Council 220 Statement on Recent Events
Filed grievance with SSA over CARES Act
To our members,
We understand the pain and trauma of witnessing recent acts of violence in response to antiracist protests in our communities may negatively impact your mental health and ability to concentrate on work. Council 220 is dedicated to supporting and fighting for our members each and every day, and proudly endorse the full statement from AFGE President Everett Kelly on the nationwide protests that have come from recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. As President Kelly concluded:
“In our workplaces and in our communities, we must reject the culture of divisiveness and rancor that asks us to deny the inherent human dignity of our brothers and sisters because of their race, their creed, their religion, their gender, their age, their disability, or their sexual orientation. As a union, we will continue our struggle for unity and solidarity.
“With all of us working together, practicing compassion and empathy with our fellow citizens, and doing our part to promote the well-being of all, the good people of this country will secure that more perfect union, and the blessings of liberty and justice for every American.”
Council 220 been working to protect and defend the inherent human dignity of our brothers and sisters throughout our history. While the nation grapples with division and rancor, we have continued to fight for you. Earlier this week, we filed a grievance with SSA on behalf of our 27,000 members, defending your right to access the full benefits of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides federal employees with up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave for full-time employees if the employee is unable to work or remote work because the employee:
- Is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order for reasons related to COVID-19
- Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- Is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- Is caring for an individual who is under a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- Is caring for a child who school or place of care is closed, or childcare provider is unavailable, for reasons related to COVID-19; or
- Is experiencing other substantially similar conditions, as specified by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The act became effective on April 1, 2020. SSA did NOT implement the act on that date, and to date, still has not complied.
We know that SSA employees are going above and beyond to serve the public, address claims, and reduce the backlog all while remote working during a global pandemic. We shouldn’t have to take this action to demand that the agency follow the law and allow paid leave to employees who need it.
We filed this grievance to stand up for our employees and demand that SSA implement the EPSLA and prevent further harm to our members. We demand better from SSA.
Ralph de Juliis
AFGE Council 220 President
Reach out to me!
Council 220 President Ralph De Juliis on Cares Act Leave and Pay
From: Julian, James
Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 12:35 PM
To: Dejuliis, Ralph ; Harris, Peter J. ; Joseph, Agatha ; Bryant, Barri S. ; Autrey, Anita Marcel (CMS/OFM) ; Washington, Shelley; Barri Sue Bryant
Cc: Couture, Richard ; Rich Couture ; Leiby, Jack
Subject: OPERATIONS Employees - Using ODS Equipment at the ADS
The following message is for Operations employees.
Operation is providing employees with the flexibility to use official duty station (ODS) equipment while working at the alternate duty station (ADS) as part of the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This initiative is completely voluntary. Please ask your members who are interested in this flexibility to coordinate with their managers as there are some offices, in high risk areas, from which employees will not be able to obtain equipment.
Please see the guidance below explaining how the pickup will occur and the attached information regarding connecting the equipment when the employee returns to the ADS:
What ODS equipment are employees permitted to take to their ADS?
· One (1) monitor
· One (1) mouse
· One (1) keyboard
All other peripherals must be left in the office. (NOTE: Monitors mounted to arms that are attached to your desk or cubicle are not permitted to be removed for transport to your ADS.”)
How will employees pick up the equipment?
- Employees will be granted a reasonable amount of duty time (normally up to 2 hours) to come to the office to pick up their equipment and return home to resume work.
- Any employee who wishes to retrieve equipment must schedule a time with management to enter the office.
- Managers must schedule appointments in compliance with current guidelines on social distancing and other guidelines provided within your state or local area. This arrangement will be decided at the component level.
- After the equipment is disconnected, a member of management will record the identifying information for the equipment prior to the employee removing the equipment from the office.
- Employees will ensure they transport and use the equipment in a safe manner and return the equipment in usable condition at the end of the current work at home period.
- Equipment should not be left unattended or unsecured at any time while in transit to or from the ADS.
- Employees with disabilities should work directly with their managers regarding reasonable accommodations.
- If employees need any assistance disconnecting equipment or reconnecting it at home, they should contact their local SLC/SC.
From: Ralph C de Juliis
Date: Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 7:28 PM
Subject: What SSA should be doing everywhere: not just Falls Church HQ: Fwd: COVID-19 - Falls Church
To: James Julian
From: |||OHO OBFS <OHO.OBFS@ssa.gov>
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2020 3:39 PM
Subject: COVID-19 - Falls Church
All OHO Headquarters employees,
We are kindly sharing information received from DCARO/OAO regarding Falls Church.
Office of Budget, Facilities and Security
In the afternoon of March 26, OAO management was first notified of the positive COVID-19 test for an OAO employee who works on the 11th floor of Skyline Tower. OAO management promptly consulted with OPE’s Medical Office who noted the expiring 14 day quarantine period advised by the CDC. Nonetheless, in an abundance of caution, we issued a notification to all OAO employees regarding the situation.
The agency is conducting an enhanced cleaning of the 11th floor and the building’s common areas in compliance with CDC guidelines.
We must preserve the privacy of the affected employee, but we are able to share the following facts associated with this circumstance:
- The employee’s last day in the office was Saturday, March 14, and they have not returned to the office since that date.
- When the employee left the office, they were asymptomatic.
- The employee was tested on Wednesday, March 18 and received the positive test result a week later.
- The CDC recommends that individuals who potentially may have been in contact with an infected person, self-quarantine for 14 days, which in this circumstance would approximately conclude on March 28.
If you have questions about your risk of exposure or any other health risk, your doctor is the best person to ask. If you have other questions or if would like to discuss your personal situation, please reach out to your supervisor.
We will continue to update you in the event that we learn of additional information related to COVID-19. For more information regarding COVID-19, please refer to the SSA Medical Office COVID-19 FAQs and the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID-19 webpages.
From: Harris, Peter J.
Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 5:41 PM
Subject: Questions and Answers--teleworking
Ralph and I had a discussion with Jim Julian earlier today, we discussed the following issues:
- Emergency Paid Sick Leave. As part of the COVID-19 stimulus bill, the Senate approved 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees, subject to certain restrictions, read more about it here. https://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/senate-approves-paid-sick-leave-family-medical-leave-expansion-bill
We wanted to know when this would available for the employees. Jim said they had still not received guidance from OPM but should be receiving it anytime. As soon as they get guidance they will let the Union know.
- Monitors: The Union has received reports that some managers have not allowed employees to take their monitors home. The Agency informed us that they are not opposed to employees taking their monitors home. That the only reason some managers did not allow for it, is because they were just not informed, or not informed correctly. The issue now is the logistics of providing the monitors to employees who want them. The Agency is discussing the logistics of this now and will provide further information to AFGE in the next few days. (I bought my own monitor—a refurbished 17inch—from Amazon for 10.00, I wanted my own monitors).
- Cell Phones/Internet/lack of Softphones: Employees who do not want to use their cell phone until the Softphones arrive (this should be very soon-within 2 weeks) should ask their manager for calling cards. Likewise, those employees without internet should ask for a hotspot. Local management has been instructed to provide them on a case by case basis.
- Logs: Its been reported that at least 2 managers in the country are asking for employees to complete a log of what they do. This is allowed under Article 41, Section 8 of the contract. The impression we got from talking to Jim was that some managers have never worked in a telework environment and are undergoing growing pains and dealing with the seeming loss of control. The impression was that this practice would fade away when local management realizes that employees are still in fact doing work. As always, I would handle this using your best judgement, it would probably be best to have a conversation with local management doing this, if you can, to try to talk them down. If the list is overwhelming complex and beyond pale, a local section 9 grievance should be filed.
- Reasonable Accommodation: Please remember that if a person has a reasonable accommodation, (chair, reader, etc. this transfers to their alternate duty station).
- Lunch and Break Schedules: This is covered by the Contract, Article 10, Appendix A, Section 5:
G. Lunch and Breaks
- “To the extent feasible, management will continue existing lunch and break arrangements. Employees will not normally be required to sign-in/sign-out for breaks.”
If management is forcing employees to somehow sign in and sign out for breaks and lunches, a section 9 grievance should be filed.
Obviously, going from an Agency that had zero telework to an Agency that is 100% telework is going to present some growing pains. We will continue to discuss and try to work out issues where we can, and we will pursue litigation where we must. WE ARE pursuing litigation as a Council and as the General Committee with several others issues on which grievance presentations have are pending or have been made and arbitration pending.
We will continue to have weekly calls with SSA to make sure all our issues are addressed.
We should all be very proud we were able to make telework for all a reality! Not only is this what the overwhelming majority of employees have wanted for a very long time, this has also saved lives as employees are no longer in harm’s way.
Field Offices To Open To Public On Saturdays?
From the Social Security News Blog
I'm hearing that Social Security Commissioner Saul is considering opening his agency's field offices to the public on Saturdays. Nothing is definite yet. This comes on the heels of a recent decision to keep the field offices open Wednesday afternoons.
I represent claimants before the Social Security Administration. I am extremely concerned about the level of service the agency delivers. If I thought this would help, I'd applaud it. However, I know it's going to have the opposite effect. Field office staff was already stretched almost to the breaking point before the decision to keep the offices open Wednesday afternoons. There is now no time for field office staff to deal with complicated time-consuming tasks because they're on a treadmill dealing with customers who want to be seen. You make the problem worse if you open the field offices on Saturdays. Opening the offices on Saturdays would be great for service if the agency had plenty of staff. With severe staff shortages, it can only hurt service.
It concerns me that many field office employees are eligible to retire. How will they react to being forced to come in on Saturdays to deal with claimants? My guess is that a significant number will decide to retire. Those experienced employees are the very ones who are most productive. A wave of retirements even if immediately replaced with new employees will mean worse service because the new employees won't be as productive and will make many mistakes.
It bothers me that the Commissioner seems to know little about what goes on in the field offices and isn't listening to those who do. Please go out of your office, Mr. Saul, and talk with field office personnel. Let them show you what they do all day.
AFGE-SSA in the News
June 8, 2020 - Federal News Network
Unions still see problems with emergency paid sick leave at SSA, VA
June 3, 2020 - Federal News Network
Telecommuting works – just ask returning feds!
May 8, 2020 - Bloomberg Law
Return to Office? How About Never, Social Security Union Says
May 5, 2020 - NPR
For These Federal Employees, Telework Means Productivity Is Up, Their Backlog Is Down
May 4, 2020 - Federal News Network
Employees say they’re still waiting for SSA to implement emergency paid sick leave benefits
April 22, 2020 - Baltimore Sun
Commentary - Social Security Administration needs to make telework a priority even after coronavirus
March 20, 2020 - Government Executive
Social Security Institutes Fulltime Telework for Most Employees
March 18, 2020 - NPR
Federal Employees Demand More Telework Capacity, As Personnel Management Head Quits
March 17, 2020 - Propublica
The CDC Recommends Americans Stay at Home — Unless They Work for the CDC
March 13, 2020 - Letter to SSA from US Senate
Van Hollen, Cardin, Brown Press Social Security Administration on Telework Policies
January 30, 2020 - Federal News Network
Liver, licorice and Joe Buck, chihuahuas, cilantro and Gwenyth Paltrow — or teleworking: Name your poison
January 28, 2020 - Baltimore Sun
Social Security Administration announces further changes to telework program
January 27, 2020 - Federal News Network
SSA announces more agencywide telework changes
January 27, 2020 - Government Executive
Social Security Announces More Telework Cuts
January 12, 2020 - Washington Post
As remote work rises at U.S. companies, Trump is calling federal employees back to the office
January 13, 2020 - Baltimore Sun
Trump administration’s approach to telework old school and irrational | COMMENTARY
January 6, 2020 - Baltimore Sun
Op-Ed: Morale low at Social Security Administration amid Trump administration changes
December 18, 2019 - Baltimore Sun
Maryland senators urging Social Security to reinstate telework program
December 9, 2019 - Government Executive
Democratic Senators Urge Social Security to Restore Telework
November 25, 2019 - The Chief
Social Security Ends Its Telecommuting Program
November 22, 2019 - WBALTV11
Employees, union react to Social Security Administration ending telework program
November 22, 2019 - Federal News Network
Bargaining roundup: Trends emerge as unions, agencies grapple with workforce EOs
November 7, 2019 - Government Executive
Social Security’s Justification for Ending Telework Pilot Doesn’t Add Up
October 29, 2019 - Federal News Network
SSA ends telework program for operations employees, citing need to focus on customer service