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Contract Update August 2018
July 25 #redforfeds day
SSA begins Implementation of President Trump's Executive Orders on July 9. 2018
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Letter to Berryhill on Office Closing
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Management Moves to Silence Union in Ground Rules
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AFGE Bargaining Unit Employees,


On December 7, 2017, SSA gave notice to the Union that they were terminating the 2012 Contract to engage in negotiations for a new one.  They stated the current contract would remain in place until a new one was negotiated and signed by both parties. We signed a contract bargaining ground rules agreement on March 16, 2018 that, among other things, agreed to exchange article proposals on August 9, 2018.

On May 25, 2018, President Trump issued 3 Executive Orders designed to weaken Federal Unions and to eliminate employee civil service rights.  

On May 30, 2018, AFGE filed suit in federal court arguing that the Trump Executive Orders violate federal law and the U.S. Constitution.  Department of Justice lawyers have argued to the court that these Executive Orders constitute guidance only and that it's up to individual Agencies on whether they will follow this guidance. Thirteen other Federal Employee Unions have since joined the suit with AFGE.

SSA Followed the Trump Administration’s "Guidance" with a Vengeance.

On June 5, 2018, SSA reneged on the ground rules agreement, in the form of a letter to the Union, stating they were unilaterally reopening 21 articles of our Contract and implementing the Trump Executive Orders starting July 9, 2018.

June 27-29, AFGE and SSA met to attempt to negotiate SSA's reopening of the 21 Contract Articles and ground rules agreement because SSA stated they must change them to implement the "mandatory" requirements in the Trump Executive Orders.  

June 27, SSA gave the Union their changed proposals for the 21 Contract Articles and the contract negotiation ground rules. 

SSA’s Proposals:

  • SSA employees are barred from filing grievances on their appraisals, awards and terminations.
  • Union officials are barred from using official time to represent employees in grievances.
  • SSA employees with performance problems will only be given 30 days to improve before terminated. 
    • The current contract allows a 30-day improvement period with a second 120-day improvement period.  SSA wants to accelerate performance terminations by reducing a 150-day improvement period to 30 days.
  • Union officials will be cut by 88% on the amount of official time (work day hours) they can use to represent employees.
  • No SSA employee can use more than 25% of their work time to represent employees. 
    • Due to the severe reduction in available representation time - only a handful of employees can be given a 25% official time position - even though SSA has over 1,500 facilities and 45,000 bargaining unit members.
  • EEO time used by personal representatives is counted towards the official time bank.
    • In the current contract, the union has no control or jurisdiction over a personal representative’s EEO time.  This will severely limit the amount of time employees will have to pursue EEO complaints and the Union’s ability to use official time for other matters.
  • Union officials are barred from having offices in SSA facilities, the use of SSA computers, and other office equipment and supplies.        
    • SSA informed the Union that all space currently occupied by the Union must be evacuated by 7/31/18 or Union property may be seized.
  • Local changes in your offices will have to be bargained in Baltimore and the Union will have to finance all travel expenses.
    • In the current contract, SSA picks the site of bargaining but in return pays for the union negotiator's travel.
  • SSA unilaterally determined that the union could not have bulletin boards in SSA offices nor could we conduct meetings on SSA space.
  • AFGE would have to finance travel expenses to attend joint union-management committee meetings in Baltimore, including the Health and Safety Committee, the EEO Committee, the Training Committee, the Child Care Committee and monthly union-management meetings at the national level. 
    • The current contract provided that SSA paid the travel and per diem for the participants.

Three Days Was Not Enough Time to Negotiate These Extensive Changes

The Union responded to SSA’s proposals by giving them counter proposals that preserved most of the current provisions of the 21 articles and the ground rules agreement.  We did, however, make some concessions on travel expenses and the number of meetings, all designed to help SSA some money.

June 29, no agreement was reached by the parties. Normally in federal sector negotiations when an agreement isn't reached the parties refer the matter to the Federal Services Impasse Panel (FSIP) for resolution of a bargaining dispute.  Until the FSIP makes a decision, no change can be made.  However, this time, SSA informed the Union that they are unilaterally implementing their proposals on July 9 because they believe they are mandated to do so per the Trump Executive Orders. 


June 29, the Union filed a grievance on SSA's actions. (See grievance attached to this email.)

July 9, SSA is unilaterally implementing their proposed Contract changes.

July 25AFGE's lawsuit is scheduled for hearing.  The judge promised a quick decision.

Union Interim Plan

In most cases we will be unable to use "official time" to represent you.  Therefore, each Local has developed their own approach to provide you with the representation that you deserve:

  • Some will be using lunches and breaks to provide direct representation. 
  • Some will be working before or after their tour of duty. 
  • Some will use LWOP to represent you. 
  • Some leaders are planning to retire so they can continue to represent you.
  • Locals will try to establish offsite space for you to meet with Union Representatives.
  • We will be using AFGE paid staff to assist in providing you with representation. 

I personally retired from SSA so I could continue as your full-time National President of AFGE Council 220 during this period. 

If you need representational assistance, please contact your AFGE Local Representative.  They will be able to help you or identify who in the Union can provide you with the representation that you need.

Hopefully AFGE will win the lawsuit so we can resume normal operations.  If not, we will devise new models of representation.

Communication is Essential

  • Our website will remain up-to-date with all info and maintain a list of all Local Presidents so that you have someone to call or e-mail if you need representation and can't reach your assigned Local Representative. 
  • Our Facebook Page “Rally Point” @SSARallypoint.  Will provide a stream of news and correspondence. 
  • Please provide your Local Representative your private (non-SSA) contact information so that we can send you more information regarding this situation.

This SSA aggressive anti-union and anti-employee approach is unfortunate.  I thought that AFGE and SSA achieved a lot of collaborative achievements during our days of partnership (Clinton Administration) and Forums (Obama Administration).  The gains included ergonomic furniture, flextime and AWS, flexi-place, transit subsidies, the vision program, etc.

Let Them Know What You Think

President Trump issued these Executive Orders.  Acting Commissioner, Nancy Berryhill, implemented them on a fast track.  Associate Commissioner of the Office of Labor Management and Employee Relations (OLMER), Ralph Patinella, delivered the news at the bargaining table. 

Bargaining was a euphemism.  Management gave the Union proposals and stated they would implement them on July 9 - whether we agreed to them or not. 

In Solidarity,

Witold Skwierczynski

AFGE National Council 220 President of SSA Field Operations Locals

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