Malcolm Pritzker, an experienced DC arbitrator, recently ruled that an agency (SSA) violated the law by withholding information from the union (AALJ) during bargaining.  The agency withheld the information, sped the dispute to the FSIP, and got one of the Panel’s politically-patented anti-union decisions imposing working conditions that employees must now live with. The union requested that Pritzker void the conditions imposed on them and return the parties to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith this time.  Pritzker, however, refused to do that.  He wrote, “I do not have the right to interfere with the procedures of the impasses panel or to intervene in the collective bargaining process, and I will not order the reopening of the negotiations between the parties.” He could not be more wrong for the following seven reasons.  Continue reading

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The COVID crisis is going to create a lot of traffic for union stewards from employees with an entire range of FMLA questions.  The web and other fed employee news sites currently are loaded with information about the FMLA-related Leave Provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), but employees will inevitably want to know more about their core FMLA rights.  Check out this FMLA quiz from our blogging buddies at the law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP which will help you dust off some things you knew and might have forgotten or fill in some gaps in your FMLA readiness.

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Some enterprising legal eagles in New York City just filed a class action lawsuit claiming that an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to employees at risk of catching COVID-19 at the job site.  Their claim is based on the requirements of the ADAAA and Rehabilitation Act. So, how long will it be before some federal union files a similar claim with EEOC to force an employer to provide fed employees reasonable accommodation? It is unlikely the union could file on behalf of all federal employees at once or even all in one bargaining unit.  But if they narrow the class to those with common employment conditions this just might work.  Legal action might be all it takes to force an agency to allow employees to continue to telework despite the President groveling for someone—anyone—to go back to the office.  If an agency does no relent, then the employees just might be eligible for reinstatement of any leave they have to take, compensatory damages, attorney fees, and a few other remedies. If you want to know more about an employee’s right to a reasonable accommodation to deal with COVID-19, check out Section D of this new EEOC issuances.

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UNION REP TEST #5 (Negotiations –An Agency’s Specific Notice Obligation)

We have said it often before.  The biggest process mistake management can make while bargaining is to violate this obligation, and aggressive enforcement of this obligation by the union increases its visibility, credibility, and bargaining clout.  Simply stated, the law requires management to give the union “specific notice” of any change in conditions of employment before the agency can implement the change. But there are a lot of subtleties and details union negotiators should know well.  We have posed 10 True-False questions below followed by the answers.  Test yourself to get a sense of how well you know this area of law. Continue reading

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UNION REP TEST #4 (EEO- Medical Information Privacy)

The rehabilitation Act prohibits managers from disclosing physical or mental medical information they have about an employee to anyone without a legitimate reason to know.  Nonetheless, managers repeatedly ignore the rule and violate the employee’s right to privacy. Consequently, it will help employees get corrective action including money damages if union reps are familiar with the many situations in which the law is violated.  Below are a series of situations where medical information was disclosed.  See if you can identify the ones where the law was violated and those where the manager did nothing wrong. The answers are at the end of the quiz questions. Continue reading

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A few days ago Jim Abbott, one of the President’s more dishonorable appointees, threw the doors open for all the world to see the hypocrite he is. Although he agreed with his colleagues on how a case should be resolved substantively, he went out of his way to criticize them for not providing the thousands of actual labor-management practitioners who must administer the law labor law with clearly written decisions.  Here is what he wrote in a dissent; “I recently reminded my colleagues that the Authority’s decisions must be clear, concise, and easily understood by the federal labor-management relations community.” (DoD, DLA, and AFGE, Local 1992, 71 FLRA 729 (2020)) We could not agree more with the idea that FLRA pronouncements must be easily understood, but Jim Abbott has a long record of issuing some of the most unintelligible decisions in FLRA history and is the last person on the planet who should be leveling that criticism at others.  Just look at the muddled decisions he has issued. Continue reading

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Read over the facts below and identify what, if anything, the union can do to help. The answer is provided below the facts. FACTS: Assume that an employee’s administrative workweek starts in the wee hours of Sunday morning and goes through to midnight the following Saturday. Let’s call the employee Keisha. During the last year, she has always had a tour of duty running from Tuesday through Saturday starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 4: 30 p.m. Those were her regularly scheduled 40 hours. However, due to management’s COVID-related desire to reduce the number of people in the office at one time, the agency’s regional manager decided to adjust the schedules of the people in Keisha’s work unit.  Keisha’s new hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, but the rest of the week she is to work from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Everyone in Keisha’s unit had similar changes.  The first time the union rep heard this change was coming was when Keisha told him.  What should the union rep do?  Continue reading

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Expecting FLRA’s Abbott and Kiko to think even one baby step beyond their hatred of unions is like assuming Charley Manson will take good care of your pregnant wife while you are out of town. These two Trump appointees are haters and long ago decided that to get ahead personally in government they would slash away at collective bargaining rights.  While that surely gives them a thrill each time they do it, they seem oblivious to how much it also screws up the workability of the supervisor-employee relationship.  Continue reading

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Once our President has completed his Clorox Chewables treatments we can expect him to order the feds to head back to the office—if for no other reason than he needs that PR to boost the pressure on governors who insist on listening to scientists about when to reopen. Unions can expect a lot of members to be very unhappy about this, especially where Trump orders them to get on the local roads despite their governor’s orders to continue to shelter. Assuming no federal union figures out how to get a judge to overturn the President’s order because he lacks the authority to override rules about state and local roads, it will be up the union’s negotiators to go to the table to soften the impact on unit employees.  Although we won’t say where we got them from, here are some of the bargaining interests unions are likely to pursue.
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In real estate it is Location, Location, Location. In unions it is Membership, Membership, Membership that is the single most important, quantitative measure of the quality of a union. For years we have shined a spotlight on AFGE which for 18 consecutive years increased its net membership over the previous year. No other federal employee union did that, making AFGE a union against which other unions should measure themselves. But it appears we missed what was happening at NFFE.  Since the end of 2006 NFFE has had a 43% net increase in membership.  Even AFGE only had a 41% growth rate during that time. That is great news for NFFE and moves it onto our list of unions that other organizations should benchmark themselves against.  If your union has not had a long string of consecutive years with significant net membership growth like AFGE or failed to pile up a double-digit overall growth percentage like NFFE and AFGE over the last dozen years, then it is time to examine operations.  Look especially for signs you are still trying to recruit members like we did in the 80’s. If your recruiting program relies solely on flyers, posters, and once a year sign-up tables in the cafeteria, you have a problem—and you have had it for at least a decade. Today, unions must be just as aggressive as Walmart or any other private business scrambling for market share.  For example, if Walmart leaders were running a union it likely would be – Continue reading

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