AFGE Mourns the Passing of National Vice President Dwight Bowman

NVP Bowman oversaw D.C. government/federal worker members.

The American Federation of Government Employees today mourned the loss of its 14th District national vice president, Dwight Bowman, who passed away unexpectedly this morning.

“It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a union brother, effective leader and dear friend,” AFGE National President J. David Cox said. “Our thoughts are with his wife, Gwendlyn, and the rest of his family.”

AFGE has little information about Bowman’s death at this time. Details on a memorial service and information for where to send letters of condolence will be forthcoming.

Bowman was serving his third term as national vice president of AFGE’s District 14, which covers Washington, D.C., Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Arlington and Fairfax counties and the City of Alexandria in Virginia.

Bowman had been an AFGE activist for close to four decades, beginning his career as president of AFGE Local 2463, Smithsonian Institution. During that time, Smithsonian employees were not protected by federal EEO or Labor Relations laws and regulations. Bowman was successful in establishing unity within Local 2463, persuading another Local to merge with his Local, and in 1979, they successfully negotiated a master contract agreement which covered those areas under EEO and Labor Relations laws.

Bowman held many other positions within AFGE and throughout the Labor movement, including president of AFGE’s National Capital Area Council 1, Labor Representative on the District of Columbia’s Nuclear Freeze Board, member of the Executive Committee of the Minority Coalition, and National President of the Society of Federal Labor and Employee Relations Professionals.

Bowman most recently sat on the Board of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, the Metropolitan Washington Central Labor Council, and the Partnership Council for the District of Columbia.

He is survived by his wife, son, mother, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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.

STATEMENT FROM AFGE PRESIDENT ON FEDERAL STORM RELIEF EFFORTS

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement in response to the federal government’s ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy:

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I commend the tireless efforts of employees across the federal government who are aiding in the response and recovery efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense and numerous other federal agencies have been called into service to provide relief to the millions of Americans who have been affected by the storm.

In many cases, federal agencies and employees are among the victims of this catastrophic disaster. Federal offices in New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas have suffered damage from the high winds and rain, and federal employees who live in the area are dealing with similar damage to their homes.  Our hearts go out to the millions of Americans who are still struggling in the wake of this powerful storm and to the federal employees and other first responders who are working under difficult circumstances.

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Headed to 300,000: AFGE Membership Continues to Grow

Following our DEFCON and TSA membership drives, AFGE membership continues to grow.

According to the AFL-CIO AFGE is one of only a few unions that continue to experience membership increase. Special thanks to the Membership and Organizing department and other staff members who support our efforts.

AFGE is the largest and most influential federal and D.C. employees union in the country.

TO JOIN AFGE CLICK HERE.

If you’re already a member, click here to learn more about your MEMBER BENEFITS.

DC Workers Repaid Furlough Days, Thanks to AFGE District 14

District 14 National Vice President Dwight Bowman (pictured) and AFGE led the charge to ensure D.C. government employees were reimbursed for furlough days.

District of Columbia government workers will finally be getting paid for the furlough days that they were forced to take last year thanks to efforts by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

The furlough days were enforced because of projected budget shortfalls, but at the end of the fiscal year, there was instead a surplus of funds.

In May, the D.C. city council rejected a plan by the mayor that would have repaid the workers for those days. Some members of the city council proposed using the additional funds for other projects but due to AFGE’s efforts, the council recently passed a bill authorizing the repayments for nearly 22,000 workers.

“This is a great victory for our members and all District of Columbia government employees. We are pleased that the city council decided to do right by the hardworking employees and repay the money that was rightfully theirs,” said Dwight Bowman, District 14, National Vice President of American Federation of Government Employees, who represents 45,000 D.C. government workers.

Starting this week, D.C. government workers will be reimbursed in the form of a lump-sum payment.

A LETTER FROM AFGE HUD LOCAL PRESIDENT FEATURED IN THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Click here to go to the article and read comments at the Washington Examiner.

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To the Examiner:

In your editorial on Monday, you described my union, AFGE,  basically a Federal sector union, as a “powerhouse.”  You asserted that “23 states have right-to-work laws that protect workers who choose not to join unions, and federal employees are not even covered by these laws.  The result is effectively a union shop.”

In fact, the federal government is an open shop.  No one is required to join a union.  What this means in practice is that everyone in the bargaining unit votes for union representation and benefits from the union.  Nevertheless, since Federal employees do not have to pay dues, most of those in the bargaining unit do not join.   We are required to represent them anyway.  If we discriminate in favor of union members, we face an unfair labor practice action before the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

No union is a “powerhouse” in such an environment.  Unions dislike “right to work” laws because there is no incentive for those in the bargaining unit to pay dues.   Thus, in “right to work” states unions are much weaker because they cannot afford to exist in an environment where only 10% of those covered choose to pay dues.   “Right to work” means no real unionization.

Contrary to your editorial, we are not covered by the Wagner Act.  Federal employees cannot bargain over wages, medical benefits, and pensions.  No dues money can go to political campaigns, and we as union leaders are limited in the roles we play per Hatch Act restrictions.

But, among other things, we press management to be better organized (less layers of supervision).  In other words, we often save taxpayers money by promoting efficiency.  We are the real ombudsmen in the Federal government.

I know your antiunion animus, but you should at least be accurate when making allegations.

Maybe if you knew the facts and were rational, you might even support legislation that strengthens Federal sector unions.

Of course, I do not expect such a change in your biases against unions.  I continue to read your newspaper because the price (free) is right and at least the sports and theater sections are objective.

Eddie Eitches,

President, AFGE Local 476 (HUD)

http://www.afge476.org

AFGE STATEMENT ON FEDERAL EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT HEARING

American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage today issued the following statement in response to the congressional hearing on federal employees’ retirement security before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, U.S. Postal Service and labor policy:

“Congress created the Federal Employees Retirement System in the mid-1980s to mirror leading private sector practices. The vast majority of a federal employee’s retirement income comes from personal investments in the government’s 401(k) plan and mandatory payments into Social Security. Federal employees also receive a very modest pension that provides an average of $939 a month when they retire. As NARFE Director of Retirement Benefit Services David Snell so eloquently stated in his testimony before the subcommittee, ‘federal employees are not retiring rich.’

“Despite what Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Ross would lead one to believe, the FERS retirement system is fully funded and poses no additional tax burden on the American public. Yet the congressman and others want to cut federal employees’ wages so more of their take-home pay goes into this fully funded system. That’s not only unnecessary, it’s downright unfair.

“Congressman Ross is right about one thing – the American public is outraged. They’re outraged by lawmakers who are more worried about protecting their millionaire and billionaire campaign donors than creating jobs for the millions of unemployed workers.”

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

BRAC TRANSFER CAUSES COMMUTING HEADACHE FOR EMPLOYEES

Walter Reed employees moved to Bethesda without adequate parking, transportation plan

The American Federation of Government Employees is voicing its concern over the lack of progress in securing parking for thousands of Walter Reed Army Medical Center employees who have been transferred to the new Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

Walter Reed employees have moved to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

More than 6,600 employees work at the new consolidated medical center, yet there are parking spots for less than 3,000 employees. Parking spots were assigned based on so-called priority status, meaning most of the spots went to doctors, military members and licensed practitioners. This has unfairly harmed the vast majority of support personnel who are essential to ensuring patients receive quality care.

“Everybody needs to be able to get to work. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do,” said Dwight Bowman, AFGE National Vice President for the 14th District, which represents affected employees in the greater Washington region.

Many of those affected work in support positions such as housekeepers, ambulance drivers, lab technicians, food services, administrative and maintenance workers. Many must report to work long before bus or train service is available.

AFGE is exploring several options to provide additional off-site parking to employees who would then be shuttled to and from the new Bethesda site and has also reached out to congressional leaders for support.

The consolidation in Bethesda was mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure plan. Several other BRAC relocations have resulted in similar transportation issues that have yet to be resolved.

A Labor Day Message from AFGE President John Gage

NVP Augusta Thomas Honored by DC Mayor Vince Gray

Washington D.C.  Mayor Vincent Gray recently honored National Vice President, Augusta Thomas as a part of Women’s History Month. NVP Thomas was presented with a Meritorious Public Service Award for her work in civil, human, and
workplace rights. “During your years of service with AFGE, you’ve exhibited a high level of dedication and deserve to be commended”, said Mayor Gray while presenting NVP Thomas with a plaque.

NVP Thomas has been with AFGE since 1966 when she joined the union on her very first day as a VA Nurse. From there, NVP Thomas worked her way through the ranks having held almost every position within her local. In 2009 at the age of 86, Thomas decided to run for national office. Mayor Gray noted that when scrutinized about her age, NVP Thomas challenged the “young folks” to see if they could keep up with her.

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