An old DOD management tactic is to not only demand lots of small units on their military bases, but also to keep them isolated from one another.  It keeps them weak. AFGE just overcame serious DOD opposition to consolidating the police at Dover Air Force base with other on-base employees and even non-appropriated fund employees. This means that DOD unions can now get serious about building larger units, which inevitably improves union leadership, expertise and clout. Here is how AFGE convinced FLRA in their Dover Air Force Base case. (AFGE, 66 FLRA No. 169, (2012))

The Union filed a petition to consolidate the following three nonprofessional-employee bargaining units at the Base: (1) a unit of police officers who are appropriated-fund employees; (2) a unit of other appropriated-fund employees (APFs); and (3) a unit of non-appropriated-fund employees (NAFs). Management challenged the consolidation of the police and other appropriated fund units with the unit of NAFs.

Consolidation cases like this turn on the following questions about whether consolidation would (1) ensure a clear and identifiable community of interest among the employees in the unit; (2) promote effective dealings with the Activity; and (3) promote efficiency of the Activity’s operations. The FLRA held that AFGE met the criteria because all the employees are “geographically co-located at Dover AFB.” In addition, although there is little occupational overlap between APFs and NAFs generally, some APFs and some NAFs work “side-by-side” as childcare workers at the installations’ Childcare Development Center and at the installation’s Youth Center. It further noted that all the employees share a community of interest. Specifically, the (1) the commander sets general policies that apply to all [of the] employees; (2) the employees are subject to the same general working conditions applicable to the entire Dover installation; (3) the employees are organizationally located throughout the Activity; (4) the two labor relations/personnel offices support the same mission; (5) NAFs are subject to the “same overall chain of command” as the other employees; and (6) the job duties performed [by APFs and NAFs] are interrelated, and in some cases identical.

The Authority dismissed management’s primary arguments, namely,

Although police officers and some NAFs have unique functions, there was still a high degree of commonality and integration of the mission and functions of all components of the Activity. For example, police officers provide vital security services to employees in all other units, and NAFs provide food, meeting, recreation, childcare[,] and other services to employees in other units. FLRA had no doubt that all of the employees work in some way to support the mission of the Activity.

While the employees in the unit are subject to different (1) pay systems, (2) rules regarding discipline, (3) classification systems, (4) policies regarding merit promotions, hiring, firing, layoffs, and recall, (5) chains of command, and (6) organizational structure, that was not an obstacle to consolidation because it found that the commander sets policies applicable to all employees and that the labor relations/personnel offices support the same mission, e.g. all contract negotiations are conducted at the Dover AFB level, the commander oversees all labor relations, and the commander regularly makes base-wide personnel policy decisions.

Finally, FLRA concluded that, on balance the three units did share a community of interest, consolidated unit would promote effective dealings with the AFB, and there was no evidence that the consolidation would result in additional costs, loss of productivity, or use of resources.

We all owe AFGE a debt for breaking through this line of DOD objections to mixing base police or other AFEs with NAFs.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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