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Congratulations to AFGE’s 2013 Union Plus Scholarship Award Winners!

Congratulations to our 2013 Union Plus Scholarship award winners! Over 5,300 applications were received by Union Plus and AFGE had three students selected this year. Their great SAT scores, well-rounded studies, extracurricular activities, and understanding of the value of working families and union membership combined made them great picks!

Our first winner, Marthalyn Lamb from Birmingham, Alabama, comes from a family with three generations of involvement in the labor movement. Marthalyn’s father, David Lamb, is a member of AFGE Local 3024. Her goal is to become a nurse, because she has a passion for helping people. She was influenced by her brother who has autism to pursue nursing and dedicate her time towards caring for others.

Casie Phillips from Richland, Michigan is our next winner. Casie’s mother is Cynthia Phillips who is a member of AFGE Local 1626. Her family has a long-time dedication to unions as members, organizers, and activists. She believes, “unions bring about prosperity, ability, and unity.” Her values and ideals about unions will surely benefit her in her studies and career aspirations.

Kurtis Quillin from Floresville, Texas is our last winner. Kurtis’s father is Jeffery Quillin who is a member of AFGE Local 1004. His appreciation for unions stems from his father’s involvement in AFGE. He has a passion for athletics and wishes to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. He is involved in Boy Scouts, officiating youth sports, and announcing at sports games and on the radio. He has been passionate about sports broadcasting since he was in 6th grade.

Congratulations again to Marthalyn, Casie, and Kurtis! AFGE commends you on your hard work and good luck with your studies!

AFGE member shares furlough story on “Inside Government”

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Listen Now! 

Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” as a union member speaks out on the impact of being furloughed. The show, which originally aired on Friday, May 24, is now available on demand.

AFGE Environmental Protection Agency Local 704 member Elizabeth Lytle, a cancer survivor and disabled veteran, described her experiences as a federal employee going through sequestration, including the financial and emotional toll of mandatory furloughs.

But first, Maryland Citizens Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco discussed the latest on Maryland’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act and benefits set to take effect in 2014.

Lastly, Bill Fletcher Jr., author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!: And 20 Other Myths about Unions,” dispelled myths about unions and the labor movement.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com.

For more information, please visit InsideGovernmentRadio.com.

Have You Been Affected by Furloughs? We Want to Hear From You!

More than 700,000 federal government employees will experience up to a 20 percent pay cut due to forced furloughs. Are you an AFGE member affected by furloughs?  We want to hear from you about how furloughs are affecting your family, your life, and your community. Please click here to share your story with us and have your voices heard. If you would like to submit a photo with you entry please email it to afgecommsquad@gmail.com.

Please be sure to include your name, location, the federal agency you work for and your AFGE local number. So many of our members have shared their experiences and we want to hear from YOU!

Listen now! MSNBC’s Chris Hayes discusses workplace safety on “Inside Government”

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Listen Now!

 Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for a discussion on workplace safety. The show, which originally aired on Friday, April 26, is now available on demand.

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” looked back on the Boston Marathon bombings and Texas fertilizer plant explosion to highlight the value of public employees and workplace safety.

GovLoop Community Engagement Director Andrew Krzmarzick then provided tips for furloughed federal employees facing a work backlog and highlighted the benefits of government agencies using social media.

Greg Brooks, president of AFGE’s Federal Aviation Administration Local 2282, discussed the latest developments on furloughs at the FAA. Brooks also addressed the short- and long-term consequences of sequestration, including the impact on national security.

AFGE Small Business Administration Council 228 President Elaine Powell-Belnavis then discussed the union’s labor contract agreement with SBA, which covers 2,000 federal employees and provides a range of benefits from an updated awards program to an expedited arbitration process.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com.

For more information, please visit InsideGovernmentRadio.com.

Listen Now! Proposed Changes to Federal Employee Pensions, Health Benefits Analyzed on “Inside Government”

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Listen Now!

Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for analysis of proposed changes to federal employees’ pension plans and health benefits. The show, which originally aired on Friday, April 19, is now available on demand.

Bob Weiner, former Clinton White House spokesman, lauded the work of federal employees in the face of budget cuts, pay freezes and furloughs. Weiner also detailed sequestration’s harmful effects on cancer research.

AFGE Small Business Administration Council 228 President Elaine Powell-Belnavis then discussed the union’s labor contract agreement with SBA, which covers 2,000 federal employees and provides a range of benefits from an updated awards program to an expedited arbitration process.

Common Cause President and CEO and former Rep. Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania addressed the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) and increase in federal employees’ pension contributions in President Obama’s budget proposal.

Lastly, AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon detailed proposed changes to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com.

For more information, please visit InsideGovernmentRadio.com.

Listen Now! Reaction to Obama’s 2014 Budget Plan on “Inside Government”

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Listen Now!

Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for reactions to President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal. The show, which originally aired on Friday, April 12, is now available on demand.

AFGE National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals President Witold Skwierczynski addressed the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) and increase in federal employees’ pension contributions in the president’s budget proposal. Skwierczynski also discussed the status of unresolved articles – appraisals, merit promotions and telework – in the union’s contract agreement with SSA management.

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare President and CEO Max Richtman continued the budget conversation, analyzing the chained CPI impact on Social Security benefits for seniors and veterans.

Lastly, AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon detailed proposed changes to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com.

For more information, please visit InsideGovernmentRadio.com.

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 Members Provide Assistance to Their Fellow Brothers and Sisters in Superstorm Sandy Aftermath

Hurricane SandyAFGE was founded on the principles of brotherhood and sisterhood and, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the union has portrayed just that.

While many AFGE members are attempting to regain some normalcy after the storm, others have banded together to provide assistance to their brothers and sisters affected by Superstorm Sandy.

AFGE’s National Executive Committee pledged to match the first $25,000 donated to the Federal Employee & Education Assistance Fund’s (FEEA) AFGE Relief Fund. FEEA is a nonprofit whose mission is to help federal employees with scholarships, child care assistance and emergency assistance. Donations can be made directly via secure network at https://secure.feea.org/np/clients/feea/donation.jsp?campaign=19. You can contact FEEA directly at (800) 323-4140 or by emailing fedshelpingfeds@feea.org.

“A natural disaster of this size is hard to imagine, and months later countless people—many of whom are federal employees—are still without help,” AFGE National President J. David Cox said. “If AFGE can help even one person, it’s worth it. I know, though, that our members will come through big to help our brothers and sisters in need.”

AFGE members also have taken the initiative to assist those in need. Boston Social Security Local 3760 donated home improvement gift cards to two Local 1760 members whose homes were damaged by the storm.

“It was just our way of saying we’ve got your back,” said Kevin Griffin, Local 3760 president and National Vice President of Council 224.

Veterans Affairs Local 1119 in New York also hosted a two-week clothing, canned goods, and toiletries drive in conjunction with the Red Cross.

AFGE’s District Two, which covers members in New York and New Jersey (in addition to Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island), has been a great source of information for AFGE members and all federal employees. For details on health and safety issues, government assistance, etc., please visit the District 2 website at http://www.afge2nddistrict.org.

AFGE URGES CONGRESS TO REJECT PAY FREEZE EXTENSION FOR FEDERAL WORKERS

The American Federation of Government Employees is calling on members of Congress to reject a proposal that would extend the two-year pay freeze on federal employees for another year.

Federal employees already have sacrificed $103 billion over 10 years to deficit reduction. President Obama has delayed until April the already-paltry 0.5% adjustment proposed for 2013, so the actual raise would amount to just 0.25% for the fiscal year.

“Reducing the salaries of federal workers through an extended pay freeze is a cheap political ploy,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Not only does it inflict tremendous damage on the families of these modestly paid workers, more than half of whom are veterans, but it also hits the communities where these employees live, since they will continue to be unable to afford any kind of economic activity beyond paying for the bare necessities of living.

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.

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