Federal Members,

Below is a summary of the impact on federal employees that are contained in the White House 2021 Budget.

Trump Budget impacts relative to Federal Fire Fighters:

Annual COLA

  • 1% Cost of Living Adjustment.  No additional locality zone increase

Career Progression Steps

  • Extend time interval required for steps increases resulting in an average 50% delay in the time to achieve the next pay step

Changes to FECA

  • Reduce FECA (Workers Comp) payment rates reduced for all employees to 66.66% from 75% currently received by employees with dependents
  • Require FECA recipients to convert to a retirement annuity at the earliest date of retirement eligibility
  • Establish an up-front waiting period before qualifying for FECA benefits

Federal Employee Health Benefits

  • Reduce the government portion of premium payments resulting in an increased premium cost borne by the employees

Federal Employee Retirement System (current employees)

  • Increase the employee contribution, phased in at 1% additional per year, until the employee is contributing 50% of FERS cost

Reduce Retirement Benefits

  • Eliminate retiree COLA increases to FERS annuity recipients
  • Reduce retiree COLA increases to .5% for CSRS annuity recipients
  • Eliminate Retirement Annuity Supplement provided to Special category (fire fighters, LEOs and ATC) employees
  • Change FERS annuity formula from an average of High-3 years earnings to an average of High-5 years earnings
  • Reduce the return rate on TSP G-Fund investments to the short term T-bill rate.

Jim Johnson, DVP16

Federal Members,

Many of you may have seen reports regarding a letter that the President sent to DoD allowing DoD to prohibit bargaining for federal civilians employed by DoD.  An article on the letter can be found here.  https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/02/secret-white-house-memo-could-end-unionization-pentagon/162981/

The District and the IAFF will continue to fight these egregious attempts by the Administration to bust Unions in the federal sector.  We are working with other Unions within the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA) to protect your bargaining rights.   On February 11, 2020, the following was sent to SecDef from the IAFF regarding the letter:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

February 11, 2020

The Honorable Mark T. Esper
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C.  20301-1000

Dear Secretary Esper,

On behalf of the nation’s 320,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical responders, please reject the elimination of unions and collective bargaining within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) – it will hurt all of our federal fire fighters, their safety and families immeasurably.

In 1962, President Kennedy first recognized the right of federal employees, including those employed by the DOD, to have their voices heard in grievance and arbitration matters.  Seven years later, expanding on the right Kennedy provided, President Nixon set forth the framework of today’s labor-management relations in the federal government.  President Carter determined that comprehensive reforms were necessary for the federal workforce.  Working with Members of Congress in a bipartisan manner, President Carter worked to pass and signed into law the Civil Service Report Act of 1978 codifying the rights and responsibilities of unions and the government.  There is simply no basis to even suggest that the long-standing legal protections afforded to the nation’s federal fire fighters “cannot be applied . . .  consistent with national security requirements.”  More than 50 years of history proves otherwise.

During the 58 years that have elapsed since IAFF fire fighters first achieved recognition at the DOD, union representatives have worked in partnership with DOD officials to find solutions and improvements in all types of matters facing the Department.  Together, we have achieved solutions that continue to assure the safety of everyone entering military installations while maintaining a highly trained and agile emergency response force capable of suppressing and mitigating natural and man-made disasters placing lives in harm’s way.  Nothing in our past suggests our successful partnership cannot continue to safeguard the public interest, contribute to effective public business and facilitate and encourage the amicable settlements of disputes between employees and their employers.

Since 1962, unionized federal fire fighters have successfully participated in securing our nation and our national security interests.  IAFF fire fighters have worked hand in hand with agency officials during threats to the nation, both man-made and natural, with a singular focus of preserving our government and protecting American citizens.  History has demonstrated this to be true.  From days of the Cuban Missile Crisis through our nation’s current and continuous response to terrorism, unionized federal fire fighters have served to protect this nation, defense installations and America’s defenders with distinction.

Today, as the world gets more and more dangerous, and protecting our nation’s military has to remain paramount, fire fighters on military bases and in other DoD facilities need a voice in their work to do their jobs.

Silencing their voice would hurt their ability to serve and protect as effectively as possible.  I urge you in the strongest possible terms to continue to allow federal fire fighters to retain their union voice in the federal workplace. The eyes of America’s fire fighters and history are on you.

Sincerely,

Harold A. Schaitberger,  General President

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Jim Johnson

DVP16

Re: Summary, Memorandum Opinion and Order of U.S. District Court,

AFGE, et al. v. Donald J Trump

On Friday, August 25, 2018, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a 116-page opinion invalidating almost all of the three Executive Orders that President Trump issued on May 25, 2018,

 

Executive Orders 13836 (“Developing Efficient, Effective, and Cost-Reducing Approaches to Federal Sector Collective Bargaining”);

 

Executive Order 13837 (“Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer Funded Union Time Use”); and

Executive Order 13839 (“Promoting Accountability and Streamlining Removal Procedures Consistent with Merit System Principles”).

Judge Jackson’s Order declares nearly all of the substantive provisions of the Executive Orders invalid, and, importantly, she enjoined federal agencies and the President’s subordinates from implementing or giving effect to those provisions.

1)           The Practical Effect of the Decision

The Court found that the three Executive Orders were designed to limit the effectiveness of federal unions and to circumscribe federal agencies such that they cannot bargain in good faith. The Executive Orders limited collective bargaining on a number subjects; prohibited collective bargaining on permissive subjects of bargaining; demanded that collective bargaining be done through written proposals and that it be negotiated on a rapid time table at the end of which if no agreement was reached, the agencies were instructed to unilaterally implement their proposals; directed federal agencies to charge unions for the use of federal space and equipment; ordered the end of progressive discipline and requested that federal agencies remove discipline from grievance procedures; ordered that the federal agencies limit official time to one hour per bargaining unit member, and that it not be provided for federal lobbying or for representing the unions or individuals in grievances. With the exception of the progressive discipline, the Court held that the Executive Orders conflicted with the statutory provisions for federal sector labor­ management relations and ruled that they were invalid. The Court also enjoined the President and federal agencies from following or implementing the Executive Orders.

In addition to invalidating the instructions set forth in the Executive Orders and the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) subsequent instructions to federal agencies, the federal government and the President are enjoined (prohibited) from implementing them. At those agencies at which the agencies have already implemented the Executive Orders, such as unilaterally implementing provisions charging unions for use of federal space, it is unclear how that will be unraveled. Certainly, written requests should be submitted to the Agencies to immediately undo or reverse any actions that are now contrary to the Court’s Order and injunction.

We understand that some agencies may have sought to negotiate on these subjects, arguing that they needed to renegotiate CBA provisions to be consistent with the Executive Orders, or they may be seeking to implement the provisions of the Executive Orders. To the extent that agencies have done this, we recommend that the Agency be asked to withdraw any such requests, and that the Agency desist from any implementation, consistent with Judge Jackson’s Order. Any refusal to do so will be a violation of the Order and the injunction that the Judge has issued.

It is possible that an Agency may argue that certain provisions of the Executive Orders remain in effect, and it is true that Judge Jackson did not invalidate all provisions of the Executive Orders.  That said, Judge Jackson made clear that those provisions remain because they are consistent with the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act (“FSLMRA”)-the governing federal statute. As a result, if an Agency has taken an expansive or broad interpretation of those Executive Order provisions, that position may be a grievable unfair labor practice to the extent it goes beyond what the FSLMRA allows.

2)           The Court’s Order Invalidates and Enjoins the President and Federal Agencies from Implementing Nearly All of the Substantive Provisions of the Executive Orders

Judge Jackson’s opinion is a lengthy, very well-reasoned decision, which should make it difficult to reverse. In the opinion, the Judge sets forth the history of the FSLMRA, discusses the purpose of the federal Act and its provisions that affect labor-management relations and federal­ sector bargaining, and examines the limits of executive power in the context of the FSLMRA. Most significantly, Judge Jackson concluded that based on the statutory history, as well as separation of powers principles, President Trump’s Executive Orders concerning federal labor relations must be consistent with Congress’s statutory pronouncements regarding collective bargaining and official time.

Judge Jackson also found that many of the provisions of the three Executive Orders are inconsistent with the statutory right to bargain collectively as enshrined in the FSLMRA, including the requirement to bargain in good faith.  Based on this determination, she “declare[d] the following provisions invalid and will enjoin (prohibit) the President’s subordinates from implementing or giving effect to:

Executive Order 13836 §§ 5(a), 5(e), 6;

Executive Order 13837 §§ 3(a), 4(a), 4(b); and

Executive Order 13839 §§ 3, 4(a), 4(c).”

In summary, those provisions are:

Executive Order 13836, Judge Jackson enjoined (prohibited) the requirement that agencies must negotiate ground rules within 6 weeks and negotiate a CBA within 4 to 6 months. The ground rules that are negotiated must require agencies to advance negotiations outside those time frames to mediation or the Federal Service Impasses Panel, and agencies must take steps to rescind any CBA provisions or ground rules that do not limit negotiations to an exchange of written proposals. Executive Order 13836, §§ 5(a), 5(e). In addition, the Judge enjoined (prohibited) the requirement that agencies are precluded from negotiating over permissive subjects of bargaining.  She found that although agencies need not agree to permissive subjects of bargaining, they must bargain in good faith with the unions who request such bargaining.

Executive Order 13837, the Judge enjoined (prohibited) the restrictions on official time. That Executive Order limited official time to one hour per bargaining unit member per year. The Court invalidated these portions of this Executive Order: the Court invalidated the prohibition on lobbying during official time; the 25% limitation on official time for any employee; the prohibition on the use of government property for union activities; the prohibition on reimbursement for expenses incurred performing non-agency business; and the prohibition of the use of official time to prepare for or pursue grievances that did not directly affect that union official himself or herself thereby prohibiting official time to prepare grievances for other employees or for the union. Executive Order 13,837, §§ 3, 4(a). In addition, Judge Jackson enjoined the prohibition on taking official time without prior agency authorization. Id. at § 4(b). This provision required the employing Agency to approve all official time before it was used by a Union official.

Executive Order 13839, the Judge enjoined (prohibited) the restrictions on negotiating grievance procedures and excluding certain subjects such as removal from grievance procedures, and the restriction on allowing employees more than 30 days to demonstrate acceptable performance. Executive Order 13,839 at§ 4(a) and 4(c). The Executive Order had ordered federal agencies to remove from the grievance procedures all terminations and removals of employees and to require that collective bargaining agreements allow employees only 30 days to improve their performance before termination.  In sum, Judge Jackson invalidated all of the above provisions and enjoined any Executive Branch employee from implementing or giving effect to the invalidated provisions.

3)           Other Potential Effects

Finally, some Agencies have interpreted the Executive Orders as government-wide rules or regulations, such that they bind the union if a contract rolled-over or renewed after the Executive Orders became effective, or that, as government-wide rules or regulations, the Agency is bound by such terms in negotiations. Judge Jackson’s opinion demonstrates that this interpretation is incorrect.  She determined that the FSLMRA does not authorize the president to issue government-wide rules defining or abrogating the statutory right to bargain collectively. Id. at pp.110-111.

As a result, to the extent an Agency argues that the remaining provisions of the Executive Orders are valid government-wide rules, it should be argued that the remaining provisions are merely general statements that are consistent with the FSLMRA that do not constitute government-wide rules, and the Agency cannot use provisions in a labor contract triggered by new “government-wide rules or regulations” in order to reinterpret or reopen the contract.

 

Contract Negotiations.   Is your contract expired?  Probably not.  Most of the agreements (collective bargaining agreements) have provisions for a rollover (usually in the Duration Article).  This means that once the original contract period expires the agreement begins an annual rollover.  In such cases the contract automatically rolls over (continues) unless either party proposes to renegotiate the agreement.  Most agreements also have specific parameters for when either party can propose to renegotiate the agreement.  These parameters are usually also contained in the “duration” portion of the agreement.  Usually there are specific time frames for opening the agreement and proposing to open the agreement outside of theses time frames violates the agreement.  If the employer is telling the union that the agreement is no longer valid or is outdated carefully review the parameters of the agreement.  Most likely you will find that the employers allegations are unfounded.

Is your contract outdated?  Again, probably not.  The Civil Service Act and 5 USC Chapter 71 set the parameters for bargaining in the federal sector.  Federal bargaining parameters are limited in scope when compared to other sectors.  Such items as pay and benefits are for the most part not negotiable.  Therefore many of the items negotiated in federal sector agreements are procedural and policy matters or matters regarding appropriate arrangements when the employer is exercising one of their management rights under the Statute, and union representational rights provided for by the Statute.  One of the best signs of an effective working contract in the federal sector is an agreement that has been in place many years and worked well for both parties.  Federal policies and procedures rarely change but on occasion there is a need to update some items in an agreement to ensure they reflect current laws.  However, renegotiating an agreement simply because it was executed many years ago is not necessary.  Agreements should be carefully evaluated to determine if a need exists to renegotiate.

The negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in the federal sector can be impacted by the political environment.  How?  Elections determine which party will be making appointments to federal agencies that have oversight over negotiation impasses and negotiability appeals processes that can be necessary to resolve bargaining issues.  The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) are both lead by political appointees.  When these agencies are led by people that have ideologies that are not unbiased or are more supportive of managements rights we often see our ability to bargain hampered.  I suggest Locals seriously consider their needs and the possible outcome if they are planning to renegotiate their CBA in the near future.  You may want to consider delaying any CBA renegotiations unless there is a dire need until we have time to evaluate the bargaining environment that will be created over the next year.

Lawmakers tout Federal Firefighter Pay Equity Act

Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) recently praised the benefits of the Federal Firefighter Pay Equity Act, which they said is designed to ensure federal firefighters equal access to retirement benefits.

The measure would balance federal firefighter retirement benefit accessibility with that of their state and local counterparts.

“Thousands of federal firefighters across America – including many at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana – risk their lives every day to keep people safe and protect our national security,” Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to make sure they are treated fairly in retirement. The Act will ensures these brave and hardworking first responders get the full compensation and benefits they deserve.”

The legislation stems from the fact unlike their counterparts in state and local government, federal firefighters are not credited with the additional income from mandatory overtime for the purposes of calculating retirement benefits.

“These courageous men and women work grueling hours in the most difficult of circumstances,” Connolly said. “It is our absolute responsibility to provide them with a retirement worthy of the sacrifices they have made in service to the United States. Our bipartisan legislation fulfills that responsibility, and ensures that our retired federal firefighters are compensated fairly and fully.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 by Douglas Clark