AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting
March 8, 2023
Present were: John Pfannenstein, Laura Novakoski, Tonya Boren, Adam Neff, Jackie Walton, Dwaine Holiday.
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.
Jackie shared with us that our checking account currently has $76,340 and the savings account has $177,217. She is working this month with our accountant to submit the LM3 report to the Department of Labor; this form is filed by all unions annually to summarize our spending, income and to show that we meet all other requirements. Anyone interested can go online to view LMs from unions of all stripes.
Mid-term Contract bargaining - AFGE and SSA are renegotiating 6 articles of the 2019 contract in May 2023 (3: Employee Rights, 16: Training and Career Development, 20: Child and Elder Care, 23: Disciplinary and Adverse, 27: Details, 29: Union-Management Meetings). John is a part of the Council 220 (C220) bargaining team, along with Regional VP of NY Angela Digeronimo, led by General Committee member Rich Couture. We are negotiating to make inroads on improving retention of staff. Too many of us are leaving, going to other agencies with more robust telework programs (VA in particular), to the private sector or to retirement. We have many new hires over the past few months, which is good news, but they will take time to train before they can help move our backlogs and be more productive themselves.
C220 has 3 bargaining teams set up: Survey (to find out what members want), Information requests (to get attrition and other statistics from the Agency), and Litigation (to research past cases and wins relevant to bolster our arguments). Our Acting Commissioner, Kilolo Kijakazi, has already stated she does not expect our situations or workloads to improve this year, but we hope that we can make a good start to improve things for 2024 and beyond.
The full contract will be open for renegotiation in October 2025, when we will be in a new and unknown presidential administration. Employees have other concerns that are outside contractual rights, such as fair locality pay and needed adjustments to GS salary levels, that we instead bring to our elected representatives when we lobby and educate Congress, and when we provide information for OPM and other agencies working with SSA.
Workplace Safety Plan 3.0 – The recent bargaining over safety mainly focused on mask wearing in the offices (both public and employees). We also wanted them to look into allowing full-time telework and Reasonable Accommodation (RA) for those who are personally impacted by health conditions or who have vulnerable family members; because the dangers that arose during the height of the pandemic are not over for everyone. Bargaining went to impasse last month, so no final decisions have been made and we have no information on when a mask mandate may be lifted (via a third-party decision or unilateral change by management).
OHO telework changes – Adam shared with us that there are about 40 hearing offices nationwide where telework reductions have been announced (from 4 days per week to 3 per week). This was presented as temporary, but we have since seen requests to get new telework agreements signed and indications that the change would last 6 months or longer, regardless of actual business needs at each location. AFGE is recommending that anyone affected by this who is asked to complete a new agreement, still request 4 days on telework, and then file a grievance if it is denied. We see this reduction attempt as a bellwether for what may happen in other components in the Agency; once these flexibilities are eroded with very little data or reason behind it, we can predict a movement to push it as far as they can. Nothing in Article 41 prescribes how many telework days each component may have or be capped at. Other past examples include the removal of adjudication time [partial lobby closures Wednesdays in the Field Offices (FOs)].
Open Floor / Miscellaneous:
Laura made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Adam 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.
Jackie moved to adjourn; Tonya seconded. Motion passed. The meeting ended at 6:30pm.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.