AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
March 9, 2022
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Don Schaefer, Monica Rodgers, Steffen Pleiness, Andrew Seger, April Sandstrom, Amy Krause, Julie McLean, Nicole Duncan, 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.
We currently have $127,175 in checking and $102,138 in savings.
Last month, John, Steffen, and Steve Kofahl, President Emeritus of L3937, met with about 8 members of congress or their staffers in Region 10 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska) via Zoom meetings. Our talking points included staffing numbers (from about 60,000 in 2010, we’re down to around 49,000), the urgency for a term-appointed Commissioner, reopening the 2019 contract to restore our Official Time, removing some of the draconian measures related to performance plans and discipline, and issues related to staffing, retention and retiree issues. There has been no report of a nominee from the current administration to replace Acting Commissioner Kijakazi. In recent employee surveys (FEVS and Pulse), our agency scored amongst the lowest of all federal agencies and this impacts not only employees but the public we try our best to serve. Many communicated not having trust in leadership, or reasonable workloads, or feeling supported by management. One of our meetings was with Senator Ron Wyden’s office. He is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, controls SSA’s funding and is very supportive, along with other members of the House and Senate.
Officers of our Local also met yesterday with executive staff in Region 10, including Regional Commissioner Mary Lisa Lewandowski, to discuss many of the same concerns directly. It was not a heartening discussion and we pushed back against a less than receptive attitude, which appeared to be skewed more towards executive staff and managers vs the vast majority of the bargaining unit, who perform the actual work of our agency. We asked about bringing back the student intern program to assist employees with our clerical tasks and introduce them to career potential with us, and they expressed interest in doing so once we have a budget passed.
The National AFGE Convention was rescheduled from last year due to the pandemic, and is now going forward in Orlando, FL in June. There has been virtually no travel for education, internal union business or training during the last two years and this will be a good opportunity. We can make our Local’s voting strength known and make contact with AFGE members from many federal agencies, not just SSA. It is a valuable time and place to be present and participate; there are often changes to and discussion of the National Constitution, issues affecting AFGE and our members, changes in AFGE officer positions and more. Laura made a motion that we fund up to 4 delegates from L3937 to attend the AFGE National and Council conventions; this includes travel, airfare, hotel, meals and incidental expenses, and Leave Without Pay (LWOP) as Official Time cannot be used; Steffen seconded. The Council 220 convention will be June 17th – 18th and the National convention will be June 20th – 24th 2022 in Orlando, FL. Motion passed, with no nays.
Reports / COVID-19 Issues:
Discussion about Re-Entry. Based on our conversation yesterday with the Regional Commissioner’s office, they appear to be allowing each location to tailor their own procedures as long as that conforms to the agency’s and CDC’s guidance. That makes it difficult for us to answer questions from employees about their own particular offices. There was an MOU signed March 1st for a Workplace Safety Plan. It includes an agreement by the agency to provide data for each office: number of employees necessary to work on-site for non-portable workloads, work schedules (ODS/ADS/telework) and more. Once we experience re-entry (3/30/22) and reopening (early April; public), please stay in close contact with your Local reps and officers with reports of problems and with your concerns.
There have not been details published about issues like desk spacing, hoteling (sharing desks), use of and traffic in the lobby, etc. The MOU itself has apparent conflicts with CDC guidance. Are they going to follow guidelines that exist for every other federal agency, such as flexibility with mask wearing considering virus positivity levels county by county? We are checking in with Council 220 in an attempt to answer these issues. However, barring Reasonable Accommodation (RA) for 100% telework, they will be enforcing mask mandates for both employees and the public, as they have announced, through September 2022. Since the MOU was bilaterally signed by both the union and the agency, it would be extremely difficult to argue at arbitration for employees to choose not to wear them or to disregard other aspects of that agreement.
We discussed other reopening issues such as financing, or providing additional guards or remodeling (metal detectors?) that may be needed so that offices can coordinate maximum capacities in lobbies and manage the public as they access our services in person. As with other reopening issues, bring up your concerns and questions to management; if there are health and safety issues that are not mitigated or resolved to your satisfaction, bring it to us!
Steffen made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Amy 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; Nicole seconded. Motion passed. The meeting ended at 6:25pm.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski