AFGE LOCAL 2505
Representing SSA Field Office Employees in Oklahoma
July, 2009 – Volume IV, No. 3
It had to happen eventually: a swine flu outbreak in the SSA office in Milwaukee. Naturally, management didn’t tell the Union or notify the public.
Just a quick reminder about your rights:
If someone in your office has been diagnosed with swine flu or you have been exposed while on the job, management WILL provide timely testing and there will be no cost to your leave or for the exam.
PLEASE contact the Union if your leave request or ADVANCED leave request is denied because: you are sick or other household members show swine flue symptoms or your child’s school or day-care has closed because of swine flu and you must stay home with your child. Please contact the Union if a co-worker is diagnosed with swine flu! Document any exposure at work in the event you wish to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Remember to wash your hands regularly, keeping all cuts covered with bandages and keeping your interviewing desk clean throughout the day. SSA is supposed to provide masks, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer soap and tissues!
Settlements & Resolutions
SSA settled the grievance filed by the Union in Enid and Muskogee after SSA charged employees who were late for IVT training leave. The employees had the charged leave because they were late restored.
SSA settled appraisal grievances in Enid and Shawnee, raising the appraisal of the two employees who grieved their appraisals, making them ROC eligible.
SSA settled the grievances filed by employees in Shawnee and McAlester over SSA’s refusal to consider them for non-competitive, 120 day details to a GS-12 Technical Expert Position. Both employees began their GS-12 details on June 8!
In Shawnee, management denied an employee’s request for funeral leave. An email from the Union resulted in the denial being changed to an approval.
In Muskogee and Oklahoma City, SSA failed to purge employees’ SF-7B Extension Files timely. (Generally, that is after a year). The Union filed a Section 10 grievance. Management agreed to purge the 7B’s and give the purged documents to the employees.
In Pine Bluff, the Local Representative, Amanda Lamb, emailed management about its policy NOT to permit CWS employees to work overtime on their CWS off day. While management never formally replied to her email, the next time Saturday overtime was offered, management asked the CWS employees if they wanted to work overtime on their CWS off day instead of Saturday.
In Arkansas, a GS 8, Step 3, SR was promoted in February, 2008, to CR GS 9, Step 1. The employee asked the Union in early June, 2009, for help because she believed she should have been promoted to a GS 9, Step 2. As we go to press, RO has corrected the promotion, the subsequent WIGI and begun calculating the appropriate amount of back pay.
Employees in Muskogee were flexing in under the SMALL OFFICE FLEX PLAN. The Union filed a grievance. SSA agreed that Muskogee should be using the LARGE OFFICE FLEX PLAN. Such victories help not only the members but the non-members. There is something intrinsically noble about telling your non-union co-workers that they are freeloaders and should join the Union!
In Harrison, because of the press of work, a new appointment systems and people on leave, one of our members missed their morning break. Before they missed their afternoon break, the employee contacted the Union. The Union emailed management, including a copy of an arbitration which the Union won on the very issue of an employee missing break. That afternoon, the employee got a 30 minute break.
In Pine Bluff, an employee stayed until 5:40 with a late interview. SSA initially refused to pay the employee. The Union intervened. SSA paid the overtime.
Problems Continue in the Face of Favorable Agency Ranking
WASHINGTON – Despite a top ten ranking by the Partnership for Public
Service, the Social Security Administration continues to be an agency in
dire need of new leadership according to the American Federation of
Government Employees, who represent more than 48,000 Social Security workers
across the United States.
“While we applaud the noble endeavor of the Partnership for Public Service to recognize excellence in federal government agencies, we can’t ignore the unfiltered facts that come to us from our members at SSA – that the policies put in place by SSA Commissioner Astrue continue to press unnecessary hardships on employees and degrade one of the nation’s most responsive and best-run public agencies into a troubled organization that no longer serves the best interests of retired and disabled Americans and their families.”
A January 2009 GAO report documented the current conditions at SSA field offices around the country. SSA staff visited by GAO indicated that they have less time to spend with customers, “potentially leading to mistakes and also limiting the ability of staff to ensure that customers fully understand their options and benefits.” That, in turn, has increased the stress on SSA employees.
GAO asked 153 SSA employees at 21 offices to rate their stress levels they experienced trying to complete their work in a “timely manner,” and 65 percent reported feeling stress to a “great” or “very great” degree. The stress, GAO said, was felt most acutely by office managers, 74 percent of whom described high levels of stress. Moreover, the workload pressures have “led to cutbacks in the amount of time allocated for training and mentoring new staff,” while SSA has reduced the number of continuing disability reviews and SSI redeterminations that are conducted to ensure that disability beneficiaries are paid the correct amounts.
“The data from the GAO report and the reports from our field offices do not paint a rosy picture,” continued Gage. “These are the facts and the horror stories we get in from the field. They can’t be ignored.”
Further underscoring the stress and dissatisfaction from SSA employees is a recent arbitration ruling for a grievance filed by the Association of Administration Law Judges (AALJ) where Arbitrator Michael Murphy issued a stinging rebuke of Commissioner Astrue’s conduct. In his meetings with the judges, the arbitrator wrote, Astrue acted “in an abrupt, abusive and hostile manner.” One of the judges, a former deputy general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, testified after his meeting with Astrue that he “had never been treated in such a discourteous manner” and “fully appreciated” from Astrue’s actions “how threatened a union member could feel.”
Moreover, policy changes enacted by Commissioner Astrue’s administration recently prompted the AFL CIO Executive Council, along with the AFGE Social Security General Committee leadership, to issue a no confidence vote in Commissioner Astrue’s ability to effectively and successfully lead the agency.
“Since its inception, Social Security employees have delivered quality service to America’s retired and disabled. It is tragic that their ability to perform this service has been hindered by faulty leadership,” concluded Gage.
Congratulations to Oklahoma City members Justin Magee, Tammy Niles and Jeffrey Wade for their Commissioner’s Citation honoring them for their work in the DDS/FO Outreach Team that takes disability applications at the City / Rescue Mission, VA and OK Department of Corrections!
Congratulations to (former) Little Rock Local Representative Kathy Holsomback on her becoming an MSS! We hate to lose a rep and a member to management, but, we are happy for her and wish her success in her new position. Since she was a Union Rep, as a new member of management, she knows what the Union can do when management doesn’t do right by employees! Her learning curve will not be as steep or difficult as it is for other management members who seem to think their promotions are a right and that employees are merely stepping stones on their career path to bigger and greater things!
Members of the public with TB have walked into Field Offices in West Memphis, Tulsa and McAlester (that the Union knows of).
You can find the SSA TB interviewing Policy at: http://ssahost.ba.ssa.gov/ofm/documents/TB%20policy.doc
You do NOT have to take the interview! Per the policy:
You must alert management!
SSA should give you administrative leave to go to the Health Department for testing. The Union would recommend that you file a CA-1/CA-2 to protect yourself in the event you test positive…which means that your family and household members should be tested also. The Union believes that management should also file an Incident Report.
Worker’s Compensation can be a frustrating and confusing process.
Imagine if we took disability applications and then denied them (1) because the wrong forms were used BUT we wouldn’t tell the public what the correct forms were; (2) because no medical evidence was provided even though the forms don’t ask for medical evidence; and (3) you go to a hearing to be told you didn’t provide evidence and you show them you did and they say, “Whoops! We missed it the first time! It’s already in the file.” That can be Workers’ Compensation for Federal Employees at its worst.
Workers Compensation, like statutory appeals of adverse actions and EEO complaints (see Article 2), is a process in which the Union does NOT have to represent employees and in which we CANNOT represent employees as Union Representatives and must use our personal leave.
Local 2505 2nd Vice President, Mary Roberts, won her first OWCP hearing. You can read about it at: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Health%20and%20Safety/cyberfeds_ralph.htm and http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Health%20and%20Safety/Ralph_OWCP_Hearing_Win.pdf
Mary Roberts had to use ˝ a day of annual leave. Ralph de Juliis had to use a day of annual leave and travel over 200 miles round trip to the hearing. For what? Restoration of 2 hours of sick leave and $120 in out of pocket dental costs…which still has not been paid.
The Union believes that it and the employees we represent MUST take a stand on principle. SSA must not be allowed to get away with ignoring employees’ rights!
Despite the National level grievance on awards, awards should be issued in July.
If you received TWO level 5 ratings in your PACS elements, you have an overall average of 4 and are ROC eligible.
What do you do if you don’t get a ROC? CONTACT THE UNION!!
Everyone else is ECSA eligible.
The criteria for an ECSA may be found in Article 17, Section 4.C:
An ECSA is a cash award which recognizes individual contributions to group achievement and performance that have promoted the mission of the Agency or extraordinary acts performed while on duty. Award amounts should be linked to the significance and impact of the accomplishment or contribution. The minimum amount to be awarded for an ECSA is two hundred dollars. To be eligible for an ECSA an employee must perform an extraordinary service or act ion connection with or related to official duty, or demonstrate exemplary contributions to group performance
If you don’t get an ECSA, think about what you have done since 10/1/2008 and how it is “extraordinary” or “demonstrates exemplary contributions to group performance.” AND …
CONTACT THE UNION!!
One final word, you may get an award and find it is less than your colleagues. CONTACT THE UNION!!
Nationally, the Union found that the dollar ranges recommended for bilingual employees is LOWER than the range for employees who do not bring a second language skill to the job. It is unclear why that is; but, don’t suffer financially in silence! CONTACT THE UNION!
Enough Said on the subject of awards!
During the last century, every district in Oklahoma and Arkansas was its own local. Starting in the80’s with the first national contract, such locals began merging because, frankly, the smaller locals were having trouble representing their members. SSA had too many lawyers; decisions were dictated by the Area Office, which claimed it was just following orders of RO and of CO.
At the Local’s April meeting, Local 2505 voted to accept the responsibility for representing SSA Field Office employees in Arkansas IF the Arkansas Field Office Local (Local 3291) voted to merge. As this goes to press, the Arkansas members are voting on whether to merge with our Local!
“Small geographically-based unions made sense when employers were local operations. Today when dealing with national … companies with deep pockets, it’s a different ball games. Union … will have to find ways to restructure themselves in order to have leverage… Merging local unions is a smart way to do that.” Ken Jacobs, University of California, Berkley, Center for Labor Research and Education.
LOCAL 2505 UPDATE
Our Oklahoma membership continues to grow! For the first time in the history of the local, over one-half of the Oklahoma employees are Local members! Our active membership is 154. Our total membership is 160 AND we have several employees whose membership forms haven’t been processed yet!
As you can see from the first page article about SETTLEMENTS, Local 2505 is not just about membership; we are about representing our members and our increased membership is a reflection of our representational effectiveness and letting the members know we are working for them! Please check out our website at: www.afgelocal2505.org for issues that don’t make the newsletter!
I want to share my ENTHUSIASM for a merger of the OK and AR Locals! I think it would be a GREAT idea and would be GREAT for both of our Locals!!
WE would become a new, stronger Local: the Arkansas-Oklahoma Local. This is NOT about AR or OK losing their identity; this is about a new, more dynamic and more effective Local with DOUBLE the number of members each of us had before. Truly, the sum will be GREATER than the parts!
Just to respond briefly to a couple of the "cons" below:
"larger geographical area / more costly representation (travel, etc)."
The AFGE SSA Field Office Local in Boston covers the entire Region. The AFGE SSA Field Office Local in Seattle covers the entire Region (including Alaska). There are two Field Office Locals in the Philadelphia Region: one for Maryland and one for all the other states. There are two SSA Field Office Locals in the Denver Region: One for the Salt Lake City Offices and the other for the rest of the Region (ND, SD, CO, WY). There is one Local in the Atlanta Region for NC, SC, No GA and Western TN.
It is not a problem anywhere else. It is a matter of desire and motivation. I have it.
Arkansas hasn’t had Local Membership meetings in over a year.
In upstate NY, the Locals authorize their officers and reps official time to travel Friday morning and have the afternoon for training and representational discussions for each office and then have our internal meeting Saturday morning so everyone can leave by noon. The Local also reimburses travel and accommodations and food. They have found that insures that the activists and officers come from all over the Local and not just one office where they know each other, work together and see each other daily.
"might be harder to get involved and participate"
There is a participation problem now: the Chief Steward position has never been filled. The EVP got promoted and hasn’t been replaced. No one expressed interest in doing a newsletter or website. It can’t get any harder than it currently is!
Since becoming Local President, I have notified SSA that ALL agreements are subject to membership ratification. That is just one way we try to get everyone involved.
Since becoming a Local Officer, I have visited EVERY office in my Local. I have found that employees are not very comfortable raising their issues and complaints to people they don’t know and haven’t met. Internet bios and emails aside, actually talking to someone face-to-face and shaking their hand is very important. In a NEW Local, the first order of business is to visit every office so y’all can get to know who we are and what you can expect from us. OUR NEW LOCAL will make sure that the members know we will be there when they need us! THAT in turn will let them know that when they get involved, they won’t be stuck out on a limb!
I would like to note that Local 2505 has officers from Tulsa, McAlester, Oklahoma City, Moore and Enid. (If you don't know how geographically spread out our officers are, please see: http://dalnet.kc.ssa.gov/area7/Area_map.htm.) Our officers are never been from the same office, tucked away in one corner of the state. We get and keep people involved by telephone and email. AND, we have been very successful at it!
We put our meeting minutes up on the website so that everyone who wants to know what is going on knows: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Minutes/Minutes.htm
Additionally, we put our constitution up on the website: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/2505%20Constitution%20and%20Bylaws.htm; we put our Department of Labor Required Reports up on the website: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/LM%20Reports/LM%20Report%202005.htm.
We also try to put up grievances, ULPs, bargaining requests and MOUs, guidance the reps can use, Health and Safety Reports, OSHA complaints, etc, on the website. http://www.afgelocal2505.org/LM%20Reports/LM%20Report%202005.htm , http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Health%20&%20Safety.htm
The Reps and the members can see what has been filed; what has been won; what is happening in other offices. Many members are reluctant to be seen talking to the Union, especially if they aren't sure the Union can do anything to help them. So, the members can see for themselves the kinds of cases over which we have gone to bat for employees!
Let me assure you that if you email, I will not take weeks to get back to you. If you phone, I will answer. (I no longer give my SSA phone number or home number because I don't usually answer them. I answer my cell phone: 918-781-3096).
"How trained are his successors"
Uh… there is no successor to your last EVP. There is no Chief Steward. Some one has to be interested and motivated in order to be trained.
Local 2505 EVP Carol Lewis (see our bio page) has done two arbitrations with me, successfully getting a probationary employee's job back with $40,000 in back pay and getting a 2 day suspension reversed. 1st VP Mitzi Brooks is a TE with TWO, not one but TWO, Commissioner's Citations under her belt. She was lateralled into an OS position for over 2 years. Mitzi and I are bargaining the creation of a contact station in Woodward and are awaiting SSA's response to our latest proposal. 2nd VP Mary Roberts did an arbitration with me and an OWCP Hearing.
"How long will he continue"
When I no longer look forward to getting my cup of Starbucks and coming to work to see what has happened and what needs to be done next, when there is no longer a thrill and challenge in besting SSA, it will be time for me to pass the reins. Right now, I am having the TIME OF MY LIFE! I LOVE what I do! I am passionate about it! I am zealous and fervent! (Did I mention that my ex-wife gets 1/4 of my Civil Service retirement? That is also a consideration I must factor into any retirement decision!)
Right now Local 2505 is doing things "they" said couldn't be done: Appraisal/Awards: 3 different employees filed a grievance on their awards. We got them a higher appraisal AND the commensurate ROC to go with it. An employee filed a grievance on non-selection: we settled at step 1. An employee was denied permission for outside employment. "They" said it wasn't grievable; AND, we got SSA to give the employee permission anyway. "They" said that there was no hope in arbitrating the removal of a probationary employee. We won. In short, very little is impossible if one tries and stays with it!
I hope my enthusiasm, passion and commitment convinces you that a merger of our two locals will be a good thing and will work!
In summation, the PROS of a merger far outweigh the CONS!
*Leadership with National negotiations and arbitration experience / a track record / knowledge.
*Respect of the Union, Union Leadership and Local Representatives
*Website *Accessible *Newsletter.
*More aggressive leadership.
*Expert in formal processes.
*Someone with a lot of national contacts to serve as a go between for members and Council.
*Knowledgeable about Union benefits and how to use them.
*Leadership with concrete solutions to specific problems.
*Leadership with an existing reputation among management in Arkansas.
*Better working environment through inclusion of input of Local Reps
*More monitoring of offices and office managers and their policies.
*Eradication of unwritten policies that violate the contract.
*Effective enforcement of the Contract.
*More communication with the reps over issues specific to their office.
*More information distribution to members.
*Creation of opportunities for involvement.
*More flexibility and innovation in meetings - times/locations etc.
*More protection and support for members.
*Safer/healthier workplaces through enforcement of Contract.
*More money and bigger budget
*Fiscally sound structure.
Let us make a stronger Union and a better working environment for ourselves together!
Ralph C. de Juliis, President
AFGE Local 2505
The Union won several years of overtime for an Iowa SSA employee. We have a similar situation in Hugo over which a grievance was filed because management turned a blind eye to employees working off the clock.
The Union understands that you feel like it is YOUR WORK. It is NOT! It is the government’s work; and, if the government does not properly staff, it simply isn’t possible to get to everything by the close of business today!
PLEASE remember last year and the RZ moratorium. Donating your time is the same.
Our sister Local, 1164, in the Boston Region, has filed a National Grievance concerning credit hour restrictions. Those restrictions include limiting the number of credit hours an employee may work in a pay period, restricting which employees may earn credit hours and restrictions when employees can work credit hours.
Please remember, these are the SAME MANAGERS who tell you there is no overtime for your unit. These are the same managers who say something is wrong with you if you can’t get all your work done AND take your break…AND who are harassing you daily with lists and email reminders about over 30 this and that!
One office has a policy that gives blanket approval for three hours per pay period but, on a case-by-case basis, will let employees earn another 25 hours per pay period. So far, no one has been denied or there would be another grievance. Yet, management has really leaned on the employees who have been granted credit hours NOT to use them from 9 am through 4 pm when there are interviews to be taken. As a result, the employees really don’t bother to ask to earn more credit hours.
Please ask. Please request to use them when YOU want to. Please contact your local representative and file a grievance if SSA doesn’t approve your request!!
Your rights are USELESS if you don’t exercise them. Just like your annual leave, your employee rights are USE or LOSE!!
SSA and AFGE have sat down to bargain ground rules. You might think that pre-contract proposal bargaining was going smoothly since Commissioner Astrue told the press, The Federal Times:
You try to talk directly, develop relationships. … In general, if you commit yourself and this is true on both sides of the table, to talking regularly, candidly and professionally, people find common ground. ... But if you don’t talk on a regular basis, you miss some of those opportunities.
Just an example of the issues in disputes: SSA does not want to provide the employees with copies of the agreement so that you know what you are ratifying. It goes without saying that if you don’t get a copy of the contract, you won’t know what your rights are and management can get away with whatever it wants!
Proposed Retirement Changes: House Republicans have proposed leaders to reduce the retirement annuities of federal workers and require them to work longer to receive their full earned annuity.
The proposals, set forth in a policy agenda released on June 4 by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), recommend that the federal civilian annuity calculation be based on the highest five years of salary instead of the highest three years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that “the average new Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) retiree would receive about $1,250 less in 2008 and $6,530 less over five years than under current law.”
In addition, the Boehner/Cantor paper recommends that federal civilian employees not be afforded their earned annuity until they reach age 62, under any circumstance. Currently, employees can retire at age 55 if they have 30 or more years of service or at age 60 if they have 20 or more years of service. Federal public safety employees are required to retire by age 57, and air traffic controllers must retire by age 56.
Paid Leave For The Birth Or Adoption: On June 4, legislation, H.R. 626, to provide federal employees paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child was approved by the House of Representatives. Specifically, the bill provides that, of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act, federal employees be allowed to substitute 4 weeks of paid leave, as well as any accrued annual or sick leave, for the birth or adoption of a child.
HEALTH & SAFETY
If you visit the Local’s Health and Safety Web page, you’ll see that Webmaster, Amanda Lamb, has posted several incident reports: Pepper Spraying in Enid; Anthrax scares in McAlester and Okmulgee; Indoor Quality Air Concerns in Shawnee and Okmulgee; Mold in Hugo. SSA failed to complete incident reports on the TB exposures in Tulsa, McAlester and West Memphis. McAlester has suffered from regurgitating toilets (ala Harry Potter). Pine Bluff has been closed because of power failures and no water.
If you have an immune deficiency disorder, any respiratory sensitivity or are being treated for any chronic condition, if you are pregnant, if you are recuperating from surgery, you may have a higher risk and greater sensitivity to building related problems. Talk to your supervisor about your medical concerns. You can ask for a reasonable accommodation, a temporary detail to another office or exercise your rights under Article 39 to Work At Home By Exception. As always, if management is not accommodating, PLEASE CONTACT THE UNION!
The Union or an Employee Advisory Group?
(Why One Employee Chooses the Union)
After reading your clarification, I would have to say that I do not wish to continue my membership.
I would like to explain why.
BAAC's main objectives are to encourage and promote equality in service for the African American community and to ensure that the public is well informed about their rights under the programs SSA administers. BAAC monitors the equal employment and public outreach efforts of the Agency to better serve their constituents. BAAC's major initiatives include the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, community outreach programs, health issues that affect African Americans and career development activities for SSA employees. http://co.ba.ssa.gov/ocreo/advisory.htm#BAAC
Also see: “The BAAC web site is an effective communications tool that allows the membership to focus on issues that affect African American employees ..." http://www.baac.org/
From my perspective, BAAC is controlled by SSA management. This is not reflected in what BAAC does, but rather what it does not (or cannot) do. I am referring to addressing discrimination in the workplace.
For instance, a white manager didn't send in a black employee's transcript showing that the new hire employee had a Master's Degree plus. She was hired as an SR. Her SF-50 showed her education level as GED. BAAC does nothing to help because it is not your mission to help employees who are victims of discrimination.
For instance, a highly skilled and experienced black female employee trains the young white guy in the office only to have him placed on the fast track and promoted above her, despite having minimal years on the job and being less qualified.
For instance, ST2DW unit was dissolved. The white employees get other GS-12s while the African-American gets to go back to a GS-11, and is expected to do so with a team player attitude!
For instance, in Oklahoma, a DM repeatedly made racial slurs. When an employee complained, management told the employee to take their complaint to the Union!? They did. See: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Representation/Poteau/Poteau_EEO.htm)
For instance, four employees made improper CPS payments. The minority employees were harshly disciplined. The white employee was not disciplined and, in fact, was promoted.
For instance, in Oklahoma again, a white ADM charged an African-American employee leave for collecting money from employees during a Black History Month function. BAAC was nowhere. The Union helped the employee: http://www.afgelocal2505.org/Representation/OKC_leave_restoration_Win.pdf
While BAAC may oppose these injustices IN THEORY, to do so IN PRACTICE would mean that African-American SSA management officials would have to butt heads with their white management colleagues. A BAD career move for them personally, even though it is a good move to eradicate discrimination in Social Security.
I know and understand that BAAC isn't the Union. I now realize that workplace justice for minorities isn't even on the agenda, and that as a management oriented organization, workplace discrimination will be neither opposed nor cured.
Thank you for hearing me out.
AFGE Local 2505 Contact Information
PLEASE NOTE the Changes!
Ralph de Juliis - President
Work: 866-931-7110 ext 27873
Carol A. Lewis – Executive Vice President
Work: 918-423-1631 ext. 117
Magda Mashburn – Secretary - Treasurer
Work: 405-605-3001 ext 3981
Mitzi Brooks – 1st Vice President
Work: 580-237-1664 ext. 202
Mary Roberts – 2nd Vice President
Work: 866-964-4262 ext 26412
Amanda Lamb – Webmaster
Work: 866-563-9693 ext 18216
AFGE Local 2505 Newsletter: July, 2009
Ms Magda Mashburn, Secretary-Treasurer
3837 Highpoint Court
Norman, Oklahoma 73072-5023
AFGE Local 2505
Saturday, July 18, 2009 at
Martin Regional Library
2601 S. Garnett (26th Street & Garnett Rd)
Time: 11:00 AM
Call to Order
Vote on taking member grievances to arbitration