• July 19, 2024
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    Interested in learning more about the Union and what we are doing for SSA employees? Do you want to support us and be able to participate in our bimonthly Local Business Meetings to hear more about what's up?

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    Once you have done that, please come back to our page to register with us . . . THANK YOU!

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  • May 2023
    May 11, 2023

     AFGE, Local 3937 - Local Business Meeting

    May 10th, 2023

    Conference Call

    Present were:  John Pfannenstein, Laura Novakoski, Tonya Boren, Adam Neff, Janice Couoh and John Chastek.

    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.


    • Treasurer’s Report
    • Old Business
    • New Business
    • Reports
    • Minutes review

    Treasurer’s Report:

    Our Treasurer is not on today’s call, but she provided account updates: the checking account has $80,767 and the savings account has $177,232.   

    Old Business:

    Mid-term Contract Renegotiations:

    Our last LP message contained remarks from Rich Couture, our chief negotiator for the partial contract reopening.  John is also part of the bargaining team.  They have been meeting over the last several weeks regarding Articles 3, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 29 proposals.  Our objective is to increase staff retention and promote recruitment of new employees.  We need to make SSA a more competitive employer among federal and private employers. 

    We renamed Article 3 “Employee Rights and Benefits,” and included several items in our proposal that we feel would be long-term investments into the longevity of our workforce. 

    • We want to raise GS pay grades by one level for all BUEs.  Pay scales have not kept up with the cost of living, as seen in the starting wage for new TSRs (minus locality pay) of only $15.75/hour; only $.75 more than minimum wage in the state of Washington!  Once those workers understand the complexity and volume of work required, they drop out quickly.  Although AFGE cannot bargain locality and pay normally, the pay scales themselves are a permissible topic during contract bargaining [per 5 USC § 7114(b)(2)].  
    • We want to expand remote work options for caregivers – such as those with school-age children at home, or relatives with medical needs living in the home.  Workers would not be caregiving instead of or while working of course, but simply being there in the home can be essential.  This is also a concern when a new parent is lactating; there are plenty of stories where employees have been asked to use unsuitable areas in the workplace, such as a mail room or storage room.
    • We want to reform our training process, instead of having CTEs continuing to be assigned production work while trying to train new hires.  It is a disservice to the trainers/mentors, the new hires, and the public.  Establishing a training cadre would also provide mobility for others in the same office who would backfill for the CTEs who are selected to primarily train during some periods.  However, the Agency doesn’t like one-on-one mentorship and doesn’t want to back out of their investment into OTAP. 
    • The Agency’s proposals, in contrast, are retroactive, draconian, and less-than what is already in the 2019 contract.  They are especially opposed to our ideas on improvement of Union-Management meetings.  During the Clinton administration there was a partnership concept where the participants had co-equal power and negotiated changes together (this ran from about 1994-2001), cooperatively.  They want to remove a lot of their current obligations to bargain with the Union and to retain the right to make changes to the work environment without prior notice.  They want to surveil and record employees (i.e., MS Teams) and make it mandatory to appear on camera even if employees are working in the office.  They want to shorten timeframes for a response to disciplinary proposals.

    We cannot provide more details due to ongoing negotiations, but we will provide all updates possible.  It’s apparent the Agency doesn’t understand what “17 out of 17” worst places to work in the federal government means.  We’ve lost about 1000 employees per month, and our attrition rate for new hires is 16.36% within the past year.  At the rate it’s going, we could still be bargaining up through July unless we go to impasse before then; we do have a mediator assigned to work with both sides.

    New Business:

    Debt Ceiling:

    The issue of the debt ceiling must be resolved by June 1st or the U.S. defaults on all its debts.  The GOP’s proposal passed the House last week and advanced to the Senate, but if passed, it would completely devastate Social Security and Medicare, including delays in payments.  Likely outcomes could be field offices closing, shutdowns with non-essential employees furloughed and others forced to work without pay, and a 30% increase in wait times for disability determinations.  We’re already at 214 days for a DDS decision.  Even if the current proposal does not pass, a failure to come to agreement would lead to some of the same problems, as we’ve seen in prior debt ceiling grandstanding.  Public backlash and anger would likely be directed at frontline employees like us, so the Union has pressed for increased security measures which are not in place in some offices.  93% of field offices do not even have magnetometers.  Please let us know if management is not taking appropriate actions on any threats to employees or physical violence that occurs on-site.  We have seen a rise in AIRS reports (incidents that are shared with the Union) throughout the region already.     


    We discussed the new leadership in Operations; we all received announcements in emails this week.  Grace Kim, Deputy Commissioner of Operations (DCO) has been replaced rather abruptly with Michelle King.  John met with Ms. King virtually today; her background is encouraging because her career with SSA began as a bilingual Claims Specialist in the Chicago Region.  Someone in charge who has actually done the job in field offices could lever that experience and knowledge to take the Agency in the right direction. 

    Open Floor / Miscellaneous:

    Reminder about dress code – there is none!  Keep this in mind especially during warmer weather, and let us know if you are instructed what to wear or not wear.  We continued to discuss SSA’s abysmal training process and how hard it is on new hires, and also that some managers seem to get away with bullying and harassing behavior that stops short of actions that we could actually grieve.  Employees are very unhappy.

    Minutes Review:

    Adam made a motion that we accept the minutes as written and read; Janice 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; Adam seconded.  Motion passed.  The meeting ended at 6:21pm.

    Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.

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