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.

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, how to calculate a co-sign and when to use lay versus lie.  Surprisingly, unions do virtually nothing to correct that blind spot for members other than a story or two about a case in the national monthly newsletter—funded and distributed mainly to boost the political careers of elected officials. That lack of knowledge among citizens is a major, although rarely discussed, reason why people generally do not see how unions can help them.

Having just posted our 1,000th article, we are going to shift our editorial plan a bit.  More of our future posts will be written as pieces that a local can merely copy and e-mail forward to all unit employees without any additional effort. (Unions are free to copy and use anything we create and post.)  They will generally be pieces selected to help fill their knowledge gap about their rights in the workplace. After all, if employees know more about their rights, they should see more reason to hook up with the union to enforce those rights. These will be tagged as PASS ME ON posts.

A second modification will be to boost the number of quizzes we post.  The intent here is that local leaders can use them with stewards to sharpen the focus of their expertise. We hope that all local presidents sign up their stewards to get our posting as they come out. It is as easy as sending us an e-mail at FEDSMILL.com or via the subscribe box.

One is not an expert because s/he knows about ULPs nor that discrimination can be challenged through the grievance procedure or EEOC. Federal sector labor relations is far, far more complicated then the private sector thanks to —

  • statutory provisions in the US. Code,
  • regulations in the CFR,
  • policies, manuals, and appeal routes available through OPM, MSPB, OSC, DOL, EEOC, FLRA, GSA, and OMB,
  • thousands of federal court cases,
  • tens of thousands of administrative law cases,
  • hundreds of past practices, and
  • the collective bargaining agreement terms.

Fedsmill tries to cherry pick the most useful precedents and requirements of each to help union folks counter-balance management’s simple raw power.

Posted in Union Administration | Tagged | 1 Comment


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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WHY WE WENT DARK- Sorry about being down for about 4 weeks.  It seems some dissatisfied reader screwed with our site. After lots of tech help and a few bills to pay we hope we are back for another long run. We have posted 994 articles to date and hope to double that before we are done.

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If you listen to the anti-labor and anti-employee zealots clogging the OPM and FLRA policy making levels, you would think that union proposals to establish Pass-Fail appraisal ratings systems are Satanic-derived plots to destroy the world. So, we found it interesting that the folks in the MSPB Policy and Evaluation shop, who make decisions based on actual research rather than what will sound good on FOX new publicly disagreed with OPM and FLRA’s political operatives.  Continue reading

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One of the great things an arbitrator can do for a union is award it Laffey Matrix attorney fees for winning a case.  That can mean up to $894.00 for each hour the union attorney put in on the case as opposed to the $75.00 an hour the union actually paid her in salary. In comparison, even the best labor arbitrators only get about $300 an hour for their work. But it now appears that the Laffey Matrix’s application to D.C. area, federal sector arbitrations is coming an end.  That is not just due to the anti-union bile oozing from the Trump FLRA appointees who have proclaimed they are itching to end the use of the Matrix. An actual intellectual and honorable neutral, the polar converse of judges being thinly-veiled political party operatives also has served notice on the Matrix in a recent D.C Circuit court decision. So, this posting primarily is to notify any arbitrator who is thinking of awarding Laffey Matrix fees in an arbitration that his/her award is likely going to be overturned.  Moreover, while FLRA might remand the case for the arbitrator to reconsider the fee issue, it might also just vacate and toss the case into the dust bin never to be reopened again. Our second goal here is to review the obvious options arbitrators have. Continue reading

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