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AFGE Rep Wing Recap: November 2012

VA VIOLATES OWN POLICY IN DENYING PROMOTION TO EMPLOYEE
The Veterans Affairs Department violated its own policies when the human resources department denied an employee a promotion that had already been approved by her director, an arbitrator has ruled.
The case involves a Hybrid Title 38 Social Worker who learned in 2011 that she had been denied a promotion to GS-12 back in 2009 after the promotion had been approved by the Professional Standards Board and her director. Despite the approval, a classification specialist in the HR department summarily rejected the promotion on the basis that the Social Worker was doing GS-11 work and didn’t warrant the grade increase.
AFGE Local 1206 filed a grievance on the member’s behalf, alleging that the VA had violated its own handbook and policies, and AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Michael Pazder represented the case at arbitration. The VA Handbook says a director’s decision on a promotion following Board action is final, so HR did not have the right to reverse the decision since it was never brought back to the Board or the director for reconsideration. VA policy also makes clear that Hybrid Title 38 employees can be promoted beyond the full performance level of their position based on their qualifications and experience if so determined by the Board, as was the case here.
The agency refused to correct this when notified, claiming the Board had erred in approving the promotion and that processing an allegedly unwarranted promotion would “unjustly enrich” the employee. Testimony at the hearing revealed that HR personnel, and the director who now said his decision was incorrect even though he never formally reversed it, have an astonishing lack of knowledge of VA policies and how promotions are supposed to work for Hybrid Title 38 employees vs. Title 5 employees.
The employee will be retroactively promoted with back pay, including any subsequent step increases she would have received had the promotion been implemented at the time.

BOP FAILURE TO FILL MISSION CRITICIAL POSTS VIOLATES MASTER AGREEMENT
The Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala., improperly vacated mission critical posts in violation of the Master Agreement between the agency and AFGE, an arbitrator has ruled.
Between 2004 and 2005, BOP instituted the “Mission Critical Roster” program, under which prisons were supposed to place posts on the roster only if they were mission critical. This resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of staffed posts at various prisons. However, even with this reduced number of posts, BOP regularly failed to fill mission critical posts at various facilities, including FCI Talladega.
Local 3844 believed the prison was penny pinching and didn’t want to pay Correctional Officers overtime to fill the positions. The Local filed a grievance, arguing that the failure to fill a mission critical post without good cause violated Article 27 of the Master Agreement, which requires BOP to reduce the inherent hazards of a correctional environment to the lowest level possible without relinquishing any management rights.
AFGE Assistant General Counsel Matthew Milledge represented the Local at the arbitration hearing, where the agency raised a number of procedural and substantive arguments that were struck down by the arbitrator. The arbitrator agreed with AFGE’s argument that Article 27 prevents the BOP from vacating posts without good cause and found that none existed. The arbitrator ordered the agency to pay overtime to any employee who would have received it but for the agency’s violation of the Master Agreement.
D.C. EMPLOYEE WINS REINSTATEMENT, BACK PAY AFTER WRONGFUL REMOVAL
A D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs employee who had been removed without just cause in 2007 finally has been reinstated with full back pay and other entitlements, thanks to dedicated representation of AFGE Assistant General Counsel Leisha Self. An arbitrator in 2009 ruled that the employee, a member of AFGE Local 2725, had been removed improperly but left the remedy up to both parties to settle. DCRA appealed the case at this point, resulting in a long delay for the employee for a remedy.
The agency refused to settle on remedy even after it lost its appeal, so the case was returned to the arbitrator, who ordered the employee reinstated with all of the back pay and benefits requested – including authorizing the employee to use his substantial accrued annual leave without forfeiture. In addition, the arbitrator awarded attorney’s fees of $87,531, plus the amount that AFGE expended on the post-arbitration remedy reply.

ARBITRATOR OVERTURNS BOP OFFICER SUSPENSION
An arbitrator has overturned a seven-day suspension against a Bureau of Prisons senior officer specialist that was ordered by the agency 16 months after the incident in question.
In March 2009, the officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., shoved a fellow officer twice during a workplace dispute. In accordance with agency policy in such matters, a Threat Assessment Committee was convened within days of the incident and issued its findings several days later, ruling that the incident was an isolated occurrence that warranted no further action. The agency assigned an investigator to the case nearly a year after the incident and re-interviewed the key witnesses who had earlier provided statements to the Committee. Based on this investigation, BOP proposed a 14-day suspension against the officer in May 2010 that was subsequently reduced to a 7-day suspension by the prison warden in July 2010.
AFGE Local 919 then filed a grievance against the agency, contending the suspension was too harsh considering the circumstances and that the agency violated the terms of the Master Agreement, which requires the timely disposition of disciplinary matters. AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Hampton H. Stennis argued the case at arbitration. The arbitrator agreed with the union, stating, “While some discipline would have been justified had it been timely imposed, the delay in this case leads me to conclude that the grievance should be sustained in its entirety.” The suspension will be expunged from the officer’s record and the officer will be made whole for any earnings lost as a result of the suspension.
AFGE SETTLES CASE IN FAVOR OF DC HHS EMPLOYEE
District 14’s newest National Representative Johnnie Walker recently settled a case for a D.C. Department of Health and Human Services employee and AFGE member. The member faced removal from his position after being charged with inappropriate conduct, negligence in the performance of his job duties, disruptive conduct and failure to complete tasks. Despite the evidence mounted against the employee, AFGE was able to settle the case in the employee’s favor. The member received triple the settlement initially offered and was able to retire early on disability after 30 years of government service. This enabled the member to save his home from foreclosure while also affording him enough money to pay his mortgage through December. DETAILS ON AFGE LEGAL VICTORIES AVAILABLE ONLINE For a full view of cases published in the Rep Wing, click here or go to Casetrack at https://www.afge-casetrack.org/. Back issues of the Rep Wing are available online. To receive printed copies for distribution, please email communications@afge.org.

AFGE SCORES MAJOR WINS IN TSA REMOVAL CASES
The Office of Professional Responsibility Appellate Board (OPRAB) mitigated a removal to a 30-day suspension at Quad City International Airport near Moline, Ill. The TSO was charged with inattention to duty and failure to follow Standard Operating Procedures. The TSO at no time denied the charges and was honest about his unintentional violations, which did not cause any security breaches. AFGE sought a mitigated penalty due to his nearly 10-year service at TSA and prior military service. –Staff Counsel Bobby Walia
An Expert Security Training Instructor (ESTI) from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston who was removed for off-duty misconduct, lack of candor and unprofessional conduct received a mitigated 14-day suspension with back pay after OPRAB sustained the unprofessional conduct charge. This unusual case stems from a February 2010 off-duty incident in which the ESTI was chased from an acquaintance’s apartment by a woman wielding a large butcher’s knife. No arrests were made and all witness accounts indicated the ESTI was not the aggressor. In October 2011, the ESTI was taken to a hotel by a TSA Office of Inspection agent, coercively interrogated and forced to take a polygraph. The ESTI then was removed from his position in August 2012. Thanks to GCO Intern Patrick DePoy for his great work. –Staff Counsel Gregory G. Watts
AFGE is making headway on appeals from terminations involving failure to pass recertification tests. In a series of recent decisions, OPRAB reviewed the cases of TSOs who failed the test and reversed the terminations due to, among other things, management’s failure to offer appropriate remediation. Recent wins include: O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Newark Liberty International Airport and Bradley International Airport in Connecticut (Staff Counsel Julie Yeagle); Miami International Airport and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (Staff Counsel Denise Duarte Alves); three cases at Los Angeles International Airport (Staff Counsel Bobby Walia); and two cases at Detroit Metro Airport (Assistant General Counsel Martin Cohen and Staff Counsel Julie Yeagle).
A TSO at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who failed the Standard Operating Procedures Assessment (SOPA) three times got a last-minute reprieve. After an appeal was sent to OPRAB, AFGE reached agreement with management for the TSO to re-take the Assessment for a fourth and final time after 40 hours of remediation. The TSO was a nine-year exemplary employee who received a Level 5 PASS score in 2011. The TSO successfully passed the Assessment and will be fully reinstated. –Staff Counsel Bobby Walia

FLRA UPHOLDS AFGE WIN AGAINST OFFICE OF CUBA BROADCASTING
The Federal Labor Relations Authority has upheld an arbitrator’s ruling in a case brought by AFGE that found the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) illegally used a reduction in force action to fire union activists and other employees who had been outspoken critics of the agency. In a November 2011 decision, an arbitrator ruled that former OCB Director Pedro Roig had ordered the RIF and conducted it in such a way to target employees who had spoken out to Government Accountability Office investigators. The arbitrator discounted agency claims that the RIF was necessary because of budget shortfalls and lack of work, finding compelling evidence that Roig rejected attempts to explore cost savings in other areas before implementing a RIF, because he wanted to use budget shortfalls to target employees. The agency also refused the union’s demand to bargain over the impact of the RIF as required under the negotiated labor-management agreement. The agency had appealed the arbitrator’s ruling, but the FLRA rejected every argument made by the agency. AFGE Assistant General Counsel Leisha Self, who represented the AFGE Local 1812 members in their grievance, said that the decision should put every agency on notice that they cannot use budget shortfalls or funding cuts as an excuse to go after specific federal workers who the agency doesn’t like. The FLRA’s decision should have cleared the way for the 16 employees who were separated or otherwise affected during the RIF to be reinstated without loss of seniority or benefits. However, BBG has appealed the FLRA’s ruling to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which will result in further delay for the employees.
DO YOU OR YOUR LOCAL NEED REPRESENTATION? The Legal Representation Fund now refunds to AFGE local unions $2,000 from the Fund, in winning cases handled by AFGE attorneys in which attorney’s fees are awarded and deposited into the Fund. These refunds help to offset some of the costs incurred by the Local going to arbitration. For more information on this unique AFGE program, which provides a free attorney for your back pay arbitrations, email AFGE’s Office of General Counsel at backpay@afge.org.

AFGE Officers, Members and Staff Attend the Pride at Work Convention in Cleveland

AFGE was proud to be one of 18 unions that attended the Pride at Work Triennial Convention in Cleveland, Ohio last week.  Pride at Work is an AFL-CIO constituency group that gives a voice to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community within the labor movement.

The 16 AFGE members who attended the convention were among more than 200 activists from 26 states and Ontario, Canada.  AFGE’s National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices, Augusta Y. Thomas, was among the union leaders who called for equal rights for the LGBT community at the convention; other leaders included Terry Melvin, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU); Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA); Clayola Brown, President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI); and Karen See, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).

The program specialist for the Women’s and Fair Practices Departments, Caniesha Washington, participated on a panel to give strategies on how to organize and mobilize young workers through our own Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation (Y.O.U.N.G.) program.

During the convention, AFGE members held a caucus breakfast to discuss issues among the LGBT community within AFGE.  AFGE participants also discussed starting an “AFGE Pride” group within the union to make sure that AFGE is serving our members within the LGBT community.

The delegates of the convention passed resolutions supporting the efforts of striking Chicago teachers and the boycott of Hyatt hotels, where housekeepers and other hotel workers face dangerous workloads and risk replacement by low-paid temporary workers. Delegates voted to support annual participation in the Transgender Day of Remembrance and to expand efforts “to achieve full respect, dignity and justice for transgender and nonconforming workers,” including outreach activities, skills trainings and mentoring efforts. Additional resolutions called for support of organizing for racial justice, mobilizing young workers and increasing efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Delegates also voted to increase support for union-made products and union services; to develop new programs to increase support for LGBT workers internationally; and rally for passage of pay-check fairness legislation and for passage of the DREAM Act. They called for unions throughout the country to push for LGBT inclusive union contracts and transgender-inclusive health care.

In addition to convention business, NVP Thomas was the featured speaker for the Evening Banquet and received special honors at the Celebrating Solidarity dinner held during the convention.

The Women’s and Fair Practices Departments is committed to fighting for equal treatment for all members.  If you would like more information regarding the “AFGE Pride” group please send an email to washic@afge.org and we will keep you informed.

For more photos click here.

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AFGE HOLDS FIRST Y.O.U.N.G. TRAINING SUMMIT

The very first   Y.O.U.N.G.  (Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation)  AFGE  Training Summit was held August 11th & 12th in Las Vegas in conjunction with AFGE’s 39th National Convention.    Over 200 young union members and seasoned mentors came together to find empowerment, education and inspiration to be true leaders and activists to secure the future of AFGE and the Labor Movement.  The theme for the training summit was “Connecting the Dots”. The summit was designed to show that everything working Americans are experiencing right now is not unintentional and each attack we are facing is an individual dot that creates a very ugly picture for our future.

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The summit began with a welcome from Augusta Y. Thomas, NVP for Women and Fair Practices and the newly elected President, J. David Cox, Sr.  Both gave compelling welcome speeches to reinforce the need to get young workers involved and engaged in AFGE.  They also heard from a member of the Nevada State AFL-CIO’s “Young Organized Union Representatives” (Y.O.U.R.).  The participants learned about the state of the union, voter protection and the political outlook.  They also heard from a panel of experts regarding discrimination, LGBTQ issues/transgender health benefits, attack on immigrant workers and the war on women…all issues that connect us to each other’s struggle.  They ended their first day of training with a happy hour and after party.

On the second day, participants took a walk through labor union history; they learned that if we remember the strength of the Labor Movement from the past we can make a difference today.  Participants were able to choose from four educational breakout sessions: AFGE 101, Organizing Young Workers, Leadership Roundtable, and Political Outlook.  They were given time to visit the AFGE Convention Exhibit Hall to learn about all of the different departments of AFGE.  They ended the weekend with an empowering speech from Lucas Neff, actor from the hit TV show “Raising Hope” and young union activist from SAG-AFTRA and comedian Lee Camp.

Registered participants received innovative and updated “young” trinkets, such as a graphic t-shirt showing the Eiffel tower, a sleek black portfolio bag, a flash drive silicone bracelet, packs of gum and a pin and pen all emblazoned with the vibrant new Y.O.U.N.G. logo.  There was so much interest in these items that they will soon be available to purchase online. The flash drive that participants received was preloaded with important information from the summit and some other fun AFGE extras.

The recent attacks on unions makes it harder to recruit young workers, most of who don’t even know that the unions brought them sick leave, weekends, paid vacations, and so on.  This training summit taught the 200+ participants that young workers are a part of this movement and have to continue to fight for it.

Participants have expressed their eager anticipation of the upcoming Y.O.U.N.G.  events; the Y.O.U.N.G.  Political meeting at the AFGE’S Legislative Conference and the Mentor/Mentee orientation being planned for February 2013; and the next Y.O.U.N.G.  AFGE training summit already being planned in conjunction with next year’s Human Rights Training Conference in Pittsburgh in August 2013.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Executive Order 10988

January 17th marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of Executive Order 10988, which began collective bargaining in the federal government. Not only did this Executive Order permit workers to join and engage in union activity but it also set the stage for expanding these rights under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter. It demonstrated a true bipartisan show of support from past presidents for the right of federal workers to have a voice on the job, and an ability to positively impact their livelihoods.

At a time when government workers are currently under partisan attack, recognizing the significance of Executive Order 10988 is especially important to remind everyone of the long journey government workers have taken, and to re-energize workers for the battles ahead.

The AFL-CIO will commemorate this historic occasion on Tuesday, January 17th at its headquarters. National Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is scheduled to speak. In addition, AFGE National President John Gage will introduce AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Click here to view Executive Order 10988.

AFL-CIO Hosts 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Observance in Detroit

Hundreds of labor, civil rights, and community activists will gather to honor Dr. King’s legacy and continue the movement for economic and racial justice

Over 500 activists and leaders from the labor and civil rights movements will come together in Detroit from January 12-January 16, 2012 for the AFL-CIO’s national annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance and National Conference.

The weekend of activities will honor the legacy of Dr. King and recommit attendees to working toward economic and social justice for working families. Attendees will engage with families and community members hit hard by the recession during a day of community service projects around the city at local shelters, food banks, schools and social service centers. A town hall meeting and a series of workshops will provide a forum for attendees to discuss and learn more about present civil and worker rights fights including attacks on voter rights, protecting public education, and organizing for job-creating legislation.

“During these times, when people are unemployed, looking for work and in poverty, it is very important for labor and civil rights activists to come together as one to continue Dr. King’s movement,” said Augusta Thomas, AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices. “Little Martin, as I called him, would be so proud of us working together for the betterment of society,” she added.

Featured speakers and awardees include: Rep. Hansen Clarke, Rep. John Conyers, national radio host Joe Madison, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, UAW Pres. Bob King, U.S Department of Labor Sec. Hilda Solis and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker.

For more information, please click here.

AFGE ACTIVISTS PLAY HUGE ROLE IN DEFEAT OF OHIO ISSUE 2

AFGE activists who successfully helped defeat SB5 -Issue 2 in Ohio.

Ohio voters by a 60 to 40 percent margin  struck down Issue 2, a law supported by Governor John Kasich that limited bargaining rights for public service workers including  police, firefighters and teachers.   Our members joined with our AFL-CIO brothers and sisters across the state in this effort.

AFGE is proud of the role we played in yesterday’s election:

  • By election day, AFGE had 13 full-time staff on the ground supplemented by
    dozens of volunteers working phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods to
    get out the vote.
  • AFGE members received three pieces of mail (almost 15,000 pieces statewide),
    phone calls, emails, texts, and tweets urging them to volunteer and
    ultimately to vote on election day.
  • AFGE staff and volunteers also operated a virtual phone bank in Indianapolis to call
    Ohio AFGE members and voters, generating over 15,000 calls in the final
    days of the campaign.

Your fellow AFGE members in Ohio knocked on doors and called neighbors to defeat Governor Kasich’s anti-union initiative.

If  you’re an AFGE member and want more information on how to stop the anti-worker initiatives  nationwide click here.

AFGE Activists in Toledo, Ohio

RALLY TO SAVE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY THIS THURSDAY AT 12 NOON!!

Join Social Security employees, beneficiaries, and advocates as we take action on
October 27 outside of Social Security offices across the country with a simple
message: “Hands Off Social Security!”

When: Noon on Thursday, October 27

Where:  Click Here to Find an Action Near You

Things are tough enough for working Americans right now without taking the net out
from under seniors, survivors, and the disabled and cutting good jobs. You can
make a difference by joining AFGE activists outside of a Social Security office
near you. Help guarantee the future of Social Security.

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