AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
November 10, 2021
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Steffen Pleiness, Andrew Seger, Steve Kofahl and Laura Novakoski. 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 5:35pm, chaired by John Pfannenstein, Local President.
Our Treasurer is not present at tonight’s meeting, but we have over $200,000 combined in checking and savings. We have been of course very restricted in traveling for representation or training this past year, so our finances look very good.
On Friday, Nov 5th the Agency notified the Union of its phased re-entry plan to return all employees to the office. As of 12/1/21, senior management (Regional offices and Headquarters) will begin returning. Bargaining employees will see that starting 1/3/22. The Agency is required and has agreed to provide 30 days advance notice of this return. We are in pre-implementation bargaining and our main points are preserving some form of appointment-only system for Field Office traffic to ensure a higher level of safety for employees and the public. We need to be aware of volatility and harassment of employees on top of health concerns; similar to what we’ve seen by frustrated customers with assaults and violence increasing on air travel. Currently we are only allowing dire need interviews in the office.
Work at Home by Quarantine (WAHQ) would end at that time, so our evacuation order would terminate and we revert to the 2019 Contract, Article 41’s description of Telework. For Field Office employees the Agency proposes up to 2 days per week of telework; 4 per week for TSC and 3-5 per week for most OHO employees. We do not accept the reasoning behind such a disparity for all Field Office employees and the other components, as we have proven over the past year our ability to successfully process much of our work virtually. However, we look at the move back to telework as a win overall, because it had been cancelled by the prior Commissioner and before that it was a pilot program in only certain offices, with only 1 day per week for many of the employees who were allowed to participate.
There will be a 6-month observation window and evaluation period regarding re-entry, to gather information and determine what changes may improve personnel and operational policies. Employees have several concerns: about the requirement to report to the office despite having school-age children who may still need to study at home periodically due to quarantine or school closure issues; sharing their home with vulnerable people they wouldn’t want to expose to the virus they may bring home from the office, among others.
C215 Hearings Office President Rich Couture is the GC spokesperson for AFGE’s bargaining, and he suggested we engage in two-tiered bargaining. First, nationally on issues that affect all components equally, such as the Workplace Safety Plan, cleaning and sanitization, social distancing. Second, on component-level issues (C220, C215, C224 OQR); in a disappointing but expected move, the Agency rejected that, because the work we do and the way we do it is not a one-size-fits-all deal. We will make sure that our bargaining team has information of each component and will push for agreement to satisfy their needs.
We have created several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) recently, including an upcoming plan for non-portable work vs. portable work in terms of determining how many employees may be required (non-voluntary) to return to the office.
We have a signed MOU with the Agency that will resurrect MS Teams enumeration processing (to possibly include other workloads long-term), with the agreement that documents visually inspected via the camera would be verifiable with source databases (this lessens the possibility of employees erroneously accepting documents they should not).
Vaccine Mandates – We have heard rumors that supervisors may begin conducting meetings with employees who have requested RAs and medical or religious exemptions from the mandate, but we have been given no concrete information on the process for these decisions, required documentation, counseling and discipline, or the timeline. Our counterpart in LERT alleges he has no information to share at this time, but based on the deadlines there are certainly detailed plans drafted at some level that are simply not being made available to us. This strategy limits our ability to prepare but we presume these counseling meetings would be formal Weingarten meetings which union reps may attend, and we will share any information as we receive it.
AFGE Legislative Conference – Next year the annual conference will be held in person, centered at the Hyatt Hotel downtown in Washington, D.C. There is a NEC meeting next week that will share more details. Steve Kofahl would be interested to participate as a delegate to the conference on the Local’s behalf, and will share information from the NEC meeting to assist us as we decide on participants and budget. Next year there will also be a one-year delayed AFGE Convention scheduled for June.
John Larson, the Connecticut congressional rep, has introduced the Social Security 2100 Act in the House; it has tremendous expansions that would be beneficial to employees. It would end disability cessations for work activity, and includes provisions to eliminate WEP GPO, for example. There are several other bills that have higher priority to bring to a vote before it can be discussed (such as the Build Back Better plan and the debt ceiling).
Steffen made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Steve Kofahl seconded. Motion passed.
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.
Laura moved to adjourn; Steve seconded. Motion passed. The meeting ended at 6:20pm.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski