AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
September 8, 2021
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Nicole Duncan, Steffen Pleiness, Jackie Walton, Steve Kofahl, Mike Welcher, Denise Lamphere, Sarah Epplin, Mickie Larsen, and Janice Couoh. 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 $105,192 in checking and $102,133 in savings.
Vaccination questionnaire: The Agency did not bargain with the Union about the questionnaire they released to employees, only sending AFGE a same-day notice. Responding is optional, but for all employees who didn’t complete it or didn’t attest to having been fully vaccinated, testing will be required when that process is implemented. All employees who choose to complete it were encouraged to respond honestly. The Agency hasn’t chosen to verify vaccination status but that may change in the future, and dishonesty on the form could have disciplinary consequences. We don’t yet know where the testing will be held, what test it will be, etc. They will be done at no cost to the employees and on duty time. The Agency has also agreed to give administrative leave time (up to 4 hours) to employees who are getting the booster shot or taking a family member to get the shot, and up to 2 days of leave for those who are experiencing side effects. If the vaccine becomes mandatory, AFGE will bargain that process so that it is fair and equitable to all employees regardless of their vaccinated status.
Reopening plans are pending with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP). Steve asked about how the volunteers to work in offices would be selected, and who would be forced to come in if there weren’t enough volunteers. John reports that a number of offices are recalling more employees than they had been, to try and reach the 25% cap – AFGE believes that this 25% figure is the maximum number of employees that could be called back in each office, but the Agency believes they need to reach the 25% figure as a goal or minimum. It is probable that we will begin to see less portable work at the office and more in-office appointments for things such as SS-5s and dropping off documents for claims. We still have no idea when offices will “reopen”; most federal agencies submitted their plans by the end of July, but because Andrew Saul left SSA around that time, we were given more time due to this transition in leadership.
Social Security Commissioner: Kilolo Kijakazi is the Acting Commissioner of SSA, but there are several contenders for the permanent position. Former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, now a member of the National Labor Council, is the top contender for the post and has a lot of influence with the White House. He has no experience with SSA, but does have ties to labor. We have some concern about a paper he wrote about unions, where he stated that there should be a 3rd category between a gig worker/contractor and a tenured employee, with more rights than the former but less than the latter. AFGE National is looking to endorse Seth Harris. Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works is also in the running. She has 4+ years of background knowledge and work with SSA, and wants to expand Social Security and Medicare benefits; she is the most qualified candidate with regard to background experience. However, she may have less political sway. Donna Shalala is another choice, and served as the Secretary of Health & Human Services during the Clinton administration.
Council 220 could not agree on which candidate to endorse at their meeting a few weeks ago. Instead, the Council will be requesting that members let them know what qualities they are looking for, and we will provide that information to President Biden. For example, we seek a Commissioner who both believes in and values the program and the employees; listening to and working with the Union; and so on.
At today’s meeting we discussed qualities we feel are important for the next Commissioner:
PACS: We are approaching the end of the 2021 fiscal year. This is the first full year that most of us have been working full-time from home. Employees are encouraged to complete and submit the self-assessment regarding their performance this month. Since we are not in the office and supervisors can’t see us working, it’s especially important that we make sure management knows what we have been doing. Employees who want to grieve their PACS ratings will have a difficult time winning a grievance if they do not submit the self-assessment.
EEO Training: Last month, Local officers John, Andrew and Steffen attended a multi-day training conference on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) by District 8 & District 11 in Omaha, NE. They learned about how to prepare cases for hearings, what the Agency’s process is, and so on. The teaching attorney was Patrick Tierney, and they had a good Q&A session afterward about cases they are actively working on. They are looking forward to using the training in the future.
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.
Steve Kofahl made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Steffen Pleiness seconded. Motion passed.
Nicole Duncan moved to adjourn; Mickie Larsen seconded. Motion passed. The meeting ended at 6:39pm.
Minutes written and submitted by Jackie Walton.