The New York Times just published a headline story entitled, “How Fed Ex Cut Its Tax Bill to Zero.” But we think a better title for the federal employee community would be the one we led with above. After all, Fed Ex could not earn a dime if federal tax money was not massively pumped into maintaining the roads their trucks drive on nor on operating what is the most efficient air traffic control system in the world.  Since Fed Ex opened its doors, hundreds of billions of tax dollars have gone into those two national assets so that Americans and American commerce could benefit. On top of those are other benefits Fed Ex reaps from tax dollars, e.g., the DoD training of pilots that the company ultimately hires, the airports tax dollars built and maintain, the deliveries the Post Office does for Fed Ex because it cannot earn a profit going to remote locations, the millions spent by the federal government itself using Fed Ex to deliver its own packages, etc. All federal employee should feel offended by Fed Ex stiffing our national treasury and making their jobs that much harder due to inadequate resources.  Fed Ex is not the only big corporation that is exploiting the system, but it is one that feds in every government office in the country could send a message when they decide how to route their express mail. After, all, if yet another conglomerate chooses not to support federal operations whys should feds support it?

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PASS ME ON TO UNIT MEMBERS You may never have filed a grievance challenging a management decision, but thousands of federal employees do each year and many get the corrective action they wanted—whether it be new jobs, back pay, retroactive leave, respect, or something else. Here is a list of the 25 management decisions that federal employees grieve most often. Continue reading

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QUESTION: An employee stops her union rep, you, in the cafeteria to report that her manager will no longer let her telework the three days a week she has for the last year. H he has limited her to one day a week. When the rep asks her why the manager did this, the employee reports that the manager told her his new third line manager has asked everyone to cut back on telework. The rep went on to check if any of the grounds in the contract for decreasing telework applied and assured himself none did. The employee said she would agree to file a grievance, but only if the remedy was worthwhile.  Otherwise, she would prefer to stay on the manager’s good side to see if she can change his mind over time.  Which of the following remedies can the union get from an arbitrator for the employee under law?

  1. A cease and desist order returning her to three days a week of telework,
  2. Reimbursement for the cost of coming to work on the two telework days a week denied her,
  3. Overtime for the time she spent traveling to work on the two telework days denied her,
  4. An order that she be allowed to telework three days a week for the next 12 months, and/or
  5. Reinstatement of any annual or sick leave the employee took because she was not teleworking.

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Although management usually has more power than employees, a union rep with expert knowledge of what law, regulation and contract already entitled employees to and who knows multiple ways to solve the same problem can tame that power substantially. Given that most unions do little to tell its local officers and stewards about developments stemming from cases other than their own union’s work, Fedsmill tries to keep those folks up to date on developments no matter which union or venue generates the developments. Moreover, one of the great failings of the American education system is that it does not spend six seconds over the first 18 years of a citizen’s life educating them on the employment laws, regulations, and practices that will control the next 50 or so years they will spend in the work force.  In contrast, hours are spent on such “vital” life skills as the Peloponnesian War, … Continue reading

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FLRA just issued a decision in which it upheld an agency’s right to unilaterally terminate the terms of an existing labor agreement because the labor agreement said either party had the right to do so X days after the term of the agreement ended. Let’s assume that is a correct reading of that contract. But, that hardly clears the path for the agency to do what it wants because labor agreements have two natures.  First, they exist to memorialize the parties’ agreements on the way things should be done, e.g., vacancy announcements must be posted for ten days, overtime must be equitably distributed, etc. They also exist, however, to create a benchmark for identifying changes in the way things are done. For example,… Continue reading

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Kudos to the Dept. of Agriculture executive who took on the bogus promotion selection system at Agriculture and won big. She filed an (EEO) complaint alleging that she was discriminated against based on her gender when from 2010 to the present Agriculture failed to pay her at a level similar to a male employee performing similar work. She claimed that violated the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In May 2010, the Agency offered the Complainant the position of Associate Chief Information Officer (ACIO), at a starting salary of $159,416, lower than her male predecessor’s starting salary of $172,200 in 2008.  HR tried to explain this away by claiming that the Complainant and her male comparator were hired by different people and therefore there was no intent to discriminate. Sounds hugely bogus to us, but EEOC slapped Agriculture’s argument down by pointing out that. . . Continue reading

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Not long ago a major federal sector union issued a press release about the impact of Trump’s looming anti-federal employee personnel regulations.  This was its lead sentence. The Office of Personnel Management today took another step toward dismantling due process rights for public-sector workers in the federal government. There is nothing technically wrong with it, but it misses an opportunity to remind Americans just who these anti-employee proposals are going to hurt. It seems to us that a better lead for any union press release focused on Trump’s revenge against federal employee and their unions should read like this. “The Office of Personnel Management today took another step toward dismantling due process rights for the largest group of military veterans and disabled employees in the country—federal employees.”  Unions are fighting with at least one arm tied behind their own back by ignoring the benefit of actively allying with organizations representing veteran and disabled employees. They should be proud of feds having not only the most diverse workforce of any sizable employer in the country, but also of being the primary employer of veterans and the disabled.

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A recent FLRA decision opens with these three sentences, “In this case, Arbitrator Anthony R. Orman, found that the Agency violated Article 21, Section 4 of the parties’ collective-bargaining agreement by failing to distribute overtime in a “fair and equitable manner.”[ But he denied the Union’s requested backpay remedy because the Union failed to show which employees were available and would have accepted the opportunity to work the overtime.  We find that the Arbitrator’s denial of backpay is not contrary to the Back Pay Act (BPA). Continue reading

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Imagine you are in this situation.  You are in term negotiations and the agency refused to bargain over three provisions that have been in the agreement for more than a decade.  It claims they are suddenly non-negotiable.  When the larger dispute went to the Panel for resolution, in line with its anti-union approach to life no matter how much it hurt employees, the Panel ruled that it would resolve all the disputes except for the ones the agency alleged to be non-negotiable. When the Panel spit out a final decision, the agency implemented it as soon as possible.  As for the three provisions the Panel did not address, the agency simply replaced the existing agreement language with its own last proposal. One of the proposals provided that employees could choose the shift they worked on by seniority, e.g., the 7 a.m. to 3:30 pm shift or the 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. shift.   What does the union do now if it believes that existing FLRA case removes any doubt about the negotiability of the proposals? Continue reading

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Because the collective bargaining agreement characterized the grievance process as designed to provide for the “prompt” settlement of grievances, an arbitrator decided to void the union’s grievance on behalf of a removed employee as not promptly processed. The reference to “prompt” efforts appears in dozens of agreements, and this case signals that more unions are going to lose the grievance entirely when they invoke arbitration, but then take months and years to request an arbitration panel, schedule a hearing date, file post-hearing briefs. Moreover, a Court of Appeals case gives agencies even more reason to punish foot-dragging unions. Continue reading

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