AFGE, Local 3937
Local Business Meeting
May 10, 2017
Labor Temple, Seattle WA
Present were: Ana Rivers, Laura Novakoski, John Pfannenstein, Cinthia Diaz, Melanie Broady, Cassandra Butler, Ivan Weich, Steve Kofahl, Carrie Kitchin-Kofahl, Chanan Suarez, Lara Kouna.
The meeting was called to order at 7:05pm, chaired by Ana Rivers, Local President.
We had about $5,000 in our savings account in Verity Credit Union, and have moved it over to the Sound Credit Union account where we now bank. We still have three CDs there (the next one maturing on 5/25/17 with $11,750.69), and we decided to put those funds into our primary checking account (which will help to offset some of this year’s training and Executive Board costs). If we also close out the other two CDs, we would give up some interest payments for the quarter because of cashing them out early, but the cost is minimal ($7). Nowadays keeping funds in a CD doesn’t earn much more interest compared to a regular account; Ana and James will research that more and they recommend moving all funds into the new credit union at one time (totaling about $43,000 for all three CDs). We will still try to maintain a hands-off policy for most of the funds to keep them in reserve. We are still going to be deficit spending for at least a couple years, which is why the dues increase our members approved in the recent election was crucial; adequate funding allows the Local to function, which includes providing necessary training for our officers and primary representatives. To put this in perspective, last year we collected $207,576 in dues, but had to pay per capita tax to National AFGE of $183,505 along with various other councils and bills, so we had very little left to fund the Local’s needs. Every time AFGE National moved to increase our per capita dues in the past several years, the Local had tried to protect members’ wallets by not adjusting to ask them to compensate for the higher cost, but rather dug into our reserves to keep going.
We discussed the process of how we go about changing from one Union rep in an office to a new one, when someone steps down or retires. The representative selection process involves getting feedback from the office staff and then the Executive Board and Local President make a selection from any volunteers. We are always excited to have members interested and active, and once selected, we provide ongoing training to new reps.
On April 1st and 2nd John participated in Legislative and Political Coordination training with Cheryl Kelso, District 11 Legislative and Political Organizer, along with other AFGE members from different agencies including the VA, Border Patrol, Housing and Urban Development and Bureau of Prisons. He gained a lot of insight into how best to approach our congressional members with our asks. They later met with Dave Reichert, a member of WA’s 8th congressional district. John is happy to report that Rep Reichert is staunchly opposed to HR 1364 and 1461, both of which organized labor also opposes. He also met with Ann Seabott, NW Regional Director for Senator Patty Murray, and spoke with her extensively about the hiring freeze and agency staffing memorandum. These visits were very productive and he plans to continue to visit our legislators and carry our members’ interests to them in future. Ivan went along with John to see Congressman Kilmer from the 6th District in Bremerton, while they were in Washington, DC in February; Rep Kilmer later sent us a letter agreeing that he supports our fight against 1361 and 1464.
Melanie and Cassandra report that they will be attending arbitration training later this month in Portland, for five intensive day-long classes on how to present effective grievances and arbitrations that are based on Contract violations. Our Local does occasionally bring cases before an arbitrator, so this will prepare them well to represent members.
Steve went with a group to Olympia to meet with Congressman Denny Heck to promote the expansion of Medicare (universal coverage to all age groups) and the expansion of Social Security (increasing the cap that is subject to taxation, and expanding benefit payments). He was not receptive to all ideas, but committed to pushing to get SSA the resources we need to increase staffing next year. He also spoke with AFGE’s council lobbyist, who confirmed we have a 1% cut from the funding level we had last year, but the Agency has promised there will not be furloughs. 1% actually translates to 3% cut based on inflation, so we probably will not see hiring.
Ana and Melanie gave us an update on what we know – and what we do not know – about the hiring freeze. Although the freeze was technically lifted, all federal agencies have to submit a plan to reduce staffing and overall expenses, so SSA isn’t rushing to fill vacancies yet. The VA recently announced 50 TSC positions in the Seattle area, at a higher pay grade than what SSA offers, and every time this happens we lose staff to them. We have seen some management positions listed, but not direct service. AFGE Council 220 and Commissioner Nancy Berryhill will meet in forum to share their plans for what will be submitted to OMB. We’re as in the dark as everyone; we certainly hope there will be some hiring but it doesn’t look good – we have also not heard whether employees will receive any awards this year. All this is happening at a national level rather than regionally. Although we are short-staffed and pushing internet claims and online actions, this is increasing what are called “anomalous claims” that are pure fraud, not anomalies. These are mainly retirement cases where something doesn’t make sense, like high earners who supposedly rely on Metabank or Green Dot cards for direct deposit, or were filed by bots within an incredibly short amount of time like 5 minutes. The Agency should not be mislabeling claims like this to cover up the scope of the problem. OAFP who are supposedly investigating these claims have only eight agents for the whole country. The Agency has said in the past that 1% fraud is considered an “acceptable level” for private internet commerce, though this is not an accurate parallel to a government program that exists not for profit but to help people; they don’t seem interested in actually tackling this problem since that would contradict the internet hype.
Carrie made a motion that this evening’s LBM minutes be approved as written; Ivan seconded. Motion passed. Laura moved to adjourn at 8:05pm; Melanie seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.