AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
September 9, 2020
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Nicole Duncan, Laura Novakoski, Steffen Pleiness, Andrew Seger and Jackie Walton. The meeting was held via secure conference call with dial-in information posted to the Members section of our Local website.
The meeting was called to order at 5:35pm, chaired by John Pfannenstein, Local President.
Welcome to our first Local Business Meeting held since March, due to the Coronavirus pandemic disrupting our usual in-person meetings.
We currently have $98,472 in checking and $57,064 in savings. We are operating under budget, which is always great news.
Extreme weather events:
Some of our offices may have closed or will need to due to wildfires and air quality. There are disastrous weather situations prevalent throughout Oregon and Washington this week. Many of the employees are also under mandatory or stand-by evacuation orders from their homes. Under Article 9, if there is an office closure management should advise the Union directly. You are our eyes and ears on-site for any such problems. We want to ensure that our employees are safe, and that if they are evacuated or otherwise unable to perform work duties due to loss of internet, laptop, lack of a safe/secure area and so on are granted Weather and Safety Leave (WSL) and not personal leave. Please contact your local rep and if you have none on-site, please contact a member of the Executive Board so that we can work with your local management to get the appropriate leave approved for you.
Al Gross endorsement (Independent-AK):
At an August meeting of the Executive Board, the Local voted to endorse Dr. Al Gross in his campaign for the Senate for the state of Alaska. He is a dues-paying Union member related to his side business. His campaign approached him about unionizing themselves, which he supported. At our last legislative conference, we met Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the incumbent; he hasn’t been overly helpful with our members’ issues, and tends to argue against the Union’s positions. Dr. Gross is now running for that seat, and seems the opposite. He states he is very interested in supporting us and our needs and fighting for our issues. He’s already met with AFGE at the VA, and they are supporting him. He is not requesting funding, just a statement of support and perhaps postings on our social media and/or website. Our Local does not grant endorsements on the basis of political party, but he is pro-labor and pro-union, with policy platforms that appear to be center left. He’s running as an Independent but appears to be supported by the Democratic party. He is currently running about 5 points behind Sullivan, which is astounding against someone who has been the incumbent since 2015. Sullivan has a poor track record with unions, supported Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (who are openly anti-union and probably not appropriate for those positions).
AFGE District 11 (the tier above Council 220, so to speak) encompasses a number of states for federal employees, not just SSA employees. They are holding a virtual election and caucus on October 10th. John Pfannenstein (LP), Steffen Pleiness (1st VP) and Steve Kofahl (LP Emeritus and delegate) will attend. John spoke with Tim Snyder, one of the candidates for National Vice President, who shared his vision of what he would like to do for the District if elected. He’s been a Local 2354 member (AFB in Cheyenne WY), union steward and Local President for many years before moving over to work directly for AFGE for the past 14 years as a political organizer. He’s in favor of restoring faith in the National Executive Council, especially considering the turmoil resulting from past reported misconduct there; of being good stewards of members’ money; and of giving autonomy to Locals as much as possible. Not surprisingly for his background, he wants to expand organizing to a year-round cycle and is willing to commit D11’s resources to that end. We appear to be aligned with his platform and are inclined to endorse him, as is Steve who has known him for years. We have not yet been contacted by other candidates (Bernard Humboltz, Troy Tiny, Pam Espinoza).
John made a motion that AFGE Local 3937 endorse Tim Snyder as National VP of D11; he stepped out of the chair role for Nicole (EVP) to hold the vote. Jackie seconded the motion. There was no further discussion or debate; motion passed. We will inform Tim that he has our support.
We have sent out multiple Local messages since March about the ongoing pandemic and its impact on our workers and workplaces. Most recently, we covered the conversion of personal leave or Weather and Safety Leave (WSL) to Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and there is a national grievance asking for relief for those employees who were paid at their full salary rate instead of the appropriate 2/3 cap; through no fault of their own. When employees receive a letter from Department of Interior, there should be appeal rights described therein and we encourage all to pursue those rights while we wait for the outcome of the C220 grievance.
Employees returning to FOs to perform non-portable workloads - we received numbers and data from C220 that they must have received from the Office of Labor Management and Employee Relations (OLMER) in Baltimore. Those details do not appear to align with what line management has announced during staff meetings on this topic (e.g. offices with 10 or fewer employees generally will not have employees called back, for 10-20 only 1 can be called back, on a gradually increasing basis). We are in the process of reaching out to C220 to look into the discrepancy between what we were told and what management was told.
President Trump recently announced via Executive Order that he would initiate a payroll tax deferral for all federal civilian and military employees, and to date we do not appear to have an opt-out provision. We anticipate this will only temporarily increase most employees’ take-home pay through December, when their pay would decrease accordingly for the first quarter of next year (we must repay it by May 2021). For some they may feel that it creates more financial problems than it solves, due to the increase in taxable income that could affect one’s tax bracket for 2020, and the corresponding drop due to the make-up or additional amounts that will be missing from take home pay in early 2021. AFGE has advised OMB Director Russell Vought that employees weren’t given enough advance information to plan for this change and should be allowed to opt out. We haven’t seen SSA advice on this issue, so we plan to send a Local President message to ensure employees know what’s coming and may want to just save the extra for these tax obligations and/or lower earnings later on.
ATSC is now affected by a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes several shift changes and other scheduling issues they are now learning about. Please get in touch with your on-site reps if you encounter problems or have questions as this process rolls out.
You can stay informed about topics like the payroll tax deferral and much more by going to www.afge.org and sign up for Action Alerts to be sent via text or email so that you are informed of current legislative and political events – please do so on your personal computer or phone, not on duty time or on Agency equipment.
The Local has decided to open a Zoom business account that we would like to begin using for things like rep trainings, organizing events, and possibly future Local Business Meetings. We’ll post updates on our Local website and hope that this will increase the availability of these meetings to a larger audience.
Laura made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Jackie seconded. Motion passed.
Andrew moved to adjourn; Steffen seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.