AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
March 10, 2021
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Nicole Duncan, Laura Novakoski, Steffen Pleiness, Jackie Walton, Monica Rodgers and Steve Kofahl. The meeting was held via Zoom conference call with dial-in information posted to the Members section of our Local website.
The meeting was called to order at 5:30pm, chaired by John Pfannenstein, Local President.
We currently have $77,309 in checking and $102,087 in savings. All the documents needed for our annual report to the Department of Labor will be delivered to our accountant this week. We stayed within our 2020 budget despite higher than usual representation costs; due to the ongoing pandemic our officer and travel expenses were lower.
We need to approve the budget for 2021, and our Treasurer proposed that we roll over the same figures that served us well last year. Below is a chart showing the last two budget years and the proposal:
2019 2020 Proposed 2021
General Overhead $12,000 $10,000 $10,000
Union Administration $15,000 $10,000 $10,000
Representation $20,000 $35,000 $35,000
Legislative/Political $16,000 $4,000 $4,000
Officer $28,000 $20,000 $20,000
Employee $100 $500 $500
Contributions/Gifts $900 $1,000 $1,000
Total $92,000 $80,500 $80,500
This year our biweekly dues are $18.35 per member, which totals about $39.75/month or $477.10/year, considering 26 pay periods. We then pay AFGE National dues of $20.91 per member, AFGE Council 220 dues of $1.50 per member, and smaller set fees to our other Councils (e.g., $25/month or $300/year). This leaves about $17.00 net per member per month, so for roughly 470 members (not including retirees) that is about $95,000 projected net annual income available for the budget. This year we again did not spend on sending representatives to the annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. in February; due to the pandemic, it was a smaller event held virtually. If this budget proves too fiscally conservative, we can revisit it at a future Local meeting. Jackie made a motion that we accept the proposed 2021 budget; Steve seconded. After discussion and debate, motion passed.
John shared that the House this week passed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, and it’s expected to be signed into law. One boon for federal employees is that 15 weeks of emergency paid leave will be available through September this year, to cover things like exposure to COVID-19, negative effects of the vaccine, or caring for children or family members whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic (including school issues). There is a $2,800 biweekly cap (or $72,800 annually), so it should not exceed most pay scales. Other leave categories do not need to be depleted first, and the use of such leave does not count for annuity computation purposes. For the past year we’ve been working in extraordinary circumstances keeping the government running and our services available to the public, so this is a great gift from this administration and Congress.
He met on Monday with Representative Adam Smith (WA-09). Also present were representatives from the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Veterans Administration (VA) and Bureau of Prisons (BOP). It was organized by our AFGE Legislative and Political Organizer Grant Schott. We asked Rep Smith to follow the lead of Senator Sherrod Brown and others in the House who have submitted letters to President Biden, urging him to remove and replace SSA Acting Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black. Saul has proven himself to be an enemy to unions, to federal employees and to the public. He has spearheaded multiple attacks on the disability program, such as increasing the frequencies of medical reviews, and changing aspects of the vocational criteria, such as targeting immigrants and those with limited English skills. In the Hearings Offices, he proposed that Agency personnel take over the independent role of Administrative Law Judges, which removes an impartial decision maker from that process. Rep Smith didn’t make a solid commitment on the call, but we will be following up with him.
The FAIR Act has been resurrected, asking for 3.2% pay raise and that we achieve parity with any increases given to military personnel. It is too early to celebrate because this issue has been brought up in the past, does not always pass, and there are not yet bills submitted in the House or Senate.
Our Treasurer, Jackie Walton, retired member Monica Rodgers, and our Local President Emeritus, Steve Kofahl, all attended the virtual AFGE Legislative Conference last month and told us more about the event. Jackie had some trouble with the website and navigating into the various plenary sessions from the main page, but as a first-time attendee she enjoyed the conference and learned a lot. She suggested that AFGE incorporate Zoom or other virtual attendance options for those who cannot travel to Washington, D.C. in person in future!
Steve tells us that attendance was just as high for the virtual conference as it normally is in person. Considering the limitations of technology, the plenary sessions and written issue papers were well done. He gave retiree presentations about SSA and Medicare, where he encouraged our retirees or soon-to-be retirees that they would be better served to utilize our own representatives such as the 1-800# rather than employees of Medicare Advantage plans and other private for-profit representatives in the healthcare industry. He also attended and shared Local and retiree information at meetings of Council 220 and District 11 (our other levels of AFGE membership, above the Local). He continues to meet regularly with the offices of Senator Cantwell and Murray, in his position with Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA), based in Seattle. He is very willing to continue to pass along Local and community issues that should be brought to their attention. They both serve on committees that touch on or have jurisdiction related to SSA and Medicare programs.
Monica appreciated hearing the speeches shared by our elected representatives, and sat in on a retirement seminar. She’s also the Secretary for the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) in Anchorage, AK so she has stayed up to date on many of those issues. There is good news at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act sponsored by Patty Murray. It is more about the private sector; however, any union safeguards and reforms achieved there often spill over to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), so we are heartened. Because labor friendly representatives are in such a close balance with those opposed in the House and Senate, we need to aggressively push our representatives with information and with our opinions on how we want them to vote. It’s more important than ever to increase our membership, because we are losing several thousand AFGE members per month just due to retirement or people deciding not to return to work.
You can stay informed about topics like these and much more by going to www.afge.org to 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.
Steffen made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Jackie seconded. Motion passed.
Nicole moved to adjourn; Steffen seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.