Recent shortages in staffing and budget have not resulted in a shortage of victories for AFGE Local 2505. Over the past year, our Local President has been working harder than ever to uphold your rights as employees. Hundreds of thousands of dollars awarded in arbitration damages, dozens of settlements, numerous upsetting exposures, and several unprecedented, successful unfair labor practice complaints later, an uncomfortable truth has emerged for SSA. Employee wins make them look bad and embarrassing losses must be eliminated. However, SSA has not chosen a solution that will reduce violations of employee rights. Rather eliminating bad management behavior, they have determined that the solution is eliminating Ralph de Juliis.

Although no one in the Agency is willing to accept responsibility for leading the current retaliation campaign against Ralph, it is clear that management has decided to go after our members and their rights by targeting our local president.

While most of us have spent our careers serving the public, Ralph de Juliis has spent most of his 33 years with the Agency ensuring that we can provide our service to the public in the most equitable work environment possible. Ralph’s primary workloads since 1984 have consisted of employee grievances, EEO matters, unfair labor practices, and bargaining. He is responsible for numerous employee promotions, increased appraisal ratings, reversals of employee terminations and other discipline, massive award winnings for employees, unparalleled employee damage settlements, enforcement of rights to bargain workplace changes, restoration of improperly charged leave, safety enhancements in the workplace, and far too many other employee related triumphs to list in a single paragraph. Sometimes a one-man show, his vocal opposition to unfair practices has created a large volume of work for Dallas Regional Office and embarrassment for Arkansas and Oklahoma management. Ultimately, his successful challenges on behalf of employees necessitated the creation of two additional labor relations positions in Regional Office just to deal with issues arising from Arkansas and Oklahoma offices.

Ralph's local management team in Tulsa Oklahoma had a history of allowing him full time Union duties until March of this year. Since this time, local management in Tulsa has suddenly shifted their approach. Acceptance has been replaced with continuous harassing behavior over his representational duties. Management proposed a considerable reduction in the amount of time Ralph is allowed to use in representing employees in grievances and in the EEO process. When attempts at browbeating him into decreasing Union activity failed, management initiated "investigatory" proceedings, alleging a conduct issue with his failure to follow orders. Two members of management attempted to meet with him without a representative, and to make this initial "investigatory meeting" more intimidating, they resorted to adding outrageous issues related to his use of "salty" language in representing employees. The "investigation" is ongoing and the threat of discipline is pending. Pete Harris, President of AFGE Local 3438, is acting as representative for Ralph and traveled to Oklahoma from Tennessee to be present during the meeting. Throughout this "investigatory" procedure, Tulsa District Manager, Elizar Huerta, has maintained that they are only following orders handed down directly from Dallas Regional Office.

When confronted by Ralph, Regional Office denied giving Tulsa management any such directive. However, the involvement of Labor Relations Specialist Carolyn Jackson was revealed shortly after the meting was held with Ralph and LP Harris.

Ralph de Juliis and Carolyn Jackson share a history of being on opposite sides of employee issues and going head-to-head when management refuses to comply with the Contract. Much of the history originated during proceedings for three employees Ralph represented referred to as the Little Rock Three. It was Ms. Jackson's handling of discipline against these employees, and her related testimony during arbitration that resulted in the landmark decisions against the Agency. Arbitrator Bankston found that management's actions not only violated the Contract but also the Civil Rights Act, were "gross and repugnant", and constituted "reckless, blameworthy misbehavior". Arbitrator Bankston awarded two members of the Little Rock 3 compensatory damages, punitive damages and back pay, with total costs that exceeded $400,000. Since her subsequent promotion to labor relations officer, confrontation with the Union has been unbridled.

Notably, the current crusade against Ralph began within six months of Carolyn Jackson's promotion to labor relations officer.

Shortly after the investigatory proceedings, and perhaps intentionally, Ms. Jackson included Ralph in correspondence with employees at all levels in the chain of command in both Regional and Central Office. The correspondence specifically pertained to the investigatory meeting and the identity of Ralph's representative, Pete Harris. Subsequently, LP Harris was informed by his own manager that a large portion of time he used to represent Ralph could not be approved as official union time. Again, LP Harris’ manager placed the blame on the Dallas Regional Office, stating that the Dallas Region contacted the Atlanta Region in an interregional exchange. The manager told LP Harris that he was just doing as he was told and following orders and that LP Harris had to use his annual leave. The determination of a coordinated Agency effort to interfere with Ralph’s representative demonstrates an unscrupulous agenda shared throughout the SSA hierarchy.

Both Pete and Ralph are using multiple forums to fight for their right to represent employees without such interference and intimidation.

As employees of SSA, we are familiar with position descriptions. Carolyn Jackson's position does not entail transferring the authority of local management to herself to fulfill self-serving goals. It does not entail ordering local management to initiate investigations of employees she personally and professionally dislikes. It is not the job of labor relations to orchestrate retaliation against Union officers who have successfully challenged SSA’s actions against and treatment of employees via SSA's own personnel policy manual. Overstepping position boundaries and abuse of authority is not welcomed in the field office. If RO wants to handle personnel in Field Offices, they should get out of their Ivory Tower. No public contact with on-site day care, exercise facilities, and time off for in house Super Bowl parades is a luxury we would all appreciate as we are taking interviews referred at 4:00 while our phones ring off the hook all day and our Outlook is full of emails about things we haven't done expeditiously enough.

Ralph has always supported our membership, and we will continue to support Ralph. Through our solidarity and support, we ensure that management does not silence advocates for us who will stand up to the favoritism, inequity, discrimination, and injustice in our workplaces!

 

 

Social Security Administration Admonished by Arbitrator for Race Discrimination Against Little Rock Employee and Ordered to Pay Unprecedented Damages in Landmark Decision

Actions taken against Magnolia Littles  regarded as gross and repugnant by Arbitrator
 

 
 In the first arbitration since Arkansas and Oklahoma merged, Arbitrator Ed W Bankston found that SSA management in Little Rock did not have just cause to suspend employee Magnolia Littles for 90 days.

That was a significant win in an of itself. It turned out to be an arbitration first in SSA because Arbitrator Bankston found SSA had discriminated against Ms Littles "in violation of Article 18 and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991" and awarded Magnolia Littles compensatory damages to the tune of $50,000 AND punitive damages to the tune of of additional $50,000.

Arbitrator Bankston wrote: "The grievant is awarded punitive damages in the amount of $50,000 due to the Agency's altogether gross and repugnant rendition of the matter at hand, and in an effort to deter such reckless, blameworthy misbehavior in the future."

The case began in August, 2008 when Magnolia Littles asked for Union Representation. The Arkansas Local, Local 3291, called on Local 2505 President Ralph de Juliis. After invoking arbitration, Ms Littles' arbitration was referred to the AFGE Council 220 Legal Representation Fund Attorney, Patricia McGowan.

Attorney McGowan said, "The strong language used by the arbitrator admonishing the agency illustrates the unabashed ferocity in which employees are treated under the current SSA leadership. This is a first for an SSA local in arbitration. The unprecedented sums of damages awarded to our member should serve as a wake-up call. We won’t let these blatant injustices to our members stand.”

Local President Ralph de Juliis sent an email to all the employees in SSA Field Offices in Arkansas and Oklahoma with a copy of the Arbitrator's Award. He said that the arbitration award was a vindication of Ms Littles and a testament to the bravery of her co-workers, Lisa Morris, Cheryl Spurr and Amanda Miller, whose testimony and evidence was crucial and quoted at length by Arbitrator Bankston.

Local 2505 can't promise it will always win; but, it can promise it will always be there to stand between management injustice and our members!

There is a saying in the Union: "When you pick a fight with one of us, you pick a fight with all of us!"

SEE ALSO RECOGNITION

 

 

SSA has proposed to suspend one of your co-workers for 2 days for doing their job. SSA said they wanted the oral presentation to be Friday afternoon at 1 pm. SSA didn't tell us that we had 1/2 hour because the ARC-MOS had to be at the Regional Commissioner's New Years Celebration scheduled to start at 1:30!!

SSA was adamant that we could NOT make a face-to-face, in person presentation. We had to do it by phone. Now I understand why.

When you read the email exchange, you can see for yourself that the ARC-MOS self-righteously proclaims, " I am confident that I will be able to make the best decision possible..."

Yeah, right!

Please feel free to let Joy.Chang@ssa.gov know how you feel.

If it were YOU, would you be grateful and appreciative for Ms Chang to give you 1/2 an hour of her most valuable phone time before her boss' New Years Celebration? Would you be confident that you were getting the best decision possible or would you be confident that your suspension was going to be rubber stamped and you were being railroaded?!

As you can see from the email exchange, SSA let the employees it is NOT disciplining make their case face-to-face. The one they have decided to suspend...I'm sorry, I mean PROPOSED (wink, wink) to suspend, can't make their case face-to-face to their executioner... I mean the deciding official.

SSA's top regional people are cloistered away in their Ivory Tower. They can deal with production numbers and lists of pending that must be cleared by Friday, but when it comes to looking real employees in the eye, when it comes to seeing a real employee who is going to suffer the fallout from their decisions, they only pay lip service to how "very seriously" they take their responsibilities. I don't doubt for a moment that they are confident and more comfortable filleting an employee over the phone than they are face-to-face, in person.

Funny, I thought SSA was a face-to-face agency where if some one wants a sit down meeting, be it a claim or personal conference, we will accommodate them. Too bad the top SSA leaders can't treat us the same way they require us to treat the public.

Just another example of their failure to lead; just another example of their hypocrisy: do as I say, not as I do. If SSA management isn't willing to look into the faces of the employees they are victimizing with their decision, they should find another line of work!

Please read the entire exchange. SSA thinks that employees will buy any bull they dish out to us. Their words to us reek of insincerity and contempt.for us! This is what AFGE fights every day. In the words of AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer, J. David Cox, "If you got a boss, you NEED a UNION!"
 

 

 Merge Complete

 

Well, it is finally official: AFGE National Office, effective January 1, merged SSA Field Office Employees in Arkansas and Oklahoma into one AFGE local, Local 2505! 

Our new combined local has 34 offices in Areas I and VII. Our bargaining unit has about 525 members. About 55% of the bargaining unit are members. We have two offices with 100% Union membership. One office (resident station) with no members, which we hope to change! The size of our bargaining unit keeps getting smaller as SSA harasses senior employees to make them retire and promotes their pets into GS-12, busy-work management positions.

 

We look forward to visiting every office! We want to meet each of you and to let you size us up!

 

The vote to merge was 10 to 1 in favor of merging! I will NOT let you down!  Contacting me and your other Local Union Officers will NOT be like your PACS self-assesment: something you do get to do once a year which is drop filed and not read! I will work my tail off to prove over and over again that your confidence was well-paced! I and the other officers will do everything we can to earn your trust and respect! As this is posted to the website, I will have visited Jonesboro, and, this coming week, Forrest City, Fayetteville and El Dorado. We have scheduled a general membership meeting of our two-state local in Little Rock the last Saturday in February with training for the Local Representatives, the day before. I want to hear from you! Please don't wait until we visit your office to let us know what your questions and concerns are and what problems you have!  

 

Ralph de Juliis, President

AFGE Local 2505

 

  Merge Ahead...or Not?
The vote was 55 in favor of merging and 15 opposed. Over 52% of the membership voted! That is a tremendous turnout, unheard of in a union vote, even in hotly contested elections!!

Pursuant to the instructions of Local 3291 President Anna Hawkins, Local 3291 members voted by email.  Click to read that email.

President Hawkins promised to count the votes on July 23. Instead of publishing the results, Secretary Treasurer Heather Williams emailed members that they would no longer be responding via email.  Click to read that email as well as my reply.

Currently, no one has received additional information either by personal email or through the US Postal Services.  Should we assume at the moment that  the bad, anti-democratic advice from unnamed local presidents who aren't even members in Arkansas is going to trump the clear majority vote of the Local 3291 membership who expressed their wishes in the ballot they were sent by their local?  Should we assume this to be a subversion of democracy not unlike the recent elections in Iran?

Since none of the Arkansas leadership is talking, all we have is our assumptions.  We hope our assumptions are proven incorrect.

We have asked AFGE National Vice President Mike Kelly to review this matter and honor the will and vote of the Arkansas members!

We'll keep you posted!

dollar signProposed Dues Increase
Union Triennial Conventions start August 20th, The REALLY BIG issue is a dues increase! There is a proposal for AFGE Council 220 (SSA Field Offices) to get an EXTRA $1 per month. The National AFGE Union is proposing an EXTRA $4 per month.

For you, the member, this means an increase in dues of $2.50 per pay period. 

You can read the proposed resolutions here!

The Leadership of Local 2505 is opposed to any increase from Council 220. The Leadership of Local 2505 is opposed to an increase of more than $1 by National.

You can read more about the concerns of Local 2505 leadership, and opposition to the increase here.

How do you feel about paying an additional $2.50 per pay period in dues?  Please feel free to use the form below to email your opinion on the  increase to Council 220 and your regional officials.  Just fill in the boxes and click send. 

Form Object
    Merge Ahead?

POLL RESULTS ADDED

 
   

Our sister Local in Arkansas, AFGE Local 3291 is discussing the possibility of merging with us.  (Read message from President, Anna Hawkins, here) 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 our Locals!! (Read my reply to Anna here)

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 current 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 and 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, appraisal, awards, refusal to bargain renovation and relocation, refusal to even 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, everyday stress which has resulted in management counselling employees for parking TOO CLOSE to their co-workers, managers telling employees that they can't get along with anyone and 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 the membership!

Please take the poll below and tell us what YOU think and what YOU want!

 

Poteau 8 Update!

In Poteau, after repeated follow ups to find out to whom in management the Union will make the grievance presentations of the Poteau 8, management finally wrote back and says it won't accept a single grievance by all of the employees. Rather, it wanted 8 times the work and to hear the same grievance presentation for each employee. Oh...and it still did not say to whom the grievance should be filed or to whom the presentation would be made.

When SSA is confronted with the indefensible actions of its own managers, it doesn't take another look at the NO FEAR ACT video to remind itself about its commitment to a discrimination free workplace, to remind itself about its commitment to treating all employees with courtesy, dignity and respect. No, it remembers the ol' adage: JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED and it stone-walls and obfuscates as it has done to the Poteau 8.

Rather than let SSA jerk the employees around further, the Union opted to skip step 1 of the grievance process. So, we have begun making the step 2 grievance presentations. Management is taking the grievances of the Poteau 8 VERY SERIOUSLY...NOT! The manager showed up at the presentation WITHOUT COPIES of the grievances!

 In all unfairness to the management official who is hearing all the presentations and who is going to be signing the grievance denials, that management official is NOT going be writing the grievance denials. That is going to be done in regional office. After RO writes the denials, they'll be emailed to the management official to whom we are making the step 2 presentations to be printed and faxed or mailed to the Union.

It is very peculiar and very frustrating that grievances are supposed to be presented (in most cases) to the management officials who caused the problem so that they can make it right. Since that is the intent of the grievance process, why is RO writing the denials?! Can't a GS 14 District Manager compose her own denial? What makes step 1 and 2 grievance denials the exclusive jurisdiction of the labor-relations types in Regional Office who didn't hear the presentation, don't know the employees and don't have to work with them on a day-to-day basis?!

It's a STUPID, preverted process that denies basic due process: the right to present your case to the person who is actually going to make the decision!

If that is going to be someone in the leadership development program who is doing their six month stint in labor-relations to see how the RO folks who don't deal with the public every minute of every day manage working their donuts, coffee breaks and exercise regimen (because they sit around too much eating donuts and drinking coffee) into endless meetings in which they act as a Greek Chorus for the heavy-duty thinkers and planners in RO, so be it. At least we get to talk to the person making the decision so, maybe, they will sense the injustice which employees endure whenever they don't take whatever local management is dishing out!

Hopefully, we will have the step 2 denials by the end of February and will be setting up our step 3 oral presentations if there is anything in the step 2 decision worth discussing. Otherwise, we'll forego making an oral presentation and let the step 3 official rubber stamp the step 2 denial so we can get an arbitrator and set a date for the hearing(s).
 

  Poteau 8 Update!

 

The request for EEO Counseling from the Poteau 8 was made on June 3, 2008. Despite SSA's purported commitment to speedy denial of EEO complaints, I mean, speedy resolution: "The EEO counselor will attempt to resolve the matter informally within 30 calendar days. Prior to the end of the 30-day period, the employee may agree in writing with SSA to postpone the final interview and extend the counseling period for an additional period of not more than 60 days." (http://dalnet.kc.ssa.gov/creo/default.htm) We have almost reached the 120 day mark with no final counseling reports issued.

We reported that the Dallas Regional Commissioner, Ramona Schuenemeyer, deleted the complaint of the Poteau Eight WITHOUT READING it!  (See previous highlights)

The Union, naturally, has been following up. Dallas Civil Rights & Equal Opportunity (DA CREO) has DELETED our status request WITHOUT READING IT! (See read receipt)

SSA is obviously a place where LEADERSHIP IS BY EXAMPLE. Dallas Regional Commissioner, Ramona Schuenemeyer, deleted the complaint of the Poteau Eight WITHOUT READING it! Her subordinate, Dallas Civil Rights & Equal Opportunity (DA CREO) DELETED an email for status request WITHOUT READING IT!

SSA's EEO program is a sham and a farce! There is no commitment to address and resolve problems, only to bury problems and to wear down employees. As John Paul Jones said to the British captain of the Serapis who called for surrender, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

The Union will not let SSA deep six the complaints of the Poteau 8! We will not surrender employees' right to an effective EEO process to SSA's willful and malicious negligence and sabotage!

 
   

Retirement of Poteau District Manager Prompted by Union Representation of Employees Tired of Racial Slurs, Ethnic Slurs and Sex Discrimination! (view entire complaint)

 
 
Area Director, Dianne Vaughn, announced in a June staff meeting with Poteau employees that District Manager, Jack Armstrong, would be on leave until his retirement on June 30th.  District Manager Armstrong's behaviour prompted an EEO complaint filed by the Union on behalf of employees in early June 2008.

Poteau SSA has 13 bargaining unit employees: 2 men; 11 women of whom 2 are brand new. Eight of the nine female employees requested EEO Counselling after years of enduring discriminatory treatment in work assignments and a hostile work environment created by the manager's angry outbursts, racial slurs, ethnic slurs and intemperate, insensitive comments.

 
The retirement of Jack Armstrong will hopefully be the first step in bringing Poteau management into the mainstream of social consciousness in 21st century America, BUT the Union and Poteau employees are still waiting for seven of the eight initial EEO Counseling Reports.  These have not yet been issued by CREO. No initial report = NO INVESTIGATION.   Regional Commissioner Ramona Schuenemeyer has equally ignored the complaint, which is evident in her deleting the complaint the Union sent her WITHOUT READING IT!  

It seems to the Union that if they don't open their email and don't investigate, maybe it will go away, like the District Manager.
 

 

    SSA Routinely Violates Article 1 of COMMON COURTESY: Clicking Delete to Avoid the Union Results in Unfair Labor Practice
 
SSA Regional Commissioner Ramona Schuenemeyer of the Dallas Region may not know that deleting emails without reading them is not only bad email etiquette, it can constitute an Unfair Labor Practice.  Local 2505 has filed two ULPs with the FLRA over Ramona's deleting information and bargaining requests sent by 2505 President, Ralph de Juliis, without opening them.
 
Ramona also deleted her copy of the Poteau EEO complaint without reading it, leading the Union to believe that the problem may be less of an email etiquette issue and more of an issue with AFGE and the employees we represent.
 
Those of us familiar with Ramona may know that she often introduces herself with  "My name is Ramona and I'm a public servant."
 
AFGE members and officers are public servants as well.  Unlike Ramona, we are required to go above and beyond talking the talk, and are not rated successful unless we also walk the walk.
 
We receive and are expected to actually read numerous emails from Ramona, in addition to watching mandatory tapings of her messages.  We should be able to reasonably expect a fraction of the same courtesy. Ramona's apparent preference for one way communication with her fellow public servants is not the approach we should expect from any public official in a leadership position. 
     

Inauguration of New Local 2505 Officer

(President Ralph de Juliis swears in 2nd VP, Mary Roberts.  Click image to enlarge.)

 

AFGE Local 2505's newest officer was sworn in during the April 2008 meeting.  Mary Roberts from the Moore, OK SSA District office was elected to fill the position of 2nd Vice President of AFGE Local 2505.  The position was vacated by Carol A Lewis when Ms. Lewis assumed the mantle of Executive Vice President of the Local.  Prior to becoming 2nd Vice President, Ms. Roberts was (and still is) the Local's Health and Safety Representative in Moore.

All of us in Local 2505 look forward to working with Ms Roberts! She is bright, intelligent, energetic and enthusiastic! She will be as much of an asset to our Local and members as she is to her co-workers and the public she serves for SSA in Moore!

Please join me in welcoming Mary Roberts to the Local's Executive Board, congratulating her on her new position!

 
   

Union Clears the Air in Muskogee, and Requests Abatement Plan for Unhealthy Conditions

 

The Muskogee SSA indoor air quality survey from May 2008 noted potential health and safety problems for employees in calling for remediation of "suspect growth" (i.e., mold); removal of water damaged wall debris in air supply ducts area of HVAC Unit # 9, cleaning of that same unit's condensation coils and realignment of the outside sprinklers away from the building. 

As evidenced in the below correspondence with management, Local 2505 President is working to ensure that staff can breathe easy.

 

 

 

 

Visit our Health and Safety section for documents relevant to YOUR office.