AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
May 11, 2022
Present were: Jeff Shane, Laura Novakoski, Steffen Pleiness, Don Shaefer and Andrew Seger.
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 $127,788 in checking and $102,147 in savings. The treasurer is not present at today’s meeting, but she can be contacted with any questions or financial issues.
Old Business / Re-Opening Issues:
One of the biggest changes we wanted to note regarding re-opening is HOTELING. The concept exists in Article 41 of the contract (as it pertains to telework). All it says is that teleworkers may be required to share space (i.e. “hoteling”). The Agency notified the Union prior to reopening that they planned to implement this nationwide, and created a lengthy document including what we believe is more accurately termed “hot-desking” where your desk is no longer yours, and everyone must show up to claim any desk on a first-come, first-served basis, with perhaps a box of your possessions and some computer items stored elsewhere in the office. AFGE put in a national bargaining demand, because of course all these details are not found within the contract. They rescinded the demand, but reserved the right to implement hoteling on a smaller scale. This has ended up being used in offices where not all employees are fully vaccinated, with permission for any local managers to go ahead. AFGE again put in regional and national bargaining demands, and those were denied; there is an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) pending. Only those employees who have chosen to telework are subject to this practice, making it clear that the Agency is hostile to telework. This is against the Re-Entry MOU agreeing to maximize telework. It also implicitly violates an unvaccinated employee’s right to privacy regarding their status.
Had the Agency agreed to allow Field Office employees the three telework days we requested instead of the two they arbitrarily allowed, there would be less employees on-site each day and we would not have these issues with social distancing. We remind employees that your “tour” begins when you enter the office space “ready to work.” Look at the time, and use that time in WebTA once you have finally located and cleaned a desk. You should also allow time for boxing up your items at the end of your shift – do not give the Agency your time for free. Hoteling appears here to stay at least through the end of September, unfortunately. Some employees have informally staked out their usual desk and others honor that daily, but they still cannot leave things in place so there is a loss of privacy as well as the inconvenience of the set-up and take-down.
Some offices have seen record-setting numbers of visitors after re-opening, while other offices have been slower in the lobby. It could be that some of our public are not yet aware we are open, or that some have become more accustomed to using our other service channels. There does not appear to be any statistic-gathering by the Agency to measure the differing productivity of teleworking employees at their Alternate Duty Station vs. Official Duty Station, which again telegraphs that this trial period is more of an empty exercise than a real experiment. There are systems that already track the data needed, but it’s unclear if they will put in the effort to analyze it. We are planning widespread polling, in part to add to and counter the Agency-administered mini-surveys, to get a sense of what would be truly helpful to employees, in terms of productivity and work performance, as well as morale and overall satisfaction.
We continue to push for a term-appointed Commissioner. Council 220 officially announced their endorsement of Donna Shalala. Our current Acting Commissioner Kijakazi does not seem to be fully on the side of employees in terms of listening to our concerns and needs and being responsive to that. Rather, she often parrots the messaging of the Labor and Employee Relations executive staff, many of whom are holdovers from the prior administration and retain combative postures regarding the bargaining unit and AFGE, as their representatives.
We are hearing reports in some offices that employees are being told to clear work from WorkTrack in five days; except the instruction is not only obsolete, but never meant “process” in five days - only that it needs to be uploaded (to be trackable) in that timeframe. We want to hear any reports like this of impossible local policies or unfair practices, so that we can address it with management.
There are also employees with pending Reasonable Accommodation (RA) requests, who are sometimes being recalled from telework “for business reasons,” and we are fighting to get those decisions reversed as well. Until then, many simply switch to Leave Without Pay (LWOP) under FMLA and everyone loses – the employee their pay, and the office the skills of that worker. It almost seems a point of pride for SSA to deny episodic telework, TCA or other MOU-available practices, just to show us who’s in charge.
Local 3937 voted to endorse Shannon Myers as Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, and she has been authorized to cite our support for her election. She understands the struggle facing working families and has expansive union leadership credentials. She will communicate and implement the mission of organized labor in our state, and we are proud to offer her our endorsement.
Jeff made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Steffen 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; Jeff seconded. Motion passed. The meeting ended at 6:30pm.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski