as new Secretary. Both will serve Council 220 well. The office of Treasurer and Secretary were Council 220’s only elections. The rest of Council 220’s Executive Board remained the same. The final per capita vote granted Council 220 an increase of 50 cents per month. Local 2505 voted against any per capita increase.

The Council Convention finished shortly before midnight Saturday night. The National Convention convened Monday morning. It was attended by some 1,200 delegates.

On Monday, National President John Gage gave the keynote address. He talked about the vision of AFGE, the challenges we face and the directions we need to go. With AFGE’s 2009 slogan of "Proud, But Not Satisfied", he rallied the troops to support AFGE now more than ever and to take advantage of this window of opportunity afforded by the current political climate with the pro-Labor Obama Administration. He also covered the importance of supporting the Health Care bill.

National Secretary J. David Cox cheered the Convention on with his "Organize, Organize, Organize!" and his slogan "If you have a boss, you need a Union!"  He stated we are now 250,000 strong aiming for 300,000. We also heard from the other members of the National Executive Committee.

Votes were taken to allow some delegates who had problems with their convention credentials to be seated. Some time was spent

addressing complaints against NVP Eugene Hudson. Several Council 147 and 220 and Local 2452 members alleged repeated harassment by the NVP. In fact, an assault by Eugene Hudson occurred on the floor of the Convention over a dispute over a non-assigned seat he coveted, a seat already occupied by someone else.

J. David Cox assured the Council and Local in question he understood their frustration and would take the Eugene Hudson matter to AFGE's National Executive Committee.    

On Tuesday, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka (now the President of the AFL-CIO) addressed the Convention. Awards were presented and Ralph received an award based on increasing Local 2505’s membership over 20%.

Tuesday through Wednesday, Ralph and Mary and I attended the main workshop on Constitution and Internal Policy, the purpose of which was to broaden debate and discuss and draft comprehensive policy and changes. We reviewed 51 plus resolutions. Some involved endorsing and promoting Universal Healthcare; pay for

unused sick leave under the FERS system; paid parental leave; taking an active role in repealing the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision; honoring the memory of Senator Ted Kennedy, a champion of civil and human rights, who died August 25; simplifying initiation fees; addressing and preventing per capita delinquency; and promotion of immigrant worker rights. 

We received a crash course in Advanced Robert’s Rules of Order with Points of Information, Points of Order, Points of Personal Privilege, Points of Pontification (just kidding), Debate, Motions, Calling the Question, Division of the House, Securing the Doors, Points of Pontification (just kidding) and Roll Calls.  It was interesting to discover our Brothers and Sisters with Border Patrol and Immigration have a totally different viewpoint regarding immigrant worker rights and were very vocal in their opposition.

During the remainder of the Convention, discussions grew very heated but stayed mostly civil. A majority of the delegates felt prior dues increases were not accounted for and that National was not open to the needs of the Locals. J. David Cox explained that past increases in membership helped towards increases in staff and salaries, lobbying and organizers. He also stated the huge market decline suffered since October 2007 had greatly affected AFGE’s investments and caused increased expenses to fund pension and health insurance and increased interest due on AFGE’s building loan.

The message of the delegates’ dissatisfaction came in loud and clear as evidenced by the strong showing of Alex Bastani, a relatively unknown, who ended up with 81,942 votes versus John Gage’s 99,874 votes. The huge opposition to the dues increase (National wanted $4.50 a month, the final vote granted $1.50 a month in 2010, zero in 2011 and 50 cents in 2012) was further indication of the displeasure felt by the membership. Both John Gage and J. David Cox were adamant they heard the concerns of the delegates and would take appropriate action. J. David was elected by acclamation. Augusta Thomas won on the second ballot for National Vice President, Women’s and Fair Practices.

Attending the Convention was a tremendous learning experience. The agenda kept us very busy. I felt our participation was important and our votes counted. As Secretary-Treasurer of Local 2505, I am very grateful I was afforded the opportunity to be part of this great democratic process.   Also wonderful was getting to meet so many people like Louetta Keene, Howard Egerman, Katrina Lopez, Richard Couture, Alex Bastani, Andy Krall, Rita Pyle and so many others.

Am I ready to do it again in three years?  Perhaps!

Still Waiting to be Promoted?

Statistics have shown that it is often typical for any employer to use experienced female workers to train its whippersnapper, young men only to then promote them over the women who trained them.

IN ADDITION to contacting the Union to file a request for EEO Counseling over your non-selection, you need to stop and look in the mirror—even if it’s just for a moment.

When you are training new hires, mentoring, there are so many things you can and should say to these young hatchlings! Tell them the truth!

They are not going to be promoted because SSA doesn't promote skill, job knowledge, ability or competence. SSA promotes attitude. SSA promotes people they think can play well together.

Part of that means JOINING the Union because if one isn't a joiner, one isn't a team player. Management doesn't want to promote someone who is only looking out for themselves.

When training, make sure you stress the following points:

**SSA does not like snitches and tattle tales. It puts management in the uncomfortable position of a kindergarten teacher who knows that if she listens to one tattletale, EVERYONE will be bringing every little gripe to them to resolve instead of trying to work together.

**Emphasize to the trainees that, though they may see things that will make them old before their time, and may see people who are looking for every excuse to get out of doing work, SSA wants people with a YES, I CAN attitude. When asked to do more work, an employee can say, "SURE!"

**Stress that an employee can say, "Yeah. I guess so. I'm already buried, so keep piling it on. What difference does it make?" You know, both will get the job done but the second one isn't going to be promoted.

**Tell them that they will notice there are some employees who are always at their desk and always available with a ready smile and friendly manner. There are others who rarely smile, are generally unfriendly and unapproachable and who are never where they are supposed to be and can never be found. It doesn't matter that they get their work done.

**Remind these trainees that the road to their advancement is NOT paved with the bodies of their co-workers who they may have put down, tattled on, talked about behind their backs. Management knows that if employees build themselves up at the expense of their co-workers, they will likewise stab the manager and supervisor in the back in order to get ahead.

Hopefully, with such words of good advice, those whom you are mentoring and training will sing your praises making management change whatever negative perceptions they have of you which resulted in you constantly being passed over for promotion!

Again, let me emphasize the immediate preceding paragraph: Hopefully, with such words of good advice, those whom you are mentoring and training will sing your praises, which will make management, change whatever negative perceptions they have of you which have resulted in you constantly being passed over for promotion!

 

When you do this, it is partially about helping others. It is MUCH MORE about helping yourself get promoted. It is just so peculiar that often to do the most good for ourselves and to help ourselves the most; we need others to create the right atmosphere and impression to grease the skids of our success!

Good luck! Your kindness and generous spirit, soft words and extraordinarily helpful and giving attitude with these new trainees will not only make your office a better working environment for you, it will show you to be a leader among SRs and the staff who is worthy of promotion!!!

 

 

 

 

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

People go their entire careers and never file a grievance.  They wonder why should they pay union dues or maybe they assume they are not getting anything from their dues. Please read on!

Just because you haven't filed a grievance, requested EEO counseling or brought up an issue to the Union doesn't mean that you PERSONALLY haven't benefited.  Please read on!

SSA would NOT close the Hugo Office for roof repairs—Local 2505 with the assistance of National Health and Safety Representative, Howard Egerman, raised an argument, got the office closed for repairs and abatement of the mold caused by the roof leak. (There are issues still in various stages of the grievance and EEO process over how SSA mishandled the situation.)

A similar situation just occurred in the Wichita Falls, TX office—SSA closed the office! Management learned from its mistakes / mishandling of the Hugo situation. WHY did they learn?

BECAUSE an employee came to the Union. Because the Union stood up, followed up, didn't accept their "Thank you for sharing this with us! We'll look into it and respond appropriately."

The action of an employee in Hugo, multiplied by the actions of the Local, multiplied by the action of Nat'l H & S Rep Egerman, helped other SSA employees elsewhere who probably don't know Hugo or Local 2505 from Adam. That is what the Union does at its most effective best! That is why YOU must stand up when you see something wrong, tell the Union and let us handle it—if necessary, let us fight it!

Here is another issue: an employee in one office filed a grievance over not getting a ROC. You've heard how tough ROCs are to win. SSA settled at step one. The employee who grieved received a ROC that was $300 LARGER than the other employees in that office who received a ROC. Without any prodding from the Union, SSA INCREASED the ROC amounts of the other three employees so that all the ROCS for TEs in that office were equal!

Here is another: one employee filed a grievance over losing "use or lose" leave. SSA settled 38 hours before the arbitration hearing. Without any prompting from the Union, SSA restored the "use or lose" leave, which another employee lost because of similar circumstances (President Ford's National Day of Mourning).

Here is another one: an employee was denied advanced sick leave because management wasn't sure swine flu is a serious illness. The Union sent a, shall we say, strident email to the management team and their superiors. Not only was that employee granted advanced sick leave, without any prodding from the Union, another employee who had requested advanced sick leave had their request granted.

 It is a story repeated often, employees standing up for themselves, asking

the Union for assistance, getting their problems resolved and the solution is applied to other SSA employees in similar straits!

So...As we head off for the weekend, please remember that the complaint you raise for yourself, helps others in ways none of us could ever imagine!

AND when you are about to complain to your co-workers about so-and-so who is off interviews AGAIN because they have another complaint...When you are about to complain about a co-worker who is always b*tching about something, please cut them some slack because YOU could be a big beneficiary of their complaint! Handle your complaints right: bring them to the Union!

  

Ralph de Juliis, President - AFGE Local 2505

 

CONTRACT UPDATE

After three trips to the bargaining table, AFGE and SSA have agreed to the conditions under which bargaining for the National Agreement will be accomplished. The agreement provides general information about when and where the negotiations will take place, the number of negotiators for each team, as well as provisions for preparing and exchanging proposals.

Union officials spent the last two weeks in September preparing for contract negotiations.

"The process is moving along," according to Debbie Fredericksen, Council 220’s Executive Vice President. "We’ll be sitting down with management and discussing each article in a few weeks. The key to success – and making this a better contract – is employee support!" She went on to say that the Union leadership has been listening to what employees and Union representatives have said. They’ve been working toward an overall goal of reducing workload stress through the Union recommended changes. "This process is very inclusive and for that reason everyone’s suggestions are welcome. On December 22, we will exchange written proposals and that will be another important step"

Comments and recommendations can be submitted to www.mycontract2009.org. Click on the link CONTACT US. For a complete list o f the Contract Negotiating Team, look for the FACES and NAMES link.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

AFGE Reacts to SSA Management Conferences

AFGE’s chief negotiator, Witold Skwierczynski, presented a scathing statement to Commissioner Astrue, Deputy Commissioner Linda McMahon, Regional Commissioner Pete Spencer, and key members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate in response to the costs of management conferences, the subject of much negative publicity.

AFGE Reacts to FEHB 2010 Premium Increase

The American Federation of Government Employees expresses grave concern at the announcement by the Office of Personnel Management that premiums under FEHBP would be rising by an average of 8.8% in 2010.

Lost in the announced average is the fact that for 60% of the enrollees in FEHBP (those covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option) premiums will go up by 15% for self coverage and 12% for family coverage. To add insult to injury, enrollees will not only have to pay much higher premiums, they will have to pay a higher share of premiums, as FEHBP’s formula allows the government to shift an increasing share of costs onto enrollees every time a plan’s premiums go up by more than the average. In 2010, the government will pay just 67% of the standard option’s family premium, down from 69% last year.

Already we know that tens of thousands of full time federal employees do not participate in FEHBP and are not covered by another source. This increase will make it impossible for lower-paid workers to achieve the health security they need. Although the Obama Administration was not in office to negotiate with the insurance carriers for the 2010 contract year, AFGE intends to work closely with them to ensure that negotiations with the carriers will produce far better results for 2011.

Premium Conversion

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Youth is such a wonderful thing. It's a shame to waste it on the young," or words to that effect.

Much the same thing could be said about active duty federal workers who don't appreciate some of the things they got until they lose them.

When the typical federal or postal worker retires, several things change:

- Their income drops.

- They lost a valuable tax break that helps many of them afford better health insurance at a time, and an age, when they need it most.

The vast majority of working feds get a major tax break. They are allowed to pay their health premiums with pre-tax dollars. It reduces their federal tax bite by anywhere from $300 to $800 a year-not a fortune, but a big help especially in these economic times. The perk (called Premium Conversion) is automatic in the sense that people get it unless they decline it. As a result, many working feds don't know they have the tax-break until they become retired feds and lose it.

Premium Conversion (PC) is available to working feds. President Clinton extended it to them via Executive Order years ago. However, it will take an act of Congress before PC can be extended to federal-military retirees. The tax code must be changed.

Congress has been working on extending PC to federal (and now military) retirees for years, but it hasn't gone any place regardless of which political party controlled the key committees - House Ways and Means and Senate Finance - that must approve it.

But things could be about to change.

Groups pushing PC for retirees think they have a good shot this year. Congress and the White House are controlled by the same political party. And some new political heavyweights have agreed to help move the legislation through Congress. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has introduced a bill (S. 491) to extend PC to active and retired military personnel as well as to retired civil servants. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) have introduced a companion bill (H.R. 1203) in the House.

AFGE Reacts to Proposal to Dismantle FEHP

According to Government Executive.com (September 24, 2009), Republican Senator Charles Grassley(R-IA) wants to force federal employees to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and purchase insurance through state-based health exchanges. Employees would be forced to move to the exchanges beginning in 2013. For the full story see:

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0909/092309p2.htm

Grassley plans to offer his proposal as an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s version of a health care bill that is being debated this week. None of the other health care reform bills already passed by the House and Senate contain this outrageous and ill-conceived idea.

There’s no doubt that Congress needs to fix FEHBP; including lowering out of pocket costs and ending reductions and shifts in covered benefits. But it makes absolutely no sense to destroy FEHBP and replace it with a hodge-podge of state exchanges with diluted bargaining power to negotiate premiums and benefits with private insurance companies.

AFGE has begun lobbying legislators to oppose this amendment!

 

 

MEMBERS UPDATE

Congratulations!

Please join me in congratulating Defawna Delay and Kassie Pierce from Moore OK. They have been selected for the Dallas Region’s Leadership Development Program. Congratulations to Johnie Dandridge. Johnie was selected for position in the Office of Quality Performance in the Dallas Regional Office. Congratulations to Hilda Luna. Hilda was promoted to group supervisor in OKC ODAR. Congratulations to Carol McKenzie. Carol was promoted to TE in Tulsa! Also, kudos to Ana Wilkerson, Becky Patterson and Tameca McClellan! Ana, Becky and Tameca were promoted to CRs in their offices: Tulsa, Ardmore and Muskogee, respectively!

Of course, congratulations to those of you who received ROC and ECSA Awards for FY 2009: Cynthia Anderson, Alma Badillo, Audry Battle, Paul Beach, Marlene Blackmon, Verla Bloomfield, Judy Bollinger, Karen Bowles, Michael Bradley, Mitsuko Brooks, Sakina Butler, Tracie Byrd, Gabriela Carney, Susan Clark, Larhonda Clay, Sarah Clayton, Chanda Costephens, Cletina Covey, Amber Craft, Alacia Craig, Angela Crawford, Connie Davis, Lila Davis, Skyler Davison, Defawna Delay, Debra Dick, Linda Faber, Katrina Fenton, Donna Forbus, Trung Frisbie, Kimber Gipson, Rosario Gonzales, Jason Graham, Kimberly Graham, Staci Grammer, Jeannine Grauer, Sharonda Gray, Katrina Grissom, Debbie Gulston, Jamie Harris, Trina Harrison, Christopher Hemphill, Jodie Hendricks, Rhonda Hill, Mya Hitchye, Ericka Johnson, James Johnson, Jennifer Jones, Karen Jones, Martha Kyzar, Steven Lance, Betty Langston, Kristine Lashbrook, Shirley Leblanc, Matilda Lerma, Samuel Lewis, Heather Lopez, Hilda Luna, Justin Magee, Magda Mashburn, Robert Mata, Tameca McClellan, Carol Mckenzie, Christina Monks, Beverly Moore, Letitia Morgan, Melissa Morgan, Daniel Murtha, Boyd Nave, Esmeralda Navejas, Myrna Newton, Caroline Nieves, Tammy Niles, Judy Norton, Amy O'Neill, Shawna Passman, Becky Patterson, Kassie Pierce, Tracy Porter, Annette Rasure, Cameron Riggs, Mary Roberts, Ann Robertson, Michelle Schmidt, Rosa Schultz, Karla Scott, Racheal Scott, Anita Simmons, Heather Smith, Crystal Snider, Barbara Strope, Tamara Stubblefield, Reynaldo Vasquez, Jeffrey Wade, Sharon Waltrip, Mark R Webb and Ana Wilkerson.

The list is large and it shows the caliber of Union members we have!

Several of our members are in need of your help!

Debra Dick in the Clinton office, Sam Lewis in the Tulsa Office, Danielle Nieto in the Tulsa office, Blanca Morales in the Muskogee Office and Sarah Diana Thomas in Pine Bluff office have been approved for the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program and are requesting assistance in obtaining annual leave donations. Please be generous!

We are sorry to report the passing of Staci Grammer’s mother, Kathy Murphy, on September 15. Join us in keeping Staci and her family in our thoughts and prayers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earn $50 for Each New Member You Sign Up!

Membership is the lifeblood of the Union. It is through membership we convince Congress to vote your interests! When we tell Congress Federal Employees need a better pay raise and don't want to pay more for Health Insurance, they tell us half of the employees we represent don't feel that way BECAUSE if they did, they'd be in the Union!

We need to change that!

There is only so much the officers can do; there are only so many offices we can visit. YOU are there every day with your co-workers. That is why we are asking YOU to help!

You can earn $50 for each one of your co-workers you sign up!

If you are interested and want to know who the non-members are in your office, please contact us for the list! If you feel a little uncomfortable talking to your co-workers and want some ideas about how to break the ice, please contact us!

Here are some ideas on how to approach your co-workers:

Why Join AFGE?

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest and most influential federal and D.C. employees union in the United States. We are growing stronger every day. In the last four years, we’ve added a net increase of some 20,000 new members. Combined with 18,000 retired members, our total membership is now 250,000 strong. No other union represents close to that number of government employees.

We lobby the White House, work in agencies, litigate in court, and lobby in the halls of Congress. AFGE is all about producing results that positively affect our members’ lives. AFGE's lobbying has resulted in higher pay for YOU:

Year              President's Congressionally

Proposed Pay Raise         Enacted Pay

Raise After

AFGE Lobbying

2002                            3.6%                                     4.6%           

2003                            2.6                                         4.1

2004                            2.0                                         4.1

2005                            1.5                                         3.5 2006                            2.3                                         3.1    

2007                            2.2                                         2.2

2008                            3.0                                         3.5

2009                            2.9                                         3.9

Total                         20.1                                      29

EXTRA PAY                                                            8.9%

Besides your current rate of pay, this is what AFGE has done for YOU:

Creation of GS-12 TE

CRs upgraded to GS 11

SRs upgraded to GS 8

Leave in 15-minute increments

AWS

Flextime

Flex Lunch

Ergonomic Furniture

VDT Eyeglass & Contacts / Eye Exam Reimbursement

Two Mandatory 15 Minute Breaks

Hardship Reassignments

Seniority Details

That isn't all AFGE can do for you!

You can save a great deal of money by using your Union benefits! Who doesn't want to spend less money on necessities in this economy?

 

Your Union membership also stretches your disposable income!

 

(1)   If you need to buy a car (and who will not sooner or later), using the Union car purchasing service you can save a LIFETIME worth of Union dues.

For example, the President of the OKC VA Local wanted to buy a Cadillac Escalade. (I know; he has a lot more money than you or I)! He price shopped at dealers from Dallas/Ft Worth to OKC to Tulsa for his best price. On a whim, he called the Union car buying service. After a week, they called him back, sent him to the OKC dealer who offered him the best price he could find. That OKC dealer had to undercut his own best price another $5900!

(2)   Using the Union's Bond Rewards program, you can get US Savings Bonds by making purchases on-line. For instance, if you are booking a cruise or a family vacation through Travelocity, you can get 2% of the cost refunded to you in U.S. Savings Bonds.

(3)  There are a variety of other discounts offered to Union members on many other products and services (Lawyers, Auto Towing, Tires / Maintenance, Auto Insurance for instance).

http://www.unionprivilege.org/

http://www.unionvoice.org/up/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=1545714

http://www.afge.org/Index.cfm?Page=MemberBenefits

(4)  The Union also offers a variety of insurances for our members.

Here is an example of a female age 25, non-smoking, earning $40,000 a year. She will pay $14.00 biweekly for her FEGLI; but at age 60 (depending on pay increases) she will be asked to pay over $300.00 biweekly and over $600.00 a month! The Union has a plan where she can get the same 5 times her pay for the same $14.00 biweekly, and it is GUARANTEED to stay the same price until she is 90 years old.

This is a much better deal than FEGLI or various other term life insurance policies available through other sources. 

When it is all said and done, you know your co-workers and you will know what will be most persuasive to them! Take a look at the Local's website: www.afgelocal2505.org. Show them! See our newsletters, our minutes, our constitution and bylaws, and our financial reports. See the various issues over which we have bargained and over which we have filed grievances, EEO, Unfair Labor Practices for our members!

If after all is said and done, they still aren't persuaded to join, gentle persistence is the most effective.

After you have talked to them, just leave the Union application upside down on their desk with a sticky note: "Please complete, sign and return to me! THANK YOU! And a Smiley face." If you do that every couple of months, you'll wear them down!

 

 

SWINE FLU UPDATE

Under a regulation proposed in August, in the Federal Register by the Office of Personnel Management, federal employees would be eligible to use accrued or accumulated sick leave if a doctor or other health official determined that a caretaker's presence in the workplace might jeopardize the health of co-workers.

Employees must be providing daily care for the affected family member, the proposal states, and may request up to 104 hours of sick leave before doctors determine the family member has contracted a communicable disease. At that point, employees could use as much as 12 weeks of sick leave each year to care for the family member.

The OPM Deputy Associate Director for Pay and Leave Administration said Wednesday that the proposed regulation should help clear up potential confusion for federal agency managers and employees. Though the new proposals could help federal agencies bar potentially infected employees from reporting for work, OPM stressed that a doctor or other health professional would have to determine whether an employee's presence would put co-workers at risk.

The rule applies only to serious communicable diseases for which federal quarantine or isolation rules apply, including cholera, plague, yellow fever or pandemic flu. The OPM is seeking guidance on whether it should add other diseases to the list.

The OPM has also proposed granting 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees actively caring for service members with injuries or illnesses suffered in the line of duty. The regulation would apply when an employee needs to provide care for a current member of the armed forces undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy on an inpatient or outpatient basis, or for a member on the temporary disability-retired list. The proposal allows employees to use annual or sick leave for any of those 26 weeks.

The latest proposed regulation related to military families follows the OPM's decision to grant federal agencies optional direct-hiring authority for the spouses of service members. That rule applies to the spouses of military personnel relocating for a new assignment, some physically disabled spouses, and those whose husband or wife was killed in the line of duty.

Comments about the new proposed regulations are due to the OPM by Oct. 26.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?


There is no vaccine available right now to protect against the H1N1 virus.  However, an H1N1 vaccine is currently in production and may be ready for the public in the fall. As always, a vaccine will be available to protect against
seasonal influenza.
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza.

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

-Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

-Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

-Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

-Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Other important actions that you can take are:

Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs (for when soap and water are not available), tissues and other related items could help you to avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?


If you are sick with flu-like illness,
CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)


Keep away from others as much as possible to prevent making other sick. Wash your hands, and do so after every time you cough or sneeze.

What are the differences between a Cold and Swine Flu Symptoms?

Symptom

Cold

Swine Flu

Fever

Fever is rare with a cold.

Fever is usually present with the flu in up to 80% of all flu cases. A temperature of 100°F or higher for 3 to 4 days is associated with the flu.

Coughing

A hacking, productive (mucus- producing) cough is often present with a cold.

A nonproductive (non-mucus producing) cough is usually present with the flu (sometimes referred to as dry cough).

Aches

Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold.

Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.

Stuffy Nose

Stuffy nose is commonly present with a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week.

Stuffy nose is not commonly present with the flu.

Chills

Chills are uncommon with a cold.

60% of people who have the flu experience chills.

Tiredness

Tiredness is fairly mild with a cold.

Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu.

Sneezing

Sneezing is commonly present with a cold.

Sneezing is not common with the flu.

 

Sudden Symptoms

Cold symptoms tend to develop over a few days.

The flu has a rapid onset within 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains.

Headache

A headache is fairly uncommon with a cold.

A headache is very common with the flu, present in 80% of flu cases.

Sore Throat

Sore throat is commonly present with a cold.

Sore throat is not commonly present with the flu.

Chest Discomfort

Chest discomfort is mild to moderate with a cold.

Chest discomfort is often severe with the flu.

 

For more information visit: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/

 

 

 

A New Day for the Civil Service

Remarks of OPM Director John Berry
Keynote - Excellence in Government Conference

I've been on the job as the Chief People Person for the Federal Government for a few months now, and I've worked on Civil Service issues for many years before this. And I have to tell you, I've never been more excited and optimistic about the opportunity for genuine, wholesale, systemic reform in the way we recruit and motivate the Federal workforce.

More than capital, facilities or any equipment, our people, are the most important asset we have, and it's time to recognize that fact and act accordingly.

Today's Civil Service is among the finest in our Nation's history, and it is up to us to share a robust vision for how we prepare ourselves for the challenges of the coming decades. But before we talk about that, it's helpful to trace the journey that led us here and build a new narrative that captures the spirit and sacrifice that characterizes the men and women of our Federal workforce.

Through much of the 19th Century, Government jobs were given out largely on the basis of political party membership, and both parties had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Momentum for change finally built when President Garfield was assassinated by a disgruntled job seeker in 1881. With what you might call a keen instinct for self-preservation, his successor, Chester Arthur, signed the Pendleton Act in 1883.

This law established the Civil Service Commission which, bolstered by the energetic service of Theodore Roosevelt, among others, dismantled the spoils system and replaced it with one based on merit. Its core idea is that in America you will be judged by how well you do your job - and by nothing else.

Gradually, the merit-based system came to encompass nearly the entire Federal civilian workforce.

As the Civil Service became professionalized, it drew people like Eliot Ness and his fellow "untouchables;" Frank Wilson, the Treasury investigator who documented Al Capone's tax evasion; scientists who mastered the atom; Neil Armstrong and the engineers who supported his legendary voyage 40 years ago this very day; and Rachel Carson, who started her career with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. The call to serve drew not only heroes like Dwight Eisenhower, but also the defense civilians who serve alongside our warfighters.

Our Federal workforce has adapted continuously as America's needs have changed and Presidents and Congresses have assigned new missions. Thirty years ago, over 22% of our workforce was in blue collar jobs. Now that percentage has dropped by half while the percentage of IT and Health professionals has doubled.

Federal workers helped create the Internet, and now we're using it to make government run more efficiently and save taxpayer money. Dick Gregg is a great example. He was a civil servant for more than 40 years, finishing his career as Commissioner of the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service.

Before he retired in 2006, Dick moved the Treasury toward an all-electronic payment system that handles trillions of dollars in taxes and is saving us hundreds of millions of dollars in transaction costs.

William D. Phillips, a career researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is a Federal worker and a Nobel Prize winner. Dr. Phillips is remarkable not only for his research in the area of quantum computing, but also for giving back to his community. When NIST nominated him as a distinguished civil servant, they noted that he took the time to speak at high schools and a rural community center - not necessarily stops on the physicists' normal lecture circuit.

I should also mention that one of Dr. Phillips' co-awardees for the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics is now our Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu.

Right now, Federal workers are researching cures for cancer, developing solutions to our energy and climate crises, and working to right the ship of our economy.

But despite the work they're doing, perceptions of Federal workers changed for the worse as it became fashionable for politicians of both parties to run against Washington and the boogey man of "the bureaucracy."

For over 30 years, Federal workers and the work we do have been denigrated and disparaged. We've been called "out of touch," "unaccountable," "lazy," "blood-sucking," and worse. The phrase "good enough for government work," has been turned on its head, stolen and made into an epithet - a catchphrase for mediocrity. During World War II, it was the standard for excellence in manufacturing - good enough to protect our servicemen in battle. Good enough to rebuild our allies when the war was over. Good enough to bring mankind to the moon and back safely.

It's time we reclaimed that meaning. It's time the denigration ends.

This isn't merely a matter of pride; it's a matter of necessity. The broadsides of the last 30 years have not only hurt morale, recruitment and, I believe, retention; ultimately, they've inhibited our ability to deliver the best service to the American people.

I argue today that the premise of these attacks was not only misguided - it was completely wrong. The American people were sold a bill of goods. Federal workers are not second class or inferior to workers in the private sector, and we never were.

Government workers have a strong record of delivering for the American people, and we continue to work as hard as anyone else, if not harder.

We also work smarter - while the Federal government's responsibilities have grown, our share of the overall American workforce has dropped - by almost half. In 1970, before both parties began their sustained attacks on the civil service, 4% of working Americans worked for the civil service. Today, that figure is just over 2%.

To spotlight one example of our increased responsibilities: in 1980, just under 50 million people were enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and the programs were administered by 4,900 federal workers. Today, the agency has 4,600 workers - 7% fewer, and guess how many people are in Medicare and Medicaid. Almost 81 million. They're serving 64% more enrollees with 7% fewer Federal workers.

And during that time, managed care options, the Part D drug benefit, a significant role in the States Children's Health Insurance Program, (SCHIP), and other additional layers of complexity have been added to their responsibilities through new legislation. A disclaimer: there are some state workers and contractors who help; but any way you slice it, the Federal workers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are working smarter.

Another Fed who's working smarter is Kathy Dillaman. Kathy is the leader of OPM's Investigative Services Division. In 1997, investigative services worked through about 5,200 investigations per year to grant Top Secret and higher level clearances.

Now, in the post-9/11 era, we do 100,000 of these high-level investigations. That's over 19 times as many. We do them more quickly - from 380 days at the height of the post-9/11 backlog to 72 days on average now and we are on track to reaching 90% in 40 days this year! And just as important. we're literally twice as efficient - the workload has increased nearly twice as much as the workforce.

The work of HHS and Kathy Dillaman is good enough for government work.

And I'll take Dick Gregg and the Treasury staff over Wall Street any day - thank you very much.

I've worked in government a long time, been confirmed by the Senate for senior posts in two administrations, and spoken to many political appointees of both parties and diverse career backgrounds about their service. And every single one of them, to a person, has praised the quality and dedication of the career professionals who worked alongside them. For those appointed at the height of the attacks against the Civil Service, they always listed it as their greatest surprise - but the conclusion remained the same.

We all need to showcase these professionals to the American people and make the case: Federal employees deserve respect. They protect us. They sacrifice for all of us. They are essential for our country.

These sacrifices come into particularly sharp relief on days such as April 19, 1995, when the Murrah Building was bombed in Oklahoma City, August 7, 1998, when two of our embassies were attacked, and September 11, 2001. From 1995 through 2007, 2,085 Federal workers have died on the job - giving their all for their country. "No greater love is more than this: that one lay down their life for another."

In the wildfires of the West, in our embassies and the Peace Corps, enforcing our laws and exploring the final frontier, these brave Americans know the risk their civilian service entails.

They knew risk as they headed to the Pentagon on the morning of September 11th - and they certainly knew the risk when many defense civilians returned to work the next day. Yet they returned, propelled by a sense of duty and a commitment to something larger than themselves.

Just as we owe our men and women who die in uniform more than we can ever repay, we owe these non-combatant workers a debt of honor as well, and I challenge anyone to say their lives are any less dear.

We cannot afford to sit idly by and let them be maligned any longer. We need to defend them when they are attacked and hold whoever does it accountable.

We need Federal employees to face the unprecedented challenges of our time. We need those who are here now, but might be looking at the private sector as they contemplate the costs of college for their kids. We need new workers to replace those who are retiring. For jobs where outsourcing hasn't worked, and in many cases has cost taxpayers more money, we need to recapture the expertise that has been lost.

Each of you has a story of service, like the ones I've told. You can help reclaim the reputation of Federal workers by sharing your story and the stories that inspired you. Blog about it. Put it out there on Twitter 140 characters at a time. Make yourself heard.

When you do, I think you'll find that opinions will start to change. Some people may even connect with your story and be moved to enter Federal service themselves. Either way, we're reclaiming the ground that's been lost over the last 30 years, and really since the Kennedy administration, when respect for public service reached its zenith.

This isn't about big government or small government; it's about good government. We need the best and the brightest, and we need them now.

So where do we stand? What is the current state of the civil service?

We have, by and large, the best workers in the world, but we do not have the systems or policies we need to support them. We need comprehensive reform, from recruitment and hiring to pay and training. And, we must expect the best from every employee and fairly appraise their performance to guarantee to the public that America is getting what she deserves - the best.

Now is the time to tackle these reforms. We are ascending from the dark valley of denigration and rising to a new dawn for public service. More and more Americans are asking what they can do for their country.

The ageless ideal of serving a cause larger than any one of us has been brought back to life by President Obama and the millions of ordinary Americans who swept him into office.

Now we need to do the hard work of building the infrastructure that will enable us to absorb and channel this flood of enthusiasm and meet our lofty goal that:

The Federal Government will be America's model employer for the 21st century.

With hundreds of thousands of Feds projected to retire in the next 10 years, the hiring problems we currently face can only get worse if we fail to act.

Now is the time we must recruit and hire the best; expect the best; respect their successes, and honor their service.

To achieve this, we are going to fix hiring and recruitment so that it is fair, simple and fast, and only based on merit. We are going to improve work-life balance and treat our employees with respect - by enhancing their health and environment and helping them manage their family and loved ones' demands as best we can.

We are going to honor our veterans and increase their employment opportunities in our domestic agencies.

And we're going to develop a performance appraisal system that gives substantial rewards to our very best workers, recognizes the good work of the vast majority of our employees, and disciplines and removes the few bad apples who have been given the chance to improve but have either failed or refused to do so.

Together, these elements form a complete refresh of the Federal government's people policy. We are not developing these policies in secret; I am talking to everyone I can think of who might have ideas on how we can improve - workers and managers, unions and academics, business friends, Members of Congress and agency heads.

The stars are aligned. We have a President in Barack Obama who gets it; who understands the value of service and isn't in the practice of throwing around "bureaucrat" as a slur towards our workers. We have allies in leadership in both the House and Senate and Committee Leaders who are ready to help.

This is a once-in-a-generation chance to ask the big questions, and if we do this right, we'll have a people policy that can last us the rest of the century. So I'm encouraging all of you and all of our partners to think about the big picture.

We'll be doing just that in September-October, when Harvard is hosting a conference for us, chaired by the Dean of the Kennedy School, former Senator Paul Sarbanes, and Laszlo Bock, the head of people programs for Google.

The stars may not align like this again. So we need to have our plans ready this year.

I'd like to close with one more story about a public servant; a story I heard as a child. It's about a man who started as a coal miner in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the first half of the 20th century, eventually working his way up to Justice of the Peace. He took great pride in being invested with the public trust.

But one part of his job was particularly heart-rending. During the Depression, people in his area who couldn't afford to heat their homes would scour rail beds for lumps of coal that had fallen from passing trains. And when the coal companies caught people doing this, they would haul them into court. And this public servant would dutifully take the coal away and lecture them sternly about the importance of respecting private property... Then, later in the night, he would go to their homes and give the coal back, taking his young daughter, my mother, with him, trudging through the snow to those back doors so that she might learn the true meaning of justice.

The public trust is an awe-inspiring power to do good in the right hands. In the wrong ones, it can be abused to terrible, horrifying ends. Anyone who doubts the need to continue recruiting the best people to exercise that power fundamentally misunderstands the role of government in a free society. America not only deserves the best - she needs the best, if our country and Constitution are to survive.

Let us, as Stan Rogers sang, join all the power of our hands and our hearts and our brains towards this end and guarantee America a new day for our civil service. Let us together, build America's model workforce for the 21st century.

Best Retirement Dates

By Tammy Flanagan National Institute of Transition Planning

The following chart shows the date your Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System benefit will start if you are leaving under optional, immediate retirement. "Optional" means you're eligible to retire when you leave federal service and "immediate" means your retirement will begin the month after you go. Consult with your agency's retirement benefits specialist if you are retiring under discontinued service, disability, postponed or deferred retirement, since the annuity beginning date is determined differently for these types of retirement.

Date You Leave

Date Retirement Will Start

1st, 2nd or 3rd day of any month

CSRS: Following day
FERS: First day of the following month

4th through the last day of the month

CSRS and FERS: First day of the following month

Beginning of the month-Under CSRS and CSRS Offset, retiring on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of the month is sometimes good, because retirement benefits will still kick in the following day. So if you retire on Wednesday, Nov. 3, you will be paid your salary through close of business that day, and your first retirement check will be paid for 27/30 of November, payable on Dec. 1.
Note that I didn't list Saturday and Sunday as good days if they fell on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of the month since there is no salary payment for these days (unless Saturday or Sunday is your normal workday). If the 3rd fell on a Monday, I didn't select that date, since it would cause you to lose three days of retired pay and gain only one day of additional salary. There is an exception to this rule: If adding up to three more days of service would give you another month in the computation of your retirement, then Saturday, Sunday or Monday might be a good date anyway.
Do not retire on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of the month if you are covered under FERS, or you have transferred to FERS. If you do, you will not receive any retirement income for the first month you are retired. FERS optional retirements always commence on the 1st day of the month following your retirement date.

End of the month-This is always good for people retiring under Federal Employees Retirement System, including those who transferred from CSRS to FERS. It's also not bad for those covered under CSRS or CSRS Offset to consider the last day of the month. That way, your retirement begins on the first day of the following month.

End of a leave period-It's always good to earn one last accrual of annual leave that will count toward your lump-sum annual leave payment. If you retire before the end of a leave period, you do not accrue any leave during the last leave period. If you work a flexible schedule, you might be able to retire at close of business on a Thursday and finish your hours for that leave period. You earn leave when you have completed your scheduled tour of duty (i.e., 80 hours). It is especially nice when the end of the leave period coincides with the end of the month or for Civil Service Retirement System or CSRS Offset employees, the first three days of the month.
End of the Year-Employees traditionally have enjoyed retiring at the end of the year because of the ability to save up annual leave hours beyond the normal use-or-lose limits. For example, if Joe carries 240 hours of annual leave (the limit for most federal employees) from 2009 into 2010 and decides to retire at the end of 2010 (Friday, Dec. 31, 2010, if he is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset), he could save up 26 eight-hour accruals of annual leave (208 hours) to add to the 240 that he carried over from 2009. His annual leave balance could be 448 hours of unused leave, paid to him in a lump-sum payment. (Joe might need to take a vacation after he retires, since he wouldn't have used any annual leave during the last year on the job.)