HUD notified REAC employees on May 21 that their official duty stations and locality pay would be changed from their official worksites at a HUD office to where their homes are physically located. This change will cost the construction analysts and other bargaining-unit staff thousands of dollars a year due to reduced locality pay. Council 222 filed a Grievance of the Parties on behalf of the affected employees, asserting that it is "arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and an abuse of discretion for REAC and HUD management to determine that the official duty stations are where the affected REAC employees’ homes are located when these employees spend and perform the vast majority of their work hours away from their homes."
HUD's agency ranking improved by 5 places from 19th to 14th out of the 25 midsize agencies according to the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). After HUD spent many years in the bottom fourth, this leap--amidst a pandemic and threats to employee rights--reflects employees' satisfaction with being on mandatory full-time telework for most of 2020. When supervisors aren't physically close enough to micromanage employees--a major complaint that the Union frequently hears--employees are happier. Read more about the HUD's 2020 FEVS results and telework at HUD.
On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed legislation recognizing Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in Texas. Earlier this week, the Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and the House of Representatives passed the bill by a 415-to-14 vote.
President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had freed the Confederacy's slaves effective January 1, 1863. Texas, however, did not free its enslaved people until Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and announced on June 19, 1865, that Texas's enslaved population was free. Over 250,000 people were emancipated by this act. While Juneteenth is recognized as the end of slavery in America, Delaware's and Kentucky's enslaved people were not emancipated until December 18, 1865, after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On April 26, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that established a task force with four main goals:
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.
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:
The emergency leave is available through September 2021. See our COVID-19 page for more information on working during the pandemic.
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."