There has never been any doubt as to how much AFGE wanted to represent TSA employees once the agency was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster. When Congress and a union-busting White House refused to let TSA employees organize into a union, AFGE creatively recognized their right to join as members of an association. When management decisions drove attrition rates through the roof making it almost impossible to establish a core of long-term, local TSA “association” leaders, AFGE offered to represent anyone who signed a dues withholding form whether there was an established local at his/her airport or not. It threw tradition and national control out the window in favor of doing whatever was necessary to clear whatever hurdles the agency placed in employee rights. Employee needs, not those of the union’s political hierarchy, took precedence.  Nearly a decade later, AFGE’s time-tested understanding of what it takes to organize employees in the face of anti-union management opposition is paying off for both employees and AFGE. The TSA Council has over 15,000 AFGE dues paying members and TSA employee rights continue to grow. Here is a list of the latest addition of their rights as posted in an AFGE press release. Continue reading

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MSPB and virtually every arbitrator use the 12 so-called Douglas factors to decide whether to mitigate an adverse action penalty.  (See a complete list of the Douglas factors at the end of this posting.) It is absolutely vital that union reps assert as many of them as possible when making replies, during grievance meetings, and at arbitrations or MSPB hearings. Similarly, agency ER specialists need to make sure deciding officials address every one of them before imposing a final decision. But it is just as important to know that from time-to-time MSPB recognizes more than the 12 Douglas factors as grounds to mitigate. Here is how that works. Continue reading

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Every once in a while a dispute is ended with an agreement where the employee receives some form of compensation in returning for dropping a claim against an agency. The law has been shifting quickly in that area, particularly in terms of holding unenforceable any provisions which waive an employee’s right to pursue a statutory claim through a government agency—whether it be EEOC, the Dept. of Labor, etc. While we recommend anyone involved in crafting or administering a settlement/severance agreement check with a lawyer experienced in these particular matters before making decisions, here is a good article for non-lawyers that should give you an idea of what to look for.

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Wandering around the streets and back alleys of a collective bargaining neighborhood can be very dangerous—even fatal to one’s future career prospects as a negotiator. A new FLRA decision reminds us of a signature line in a decades-old cops and killers show called Hill Street Blues where the shift sergeant uttered the words quote above as he sent his officers out onto the streets. Check it out. A new decision out of FLRA highlights why negotiators need to be just as cautious. The agency proposed a significant change in working conditions and the union submitted only the following bargaining proposal, “The Union proposes maintaining the status quo pertaining to the [policy] until the completion of the term negotiations of the Master Agreement.  The [p]arties would then use the procedures agreed to in the new Master Agreement to address the issues in the [A]gency’s proposal.” Can you see why arbitrator and FLRA allowed the agency to refuse to bargain and unilaterally implement? [Hint, the proposal was timely, it was not de minimis, and the agency did not have a covered-by defense.] Continue reading

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In the early days of the labor law, FLRA made it quite clear that former employees or even those who had never been employed by a federal agency could hold any representational role in the union’s leadership. They did not get official time, but they had virtually any other right a bargaining unit employee would have in that role. However, thanks to the vastly increased emphasis on security, FLRA just made it harder for those not currently working for the agency to fulfil their union representation rolls. It has authorized agencies to require non-employees submit to an extensive background checks before he/she is given a PIV, CAC or other card authorizing him/her to access agency buildings and files. Here is what the Authority wrote in response to an agency’s objection to an arbitration award giving a non-employee access to agency files: Continue reading

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Billy Milton, David Scholl, Bruce Waxman, Mike Herlihy, and a few more folks acquired a lifetime of LR/ER/HR experience in the federal government. They were in government from the earliest days of the labor law in the late 70’s, litigated some of the major precedent making cases that we still rely on today and picked up a bundle of common sense about how to operate in a collective bargaining arena. For example, Billy Milton, known more formally as William Milton, started as a Custom Inspector in Treasury, worked on the staff of two national unions, and ultimately served as the Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture before retiring. We mention them only to bring out that there is a lot of tested LR/ER/HR talent among the retired federal employees and wit just a little bit or work on sources like LindedIn you can find and contact them.

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It is not unusual for a union to propose as part of reopening and modifying a master or term agreement that it be allowed to reopen certain articles for another round of negotiations at pre-set times during the life of the new master agreement. For example, the new term contract could have a three year term along with a right for the union to reopen five articles after 18 months and to engage in supplemental bargaining on a handful of only-partially-resolved issues during the first year of the new term contract. Why do they do this given it takes time away from other things they could be doing and can even cost the union some significant travel and per diem money? (Hint: Creating a chance to improve the conditions of employment in those areas is barely half the reason, if that.) Continue reading

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Fortunately for the effectiveness of the system, most losing parties accept an FLRA decision on exceptions to an arbitration award as final and implement the remedy. However, what can a party do when it still does not agree that it got a fair hearing, that the law was properly applied, or that through its own fault it missed a major argument? For example, suppose an arbitrator ruled against an agency on a grievance claiming a violation of government-wide regulation and/or statute and then not only ordered the agency to grant gobs of back pay but also change the way it administers a large system, such as the leave approval one. Continue reading

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As Congress tightens the budgetary noose around the Executive Branch of government, union negotiators need to prepare for tougher arguments from management when the union proposes an agency fund its institutional travel and per diem costs, office space needs, official time desires, attorney fee requests, etc. Looking down the road we see these bargaining conversations getting into very sensitive territory for the union. For example, Continue reading

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A big tip of our hat to NATCA for developing several videos explaining how its collaboration with the FFA works.   If you agency is struggling with the concept, these are a good source of ideas.

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