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AFGE Local 476 is a 2021 Best of Washington Award winner for our dedication and effort, our service, and community involvement

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AFGE Local 476 Files Grievance Against OCIO

OCIO division improperly issued and applied new performance standards, among other charges

I'm sure there's more to the grievance process than sending increasingly angry emojis

AFGE Local 476 filed a grievance of the parties against HUD based on unfair labor practices and violations of the collective bargaining agreement and applicable law committed by the Office of the Chief Information Officer when at least one division improperly issued and applied new performance standards.

As described in the article below, OCIO issued letters alleging 17 out of 24 employees in one division were suddenly performing unacceptably. When the Union looked into the matter, Local 476 discovered that the performance standards on which those letters were based did not comply with SMART requirements and other contract provisions. The Union also charged HUD with failing to hold performance discussions and invite the Union; failing to apply the standards fairly and equitably; and failing to take into account all of the employees' job functions, the actual amount of time available to perform those functions, and factors beyond an employee’s control.

HUD Continues Anti-Worker Activity Despite Presidential Support for Federal Workers

Labor Relations staff continues to rely on revoked Trump-era directives

AFGE Council 222 of HUD Locals issued an E-Alert on April 28 advising that HUD was pursuing a rash of performance-based removal actions that were prepared under the revoked Trump executive orders that made it easier to fire employees by eliminating employee rights. The Council noted that HUD's Employee and Labor Relations Division ignores President Biden’s Executive Order 14003 on Protecting the Federal Workforce in an effort to complete performance-based removals as quickly as possible.

Did You Get a "Santos" Letter?

HUD issues letters of performance concern in advance of issuing PIPs

A March 11, 2021, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit requires agencies to justify putting employees on performance improvement plans (PIPs). That case, Santos v. NASA, means that agencies can no longer put employees on a PIP without advance notice and without having evidence of poor performance before the PIP.

As a result, HUD has begun issuing "Santos" letters, or "letters of performance concern," that allege that employees have been performing unsatisfactorily. See the article below. The letters provide examples of the so-called unsatisfactory performance.

If you have received a letter of performance concern, contact the Union immediately for help.

Cynthia Carter
Local 476 President
Cynthia F. Carter
Photo by Jared Soares

Local 476 President Cynthia Carter Rebukes OCIO Principal Deputy

Responds to diatribe on OCIO culture concerns

AFGE Local President Cynthia Fisher Carter sent a sharply worded response to HUD's Deputy Chief Information Officer Christopher Webber (the CIO position is vacant) in response to an email that Mr. Webber sent to all OCIO personnel.

Ms. Carter called out Mr. Webber for his baseless assertion that employee discussions of performance ratings, awards, and hiring caused a toxic environment. Mr. Webber had asked OCIO personnel to "have the Courage and Integrity to call attention to [those conversations] in the moment and help put it to a stop." Read the full story to see Mr. Webber's email and Ms. Carter's response.

Winner of the Worst Boss Award: do that section first
© Mike Baldwin/Cornered

OCIO Adds to Toxic Environment

Issues "Letter of Performance Concerns" to 17 out of 24 employees in single office

OCIO has increased the threatening environment in which its employees work by delivering letters alleging that over half of the employees in a single office—17 out of 24—are suddenly performing unacceptably. The employees, some of whom have worked for HUD for nearly 20 years, received appraisals just five months earlier with overall ratings of fully successful to outstanding. None of the affected personnel ever received a hint that their performance was less than satisfactory.

AFGE Local 476 is taking action to protect the rights of these employees. OCIO management, and perhaps their employee and labor relations advisors, seem to be unaware that President Biden has repealed the anti-federal employee executive orders issued by the previous administration. Will Secretary Fudge blindly back these misguided managers or will she demand that her employees be treated fairly and management comply with our collective bargaining agreement?

Union Wins in Arbitration over Negotiations

Arbitrator concludes that HUD "acted in bad faith," HUD's negotiating approach was "unreasonable and unwarranted"

Ashaki Robinson
Chief Negotiator
Ashaki Robinson
Photo by Jared Soares

The Union's national negotiating team, led by Ashaki Robinson, prevailed in arbitration over HUD. The Union had filed a grievance of the parties against HUD on January 16, 2020, on the grounds that the management negotiating team had violated the Federal Labor-Management Statute by refusing to provide official time "to prepare or pursue grievances (including arbitration of grievances) brought against an agency," in accordance with Trump's Executive Order 13837, which President Biden has rescinded. The complaint asserted additional violations of the Labor-Management Statute.

Katherine Hannah led the management team, which the arbitrator said "did not show a good faith or sincere effort to negotiate at the bargaining table with the Union." Ms. Hannah joined HUD's employee and labor relations office from OPM in January 2017; she left HUD immediately following the arbitration hearings in September 2020. Lori Michalski, acting chief human capital officer, and D'Andra Hankinson, acting deputy director for employee and labor relations, also served on the management negotiating team.

While the Union appreciates the "win," Council 222 views the 2015 contract, which is currently in effect, as fair to both sides. President Biden's repeal of the Trump orders that led to the disputed negotiations means that there is no reason to reinstate negotiations. Our prior agreement had remained in place for 17 years.

Read the arbitrator's decision and the original grievance.

HUD Denies Planning New Telework Program to Union

In a move that does not bode well for management transparency and honesty under the Biden Administration, HUD employee and labor relations staff claimed that there was no new telework policy that would affect the AFGE bargaining unit.

Federal News Network reported that "HUD is redesigning its own telework program and is soliciting employee feedback," citing Priscilla Clark, the HUD deputy chief human capital officer. HUD has not informed the Union of any proposed changes to the telework policy nor advised the Union of any survey of employees, both of which are required under our collective bargaining agreement. HUD's human capital office, OCHCO, is headed by Lori Michalski, an active member of the management negotiating team that recently was held to have engaged in bad-faith bargaining with the Union.

In response to the Union's query, a labor relations staff member responded, "The communication/quote . . . perhaps may be referencing future activity or activity that has initially involved NON-BUE [bargaining unit employee]."

In spite of that denial, HUD sent out a telework survey to all employees on April 20.

Called into the Boss's Office?

Do you know your rights? You don't have to go it alone! Read more about your rights and how AFGE Local 476 can help you.

Federal Agencies Directed to Encourage Worker Organizing and Collective Bargaining

President Biden

President Biden establishes White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment

On April 26, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that established a task force with four main goals:

  1. Have the federal government leads by example in encouraging worker organizing and collective bargaining among its workforce.
  2. Facilitate worker organizing across the country.
  3. Increase worker power in underserved communities.
  4. Increase union membership.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge or her designee is named to serve on the task force. The executive order applies to the federal government and its employees as well as to the private sector. Continued.

New COVID-19 Leave

Emergency paid leave a mixed blessing for federal employees

The American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, provides a new category of paid leave for federal employees. As Federal News Network explained, full-time employees can use up to 600 hours of paid leave to recover from COVID-19, quarantine or care for a sick family member, care for a child attending virtual school due to the pandemic, receive a COVID-19 vaccine, or recover from conditions related to immunization.

Employees should exhaust their annual and sick leave before resorting to the new emergency pandemic leave. This is because:

  • Leave benefits are capped at $1,400 a week, which may be less than some employees currently earn.
  • Time spent on emergency leave reduces total service for calculating federal retirement benefits.

The emergency leave is available through September 2021. See our COVID-19 page for more information on working during the pandemic.

President Biden Signs Executive Orders Protecting Federal Employee Rights

President Biden signs executive orders while Vice President Harris looks on. Photo by Anna Moneymaker for the New York Times
Photo by
Anna Moneymaker
for the New York Times

On January 22, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order, Protecting the Federal Workforce, that repealed numerous anti-federal employee executive orders issued by his predecessor. Among the orders repealed were three 2018 executive orders that interfered with collective bargaining, nearly eliminated official time to prevent unions from representing federal employees, and prioritized employee firings and discipline. The new executive order also repealed Schedule F, which former president Trump created last October in an attempt to politicize the civil service. Read the full story.

Happening in Other Agencies

OPM is preparing guidance to help agencies manage telework after the pandemic ends, according to Federal News Network. FNN quoted Rob Shriver, OPM's director of employee services, who said about telework, "There’s no interest in returning to a February 2020 footing. There has been so much good work that has been done out of an emergency."

The Department of Agriculture plans to expand its prior telework policy and is reviewing all USDA positions to determine whether some of them could be completely virtual.

Read more about what's happening in other agencies, and find out who said, "There’s a lot more work than we thought that could be performed fully remotely."

FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester

Ernest DuBester Appointed Chairman of FLRA

On January 21, 2021, one day after his inauguration, President Biden announced his selection of Ernest DuBester as the chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which governs labor-management relations and often decides disputes between unions and agency management. The designation is not subject to Senate confirmation.

AFGE Local 476 joins AFGE National in applauding the selection of Chairman DuBester, and thanks Chairman DuBester for his fortitude over the past four years. Read the full story.

Charlotte Dye Named FLRA's Acting General Counsel

On March 24, 2021, President Biden appointed Charlotte Dye to serve as acting general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The general counsel's position was vacant since 2017, creating a backlog of about 450 unfair labor practice complaints. Trump's failure to fill the position for over three years appeard to be an attempt to hamper union responses to improper agency actions. Read the full story.

President Biden Demands Resignation of All FSIP Members

President Biden has demanded the resignations of all ten members of the the previous administration's anti-worker Federal Services Impasses Panel, according to the Government Executive. Read the full story.

Backlog Grows at EEOC

Employees who want to take their discrimination complaints to the EEOC are going to have to wait in line for a long time before their cases are heard, according to the Government Standard. The AFGE publication reports that sexual harassment claims were up 13.6 percent in 2018 at the same time that the EEOC’s workforce dropped below 2,000 employees for the first time since before 1980. President Trump’s proposed budget for FY 2020 would slash the EEOC’s budget by another $23.7 million and cut staff by 180 more positions, including mediators, judges, intake representatives, and 50 investigators.