AFGE LOCAL 2505
Representing SSA Field Office Employees in Oklahoma
September, 2008 – Volume III, No. 3
Please note the change in time and location of our October Membership Meeting! It will begin at 11:30 am on October 18, 2008 at Napoli's Restaurant: 221 W Randolph, Enid, OK
ALL members are welcome! Non-members are welcome, too! We always have 1187s (membership applications) handy!
If you are interested in the Local having its quarterly meeting near you, please contact one of the officers. We want to make sure employees from the nearby office(s) will attend. Otherwise, we’ll usually have the meetings in the OKC area because that is the least amount of travel for two of the officers and members who regularly attend.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED
If you perform CPR on someone or if you helped someone during a building evacuation, you might believe that SSA would defend you if you ended up being sued.
Well, think again: your belief is WRONG!
Mary Glenn-Croft, the Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance & Management, in an August 6, 2008 Memo, stated:
“… Because your decision to assist … is voluntary, the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot assure SSA that the Government would defend you in a lawsuit. DOJ’s decision would be based on the laws of your state and the individual facts of your case. … ”
If you were a member of management, SSA would help pay for your personal liability insurance. SSA does not do so for employees. Just another way of saying THANKS for your dedication to serving the public and for all of your hard work.
To our Secretary-Treasurer, Magda Mashburn, whose testimony resulted in the conviction of a Bakersfield man following jury trial for stealing almost $70,000 in disability benefits!
First, Ms Mashburn received a THANK YOU note from the Office of the Inspector General. Second, SSA denied part of Ms Mashburn’s voucher for reimbursement of travel expenses to testify at the trial. Once again, in SSA, no good deed goes unpunished.
ARBITRATION: Information Needed - INTERNET VACANCY ON LINE
The Union has set a date for the arbitration over SSA’s elimination of the paper merit promotion process and the implementation of Internet Vacancies On Line.
The Union needs to know (1) the names of IVOL applicants who have experienced problems submitting applications or were improperly excluded from the BQ list, their position and telephone number; (2) the names of employees and their telephone numbers who have been told by management to complete the IVOL application from home and NOT from work, or have otherwise been denied duty time to complete the application; (3) the names of employees and their phone numbers who wanted to submit a 4100 for an Internet Vacancy On Line but were unable to do so.
If you think your experiences would help, please contact your Local Officers or Council 220 3rd Vice President, Dana Duggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The arbitration hearing is set for October 2.
Those of you who may not have read Winston Churchill's memoirs may be be surprised to find out that he had a great deal of respect and admiration for the South African Boer guerrillas (who kicked Great Britain's *ss) and no respect at all for passive resister Mohandas Gandhi. Churchill ONLY admired fighters, not non-violent pacifists.
Might I suggest that SSA is cut from the same cloth as Winston Churchill and has no respect for whiny, whimpering employees who complain but steadfastly refuse to stand up to them?
BUT, you ask, what about the time-honored advice about carefully picking one’s battles? Those who give you such advice, in all likelihood, are timid souls, scared of their own shadow, who have NEVER stood up to authority and NEVER found a battle with SSA worth fighting!
Local 2505 doesn’t expect you to tell us what sections of the contract or provisions of the PPM management has violated. We expect you to tell us what is bothering you and why you think you were treated unfairly. Your Local Officers will do the rest!
For instance, one of our members wanted a new supervisor. Management alleged the employee had to work on their interpersonal skills. The employee kept a journal (no names or SSNs) about the nasty comments, dirty looks and unfair workload decisions made by the supervisor. NOT confronting, but discussing, the issue with the next level of management, management decided that the employee should in fact get a new supervisor. Just knowing that the next step is getting the Union involved usually makes management more flexible!
An AWS employee wanted a change of hours on their 8 hour day. They were a bit steamed that an identically situated co-worker got the hours they wanted! Once again, letting management know they wanted similar hours without accusing management of unfairness, resulted in both employees getting the workday that they wanted.
In another office, management told a couple of new mothers that they were calling in too much and would have to take leave for missing an IVT broadcast. The Union drafted a grievance, which, we believe was a sure winner based on management’s commentary to Article 10, Appendix A, Section 7.B on page 10 -16: "Employees are required to be present for all mandatory training and meetings." … "However, employees should be provided reasonable advance notice." The employees received no advance notice. Furthermore, the DCO broadcast was available on Video on Demand. The local rep, apparently, talked to management. No one had to sign for leave; no grievances were filed.
The moral of these stories is that one doesn’t always need to file a grievance; sometimes, it is NOT the best course of action. But, you MUST stand up for yourself and keep the Union in the loop
Now that summer is over and, the kids are back in school, the fiscal year is drawing to a close and a new work year will be upon us in a couple of weeks, it is time to start thinking about YOUR next battle: unfair breakdown changes? A mediocre appraisal (i.e., not at least 2 fives)? Another vacancy for which management passed you over? Some one else got a temporary GS-12 Track 2 slot and YOU weren't told about it? You aren’t being offered overtime? You aren’t being given a chance to mentor (i.e., you aren’t in line for a promotion)? You aren’t asked if you want to go to the contact station (shows you can work independently)? Management always asks YOU to cover interviews for those who are out because you never complain? Management asks you for more and more medical information while just taking one-liners from physicians for your co-workers sick leave requests and work load adjustments?
Be a Boer! (Pardon the pun)! STAND UP when you aren’t being treated fairly! STAND UP for what you know is right and let us help you!
Let your Union officers stand up for you and between you and mismanagement!
That is what we do! And, if I say so myself, we have a pretty good track record of winning for the employees we represent! See: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/bios.htm and
Ralph de Juliis, President
#1: Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008.
AFGE has endorsed the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008.
“The time has come for the federal government to set the standard for U.S. employers on paid parental leave,” said AFGE President John Gage. “The benefits to children and families of four weeks of paid parental leave are enormous and long lasting. This sets an example for private sector employers.”
In a letter to Congress, AFGE stated, “Despite the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act, federal workers are among those who must choose between a paycheck and meeting their family obligations because they currently have no parental leave.” Under current law, no part of the leave under FMLA is guaranteed to be ‘paid leave,’ a fact that effectively prevents many workers from using FMLA at all. “It’s an unnecessary hardship that can be solved by this legislation,” continued Gage.
The Federal Employees Parental Leave Act, which would extend four weeks of paid parental leave to all Executive and Legislative Branch federal employees, provides an opportunity for parents to bond with newborn infants or newly adopted children and sets an example for private sector employers. It also takes as a given that all parents – male, female and adoptive – deserve equal treatment.
“Senator Jim Webb and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney have proven their dedication to working families with their introduction of this bill and we thank them for their insight and commitment. We urge members of Congress to pass this important and essential piece of legislation,” concluded Gage.
#2: Sick Leave Credit toward Retirement for FERS Employees
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), supports the legislation introduced in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Jim Moran (D-VA).
Attached to H.R.1108, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act,
the legislation ensures that employees covered under the Federal Employees
Retirement System (FERS) will receive the same credit for their unused sick
leave toward retirement as employees in the Civil Service Retirement System
(CSRS). The bill also provides for automatic enrollment of new federal
employees in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and establishes a Roth-style
option for employees participating in the TSP.
An idea long advocated by Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), this bill would equalize the treatment of unused sick leave in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). After three years, FERS employees would join their CSRS coworkers in having all of their unused sick leave credited to the length of service that is used for calculating their retirement annuity. This change would apply to both regular and survivor annuities under FERS. During the first three years, FERS employees would receive credit for 75% of their sick leave.
The inequity between the two retirement systems has been a serious concern for both workers and managers, in that it gave FERS employees no incentive to conserve sick leave, and no financial recognition for a career with exemplary attendance.
#3: Other Proposed Changes
Currently, new federal employees have to choose to participate in the TSP. If they do so, they receive significant government agency matches to their own contributions. However, many new federal employees find the explanations about the TSP during their orientations to be confusing, and decide not to enroll, inadvertently losing out on the agency matches to their contributions. The change provided by H.R. 1108 would automatically enroll employees in the TSP, but give them the option to decline enrollment. This change from an opt-in approach to the TSP to an opt-out approach will go a long way toward enhancing the economic circumstances of federal employees.
Roth Plan in TSP
AFGE also supports the addition of a Roth-style option in the TSP for employees. Although a Roth-style plan is not in the economic interests of all federal employees, it is an additional option which will benefit those who expect to have higher income taxes in their retirement years than when they were working.
#4: 2009 Pay Raise
Senate for the FY09 Financial Services Appropriations Bill includes a well
deserved pay raise for federal workers!
The Senate Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) has included a provision for a 3.9 PERCENT PAY INCREASE. Remarked AFGE National President John Gage: “With astronomical gas prices, food prices spiraling out of control and an economy that is sinking fast, this pay raise will help keep hard working federal workers afloat.”
After the 8 female CRs in Poteau filed requests for EEO counseling, the Poteau manager announced his retirement. SSA has finally finished the EEO counseling reports. Guess what? SSA claims it was all an intra-management communications problem, none of which was the fault of the now retired manager. BUT, since the manager is now retired, they are not offering any of the aggrieved female CRs any remedies.
An interesting side note: the Union sent a copy of the complaint to Dallas Regional Commissioner Ramona Schuenemeyer. Despite the SSA rhetoric about being committed to a discrimination-free workplace, RC Schuenemeyer deleted the email without reading it.
The Union will pursue the Poteau 8 EEO complaints to arbitration if necessary to get those employees a fair and just settlement!
Woodward Contact Station Bargaining – Update
The Union submitted its last proposal to SSA on March 18. SSA has not responded. However, as long as SSA is not trying to sending bargaining unit employees to the contact station, the Union is not pushing SSA to respond. The Union is often puzzled by the issues that SSA thinks are important and the issues over which SSA can’t be bothered.
Commissioner Says That If You’re Doing Your Job Right, You’re Probably Stressed Out
By Howard Egerman, AFGE National Health and Safety Representative,
In a recent question and answer session SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue was asked the question "How stressful is your job?"
The Commissioner replied, "If you are doing this job right, you can't help internalizing some of this stuff. I am taking more hypertension medication than I was a year ago."
AFGE is concerned about employees and the impact of stress on them. While the Commissioner has all kinds of assistance, (people who type for him, answer the phone for him, a parking place reserved for him), the average SR, TSR, CR, TE does not. Rather those individuals have to face a multitude of demands in field offices. They include a computer system that does not always work and goes down as well as printers and fax machines that don’t work or run out of toner. If that is not enough, there are the ever popular listings that have to be checked regularly and a VIP system that keeps announcing individuals are waiting for them while they are taking other claims and at the same time monitors the duration of each interview and how many interviews a person takes.
What is more (as the preview and coming attractions person might say) "At a time when the agency allegedly has no numeric goals, employees are regularly given statistical sheets telling them what their processing time is, what the unit average is and how they compare to the unit average. If they are a TSR, they are given the same figures regarding their number of calls and are being told how long the call interval for each call should be. While this is happening, SSI people are told sometimes to clear items and other times not to clear redeterminations or limited issues. Employees literally can be disciplined for clearing work. Monitoring with the signs on phones reading "Big Sister or Big Brother is listening to you" is another factor in building stress for everyone.
So, while the Commissioner's blood pressure may be going up and he may think that it means this is a good way to show you are doing your job right, other SSA workers who earn less money and who have less technical support, find the stress appalling.
People often ask at union meetings when the next early out is. At staff meetings, the major question is about overtime. Soccer practice and other family events have to be put on hold as employees try to keep their heads above water. Other employees bring with them bottles of medications, not just for hypertension but Prozac and Zoloft.
Trying to deal with the issue of stress, AFGE's field office health and safety committee has asked repeatedly about the annual stress management training mandated by Article 9, Section l5 of the contract that states "The parties agree that recognizing, minimizing and coping with stress are essential parts of employee wellness. Management will make every effort to provide annual training on stress reduction. This will be a part of the SSA wellness program.”
The Union notes that employees are often so stressed and so busy working through their breaks and their lunches that they cannot use the Stress Busters page of the Center for Employee Services section on the Office of Personnel web site. Employees are literally being stressed to death. Commissioner Astrue and his staff at headquarters have SSA medical officers on duty who can come to their aid should any of them have a medical emergency as a result of their stress & their diagnosed hypertension. Employees at one of the 1300 field offices and TSCs are not as lucky; they are on their own.
Our sister local in Arkansas, AFGE Local 3291 is discussing the possibility of merging with us:
I want to share my ENTHUSIASM for a merger of our locals! I think it would be a GREAT idea and would be GREAT for both of us!!
WE would become a new, stronger, more dynamic and more effective local: the Arkansas-Oklahoma Local with DOUBLE the number of members each of us had before. Truly, the sum will be GREATER than the parts!
Right now, we are the two smallest locals in the region. Frankly, the issues that concern us and our members get short shrift from the larger locals. Our combined size would give us almost the same number of members as the larger locals (and both of our locals have membership growth potential). The larger local would also give us a depth of leadership and activists that neither of us currently have, despite our best efforts to nurture activists who are ready to take up the gauntlet of employee representation.
Just as an example of what our locals have pending: arbitrations, grievances, EEO complaints on part-time, awards, refusal to bargain Track 2 temporary promotions, hostile work environments, sex discrimination, discrimination against disabled employees, non-selection, disciplinary suspensions and a removal, appraisals, awards, refusal to bargain renovation and relocation, refusal to discuss work assignments (as in some employees who are liked get what they request and everyone else has to pick up the slack and difficult workloads), unfairness and inequity in training assignments and everyday stress which has resulted in management counseling employees for parking TOO CLOSE to their co-workers and managers telling employees that they can't get along with anyone and that their co-workers don't like them, etc.
In short, we face the same problems but each local, individually, is really stretched to the breaking point to attempt to deal with all these issues. As a combined local, our ability to respond to our members’ issues and needs would be strengthened and formidable! As always, this is not a decision of the leadership of our two locals: it is a decision of OUR membership!
Please take the poll on the Local’s website: www.afgelocal2505.org and tell us what YOU think and what YOU want!
Make sure you and the employees in your office do a self assessment.
Please remember to look at the PPM for the level 5 language. Explaining that you do so much more mentoring or interviewing or adjudication than your co-corkers does NOT usually have anything to do with getting a level 5 rating in any of your elements. Level 5 language generally has to do with being creative and volunteering. Believe it or not, level 5 does NOT require management to take you up on your offers to volunteer: you simply have to volunteer.
If you need some help or ideas, feel free to contact one of your officers! If you find you are waxing poetic and can’t get everything onto the required single page, try using an 8 point condensed font and no margins.
Try to be reasonably specific about what you did and when: when someone asked for your advice and you showed them how to do it; when you saw that reception was backed up and you helped out without having to be asked, sacrificing your adjudication time; when a caller was distraught and you talked them down off the roof.
Most of those things your supervisor doesn't see. This is your chance to remind him or her!!
You SHOULD have a problem getting it all on a single page. SHAME ON YOU if your self-assessment fits on a single sheet of paper! Call one of the officers if you need help in adjusting the margins to zero and changing the type size to 6 point.
This must be submitted to your supervisor no later than October 10!
FEGLI - NOT YOUR BEST INSURANCE OPTION!
If you still have the federal employee group life insurance (FEGLI), you may not be aware of changes in that program.
The cost will increase: when you retire or reach the age of 55 to 60, you will no longer be able to afford it. When you cancel your FEGLI, you will not receive any of the premiums that you paid in over the years. That’s why the Union has life plans in which your cost stays level and you can also pick one of the cash value plans so you can receive money back should, in the future, you decide that you no longer need the coverage!
Here is an example of a female age 25 non tobacco making $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 biweekly; over $600 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. For a slightly higher premium, she can guarantee the price all the way out to age 120. $14 to FEGLI which goes up to $600 a month versus $14 for the Union plan in which the premiums are guaranteed to stay the same until age 90? The Union has similar great deals on many other insurance offerings!
For no obligation information and an estimate contact Craig Schuff (817) 253-2696 from Benefit Architects!
3,191 employees completed the national survey. The majority who responded were employees with over 15 years of service. 14% have over 30 years. The big issues were stress at work, temperature control, awards, PACS and fair and equitable treatment by management.
Local 2505 listed our own survey on our website. For the results see http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Poll_Results.htm .
4/10, staffing and workloads topped the list of concerns from the employees who took our Local’s survey. Awards, work-at-home and overtime were the issues of least concern.
The comments were interesting! Those who commented wanted: (1) a COLA for gas, (2) more opportunity for advancements, (3) paid details as a supervisor without having to be in the Leadership Development Program, (4) time frames for grievances changed so employees have as much time to reply to a grievance denial as SSA has to write its decisions, (5) restoration of the provisions the Union gave up in the last negotiation, (6) an employee appraisal of management in which FO employees can give anonymous feedback to management, (7) week day overtime because It is more economical, energy efficient, and logical after the 8 hr work day instead of employee driving in on Saturdays to perform overtime, (8) getting additional time to handle the internet claim workloads. Some other comments were: (1) the awards process is a joke. (2) I am very happy with my job and appreciate the benefits package and salary I receive. I would, however, love a 4 day-10 hour a day work week. (3) Promotions should be based on experience and seniority: I feel the current promotion policy is totally unfair.
Employee Counseling and Beyond
Part I: Ideally, counseling is as follows: “I want to talk to you in the office. Sit down. You did this. Don't do it again. You’ve been counseled. You can go."
That’s what should happen and you should GO without saying anything!
Contact the Union and we’ll ask for the particulars and probably claim that management ambushed you and did not bring things up to you timely as required by the contract.
Part II: The above is NOT what usually happens! Management feels that counseling must be a dialogue. Well, a dialogue about your behavior or performance that is off the floor is a FORMAL DISCUSSION in almost every instance.
The first thing that should come out of your mouth is, "I want a Union Rep." AND when management says, "This is counseling, you're not entitled to a rep" instead of giving background, explanations, rationalizations, etc, the employee should only say, "Fine. Are we done? May I go? I want to talk to the Union Rep ASAP."
The supervisor’s normal reaction will probably be something like: "Don't you want to give me your side of the story?" And you, as the employee, have a ready rejoinder, "You asked a question. This is no longer counseling; it is an investigation and formal discussion. I want a Union Rep."
Part III: So management won’t let you go or THREATS are made. The usual threat is: "You can be disciplined for failing to cooperate in an investigation." Your reply is first, “WAIT A MINUTE! You said this was counseling. NOW, it is an investigation?! You have threatened me with discipline. I want a Union Rep. Furthermore, I see you are taking notes. You have not written down what I just said. Please write down that I have asked for a Union Rep.”
Hopefully, you will never be in that situation. BUT, if management tells you it is “investigating” -- another euphemism they use is “evaluating” -- and gives you the standard warning: “Agency disciplinary action, including dismissal, may be undertaken if you refuse to answer, or fail to reply fully and truthfully”, SSA has already decided it is going to do something bad to you and is trying to figure out how severe a disciplinary action they can impose on you and make stick. Please don’t make our job as your Union Representative any more difficult by trying to explain your way out of it. Like on an episode of Law & Order, it only makes it seem like you are trying to carefully dissemble and shave the truth here and there, to escape punishment. That really does hurt your credibility.
One arbitrator has recently overturned discipline because that warning was “sufficiently ambiguous, since of course disciplinary action can occur even if a respondent does reply fully and truthfully, as apparently occurred here.”
Part IV: When you are accused of processing something incorrectly, management often asks in exasperation, “Didn’t you know…” The normal reaction and response is, “Yes, I did but I did this because…” With all due respect, we believe what you meant to say was, “I thought I was doing the right thing. Do you have a POMS or PolicyNet reference about how you think I should have done it?” If you remember the situation and did it wrong on purpose, well, of course, you can say “Yes, I did it that way and I knew it was wrong.” But, don’t be agreeable just because disagreeing is often uncomfortable. We are talking about your job.
Let’s say it is just a question of possible inappropriate access. If you are asked: “Aren’t you aware of the Standards of Conduct? Didn’t you sign the Systems Sanctions acknowledgement form?” How about the whole truth and nothing but the truth: “Yes to both questions. BUT, I never read either of them.” When was the last time you actually read the Standards of Conduct?
You are NOT required to sign the acknowledgement statements and the Union urges you not to do so!
Union Plus Scholarship
Since 1992, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $2.5 million to students of working families who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education. Over 1,700 families have benefited from our commitment to higher education. The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation.
Eligibility for Scholarships: Current and retired members of unions participating in any Union Plus program, their spouses and their dependent children (including foster children, step children, and any other child for whom the individual member provides greater than 50% of his or her support) can apply for a Union Plus Scholarship. (Participating union members from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada are eligible.) Members do not have to purchase any Union Plus program product or participate in any Union Plus programs to apply for the scholarships and scholarship awards are not based upon participation in a Union Plus program.
The individual must be accepted into an accredited college or university, community college or recognized technical or trade school at the time the award is issued. Note: Graduate students are now eligible.
Evaluation criteria: The scholarship program is open
to students attending or planning to attend a college or university, a
community college, or a technical college or trade school. Applicants for
scholarships are evaluated according to academic ability, social awareness,
financial need and appreciation of labor.
Scholarship applications are judged by a committee of impartial post secondary educators. Applications are first reviewed by a panel of independent career professionals. Semi-finalists are chosen based on a point scale, and their applications are then provided to judges for further review and selection of finalists and awards. Program judges include representatives from the American Association of Community Colleges, the United Negro College Fund, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Scholarship award amounts: The amount of the award ranges from $500 - $4,000. This is a one-time cash award sent to individual winners for study beginning in the fall of the same year.
The application will be available in September at http://www.unionplus.org/benefits/education/scholarships/up.cfm
1. Employees should submit:
· SSA-4100 (be sure to include the geographic area, positions employee wishes to be considered and the effective date of transfer)
· Hardship letter
· Any documentation supporting the need for a transfer
2. Employees should submit their Request for Reassignment to the appropriate Hardship Coordinator of the losing component with a copy to the designated hardship coordinators in both the originating and receiving regions. See http://dalnet.kc.ssa.gov/hr/personnel.htm and the links HARDSHIP PROGRAM: Transfer Procedures and Coordinators for additional details.
Employees may also direct additional copies to the Area/State Director, TSC Director, ARC PCO, ARC MOS or facility manager to whose office they are seeking a reassignment.
AFGE Local 2505
October 18, 2008
221 W Randolph, Enid, OK
Time: 11:30 AM
Call to Order
-Status: Rebate follow-up & Organizing
Report on 9th District Arbitration Training
-FLRA Training for EVP Lewis, 1st VP Brooks, 2nd VP Roberts
AFGE LOCAL 2505 is now On-Line!
Please check out our Local’s website at:
AFGE Local 2505 General Officers Contact Information
Ralph de Juliis - President
Carol A. Lewis – Executive Vice President
Work: 918-423-1631 ext. 117
Magda Mashburn – Secretary - Treasurer
Work: 405-605-3001 ext 3981
Mitzi Brooks – 1st Vice President
Work: 580-237-1664 ext. 202
Mary Roberts – 2nd Vice President
AFGE Local 2505 Newsletter: September, 2008
Ms Magda Mashburn, Secretary-Treasurer
3837 Highpoint Court
Norman, Oklahoma 73072-5023