AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
March 11, 2020
ATSC, Auburn WA
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Jackie Walton, Laura Novakoski, Steffen Pleiness, Jeff Shane, Don Schaefer and Tonya Boren.
The meeting was called to order at 5:00pm, chaired by John Pfannenstein, Local President.
We currently have $69,262 in checking and $57,050 in savings, though AFGE National hasn’t yet removed their dues for this month. We are operating under budget, which is great news. Jackie, our Treasurer, is almost done working with our accountant for submitting the annual LM2 report to the Department of Labor, and it should be done by 3/31/20. We’re scheduled to host the audit committee at the ATSC in early April. Once it is completed, members may contact the Executive Board if they wish to review the final report.
We found out today that one of the ATSC employees may have had third-person contact with a COVID-19 positive case. We immediately sent out an informational email that notified employees in the facility, and provided advice and online resources for any employees with concerns or questions. Management in all locations will be holding staff meetings to discuss plans of action to handle positive and/or quarantine cases, types of leave available, the possibility of teleworking, etc. AFGE is strongly pushing for the reactivation of telework at all facilities, as a common sense solution that other federal agencies have implemented to help keep employees and the public as safe as possible. This week, telework was reinstated for Offices of Hearing Operations (OHO), and our opinion is that if such a step is prudent for hearings office employees, surely it is even more appropriate for field office employees who have much more public exposure.
There may be offers by management to reinstate telework, but many questions remain. If employees who were telework-eligible sign new agreements, would they be able to telework on their old schedule or only at management’s discretion in the event of a local health crisis or precautionary closure? If employees choose to not sign an agreement, presumably if their facility closes, they would qualify for administrative leave. Based on the signals we’ve heard from Commissioner Saul, if telework were reinstated for this purpose it would only be temporary, to meet business needs and then be taken away when the virus rates fall.
We discussed the problems with new restrictions on ATSC “reading time,” where they are only allowed less than 15 minutes to read all training and emails at the end of each non-Level 1 day shift, and only if they can grab the time off the phones. It has hampered their ability to keep up to date on changes or news, and added to stress for employees. The ATSC has been seeing an attrition rate or loss of about 5-7 people per month, about 40% loss from classes of new hires, as they experience working on the floor. The new contract has increased management discretion and oversight via TSC programs like Varint, and in selecting employee schedules. We will continue to work with employees and management to try to improve training and support so that employees feel valued and can be productive without being miserable. The problems of understaffing and long wait times are not only affecting the public’s experience with us and quality of service, but it can contribute to employees making inappropriate referrals to other offices or to the 1-800#, or other service errors.
There was a recent email to all SSA employees from Commissioner Saul, referencing his budget justifications for 2021. The details are contained in a Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) report that was presented to the House Ways and Means Committee; it is available online via the links in that email. One of our ATSC reps, Donald Schaefer, took a deep dive into the reports and we looked at his handouts and discussed them tonight. $13.335 billion total is requested for the 2021 budget. The report discusses hiring and attrition, IT systems and modernization, and upcoming major building renovations and costs.
Laura made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Tonya seconded. Motion passed.
Jackie moved to adjourn; Steffen seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.