Posted on Thu, Feb. 10, 2005
No truce in sight in Robins paper war
By Gene Rector
Telegraph Staff Writer
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE - The next salvo in Robins Air Force Base's newspaper war comes today as current and former union publications continue to vie for direct distribution rights to various work areas on the huge military installation.
Base officials thought the issue was resolved last week when The Robins Review - until last summer the voice of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 987 - was restricted to direct mail delivery in the base housing area and insertion in the Thursday edition of The Houston Home Journal.
However, bundles of Reviews also showed up in organizations across the base, a development that raised the ire of Local 987 officials.
"We have met with the base and they tell us Mr. (Danny) Evans has no contract that would allow him to deliver The Review into the work areas," said Gary Schechterle, editor of The Union Advocate. "The only agreement he had was when The Review was the union paper." The Advocate, now the official union voice, began publication in January. Both weekly papers are delivered on Thursdays.
Evans, a Perry businessman, owns and publishes The Review and The Journal, a Houston County daily.
"I can tell you that The Review is not going to fold up and quit because the union doesn't think it needs to be over there," he said. "The union can keep trying everything they want, but I'm not the federal government and I don't have to listen to it."
Col. Greg Patterson, Robins' base commander, issued a Jan. 21 letter to Evans in support of the union position. Patterson told Evans that "since (The Review) is no longer the official newspaper of the union, it is no longer authorized to be distributed on this base." Base spokeswoman Capt. Tisha Wright later clarified the order by indicating "distribution by mail to base housing residents and putting The Review as an insert into The Journal did not violate the letter."
But more than that happened last Thursday.
Schechterle said he went to the base and saw bundles of The Review all over the place. "I must have received 40 calls about it. (Evans) appears to be ignoring what the base commander has ordered," he said.
Wright said she was not sure where the breakdown occurred. "I talked to Mr. Evans this week," she said, "and he indicated that he gave instructions for mailing and insertion, and that's OK with us. He doesn't need authorization to mail to base residents and he already has authorization to insert into The Home Journal."
Union officials also have no objection to direct mail and insertion. Their beef is with bulk shipments to the work areas. Only The Advocate has base approval for that, according to Schechterle. He said there is also a confusion factor among employees who believe The Review continues to be the union's publication.
"The Review was the union paper for 30 years. When both are thrown into the workplace, which one will workers think is the union paper?" he asked in an interview last week. "Every periodical out there would love to have their paper carried right to the work force. The only reason The Review had that privilege was because it was the union paper."
Evans said his publication carries articles of interest to base civilian employees and includes no union news or issues. He promised to continue delivering to the base today, although he might realign how he does it.
"It may not be totally like usual, but I'll be there," he said. "We will distribute more papers than just by mail and insert. We'll do it in a different fashion. This isn't going to end this week."
The "different fashion" might include commercial delivery through Fed Ex or a similar company. "That's his prerogative," Wright said, "although I don't know what would happen if a bundle of Reviews is shipped to, say, building 640. I don't know if they would get to the work areas or not."
Base officials have scheduled a meeting to review base distribution policies. "We are going to have a meeting of the minds," according to Wright. "A lot of these things will be covered."
Evans said he welcomed the controversy.
"The union keeps making an issue of it and all they're doing is giving me free publicity," he said. "A lot of people are picking up The Review now who never heard about it until this mess started."
Pentagon Job Rules Overhaul Will Undermine Workers, Unions Say
by NewStandard Staff
Bush’s dream of a weak federal workforce will take a leap forward as the Pentagon introduces new rules eviscerating the rights of more than 750,000 civilian employees, both in the workplace and at the bargaining table.
Feb 10 - In a move that severely disrupts the currentemployment system governing the three-quarters of a million civilians working for the US Department of Defense, the Pentagon will institute new personnel rules loosely resembling those introduced by the Department of Homeland Security last month.
Union leaders, who were informed in advance of the new arrangement's basics, say the new measures, together called the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), will make raises harder to obtain and punitive actions by management harder to overturn.
Moreover, say union officials, the rules will severely restrict workers' collective bargaining ability and undermine the job security once counted on by career Pentagon civil service personnel.
John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the proposed system would not only harm workers, but would "jeopardize public safety and national security." Speaking to the crowd at a demonstration against the rules held in Washington on Tuesday, Gage charged that NSPS would "[take] away employee protections that allow workers to speak freely when they see wrongdoing or mismanagement."
At the same event, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney called the changes "a massive overhaul" and "a wholesale attack on DoD workers' ability to get their job done."
"NSPS means that the DoD will soon get the opportunity to treat their employees as if they were second-class citizens," Gage added. "NSPS will put the squeeze on employees by enabling the agency to mess around with pay, work schedules, leave and evaluations without any meaningful appeals rights."
Gage also said the new rules offer the Pentagon "every means to put the squeeze on employees, enabling the agency to mess around with pay, work schedules, leave and evaluations, without any meaningful appeal rights."
According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon is defending the process through which it arrived at the new rules by pointing out that it consulted DoD employees through "town hall meetings" and an interactive website, as well as by holding meetings with union officials.
However, it appears workers were given no actual power in the consultation process. According to a union organizer who attended one such meeting held last August, the events constituted little more than of a "focus group" process. "It is clear that this is just window dressing for the DoD to say to Congress that they got input from employees," wrote Mark Matsumoto, of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1186 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a review of the meeting.
Since September 11, the Bush administration has argued that government employees in national security roles such as DHS and DoD personnel should not be able to strike, and that their managers should have more control over workplace concerns, such as career advancement and pay raises, in order to maintain the smooth operation of the country's defenses. But critics have suggested such moves are merely intended to weaken labor's overall leverage in the marketplace and introduce the cutthroat ways of the private sector into civil service fields.
Unions that represent DoD employees say they intend to file a suit to block the changes, but since in 2003 Congress granted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the power to alter the rules as needed for "national security," the new system is expected to go through.
Once the NSPS rules are officially published, employees and the public will have 60 days to comment before the Pentagon finalizes the system. If plans are not interrupted by effective protest, the DoD intends to begin implementing the new rules in July.
Social Security Workers Required to Push Bush Agenda
Social Security: What Crisis? / From CWA
Posted by DavidSwanson on Feb 08, 2005 - 01:57 PM
Social Security Workers Required to Push Bush Agenda
By CWA, ILCA Member
Federal union leaders say the Bush administration is ordering employees in the Social Security Administration to promote the distorted White House propaganda message that Social Security is in a "crisis" that can only be fixed by private investment accounts.
"Previously, our employees had shared information with the public about Social Security's financial condition but had never been encouraged to support any particular 'reform' proposal. In fact, they were always expected to remain neutral on political and legislative matters," said Steve Kofahl, president of AFGE Local 3937 and regional vice president of the National Social Security Council, an AFGE affiliate that represents SSA workers.
Kofahl and Debbie Fredericksen, executive vice president of the NSSC, made their comments before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in Jan. 28. Their testimony refutes recent White House claims that SSA employees are not being used to promote privatization.
"The use of SSA resources to advocate political positions is wrong and compromises the integrity and credibility of the Social Security Administration," Fredericksen said. "The credibility problem becomes even more acute, when SSA employees are directed to make political statements that are untrue or exaggerated. This undermines the SSA mission to provide clear, accurate and objective information to the American people about the Social Security system."
Prior to the union leaders' testimony, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other senior House Democrats wrote SSA Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart to condemn the use of public funds and public employees for political propaganda.
"There is a pattern of propaganda by the Bush administration that must be stopped," they said. "It has paid a conservative commentator to covertly promote No Child Left Behind, produced fake video news releases designed to look like real news reports and is using Social Security Administration employees to undermine Social Security."
The administration, however, is banking on far more than public workers to pursue its privatization agenda. White House allies have launched an election-style campaign to sell the plan and corporations are priming to spend millions in advertising.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Republican Party is organizing grassroots supporters by setting up a points-earning system, similar to frequent flier miles, to solicit their support for privatizing Social Security and other GOP priorities. Under the plan, millions of activists would get goodies from the Republican National Committee for amassing points by calling talk radio shows, writing letters to newspapers and contacting elected representatives.
DOD awards personnel system training contract
By Dawn S, Onley,
The Defense Department has awarded SI International Inc. a $1.9 million training contract to help users learn the new National Security Personnel System.
The Reston, Va., company will help DOD develop training in areas including pay and classification, performance management and labor relations.
Under the contract, SI will train the DOD civilian workforce on the personnel system. Over 300,000 Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense civilian employees based in the United States will take part in the training courses beginning this summer.
NSPS was laid out in the fiscal 2004 Defense authorization bill as a way to change the way the department hires, pays, promotes and disciplines civilian employees. The system gives managers more flexibility to move civilian workers to where they are most needed and cut hiring time for new workers.
No.014-05 February 9, 2005
DoD Submits Proposed NSPS Regulations to Federal Register
Navy Secretary Gordon England, who serves as the Department of Defense's Senior Executive overseeing the National Security Personnel System, and Dan Blair, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management, will brief the new proposed regulations at a press conference at the DoD Briefing Room, Pentagon 2E579, Thursday, Feb. 10, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT.
Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the North Parking Entrance only. Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Please call (703) 697-5131 for escort into the building.
A summary of the proposed regulations will be available with the posted transcript at http:// www.defenselink.mil
Pentagon To Retool Personnel System
Raises to Be Tied To Performance
By Christopher Lee and Stephen Barr
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page A01
The Defense Department's new personnel rules will jettison parts of a civil service system that for decades have meant steady pay increases for civilian workers and several layers of protection against arbitrary firings or discipline, according to a Pentagon briefing for Congress yesterday.
Under the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), which Defense officials will discuss at a news briefing today, pay raises, now driven largely by longevity, instead will be tied to annual performance evaluations that take into account an employee's conduct and professional demeanor.
The new system would toss out the 15-grade General Schedule pay system and replace it with one made up of "pay bands," offering fewer, larger salary ranges tied to jobs more broadly grouped by occupation and employee skill level, according to a 12-page summary given to House and Senate staffers yesterday.
The document indicates that the Pentagon's new personnel system will be similar to, but not a carbon copy of, the new work rules announced for the Department of Homeland Security last month. The Defense plan, to be phased in over four years, will affect far more workers -- about 750,000, compared with 110,000 at DHS.
Bush administration officials have said both systems should serve as templates for government-wide changes in civil service rules, although several lawmakers have cautioned against moving too quickly.
The Pentagon says managers will be able to hire workers faster, especially in areas of critical need, through a streamlined process, although veterans will still have an edge over other applicants. The system also changes the rules for layoffs to emphasize job performance rather than seniority in determining who stays and who doesn't.
Workers rated as "outstanding" will get larger pay increases than others, and unacceptable performers will receive no raises, the summary says. A raise or promotion -- moving up in a pay band or rising to the next one -- will depend on receiving a successful performance rating from a supervisor.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the summary lacked detail, but he did not see anything in it to assuage concerns that the new system will be worse than the old one.
"This will reinforce suspicions that the administration is trying to undermine the merit system and put politics over competence," said Van Hollen, who had a staffer at the briefing. "The question all along . . . is to make sure that you have a system that is fair, predictable and has the confidence of employees -- confidence that they are being rewarded based on merit rather than political preference or other considerations."
Congress paved the way for the new system in 2003 when it gave the Pentagon the authority to rewrite the personnel rules. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had argued that the current system was outdated, rewarded poor performers as well as strong ones and greatly limited the department's ability to fight global terrorism. Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security similar authority a year earlier, after President Bush insisted that he needed freedom from civil service rules to consolidate 22 agencies into an effective new department.
As at the DHS, the Pentagon plan would expand management rights and limit the influence of federal employee unions, according to the summary. Unions would no longer be able to negotiate work assignments, work methods or the use of new technology.
"Nothing delays management's ability to act to accomplish mission," the summary says.
The Pentagon will create an internal National Security Labor Relations Board to resolve labor-management disputes, shrinking the role of the independent Federal Labor Relations Authority, according to the summary. Defense management will "consult" with unions in lieu of bargaining on many issues.
The new process for employees appealing disciplinary actions would be faster than the current one. The Pentagon gives itself the right to modify or reverse decisions made by administrative law judges, but the summary says the department will use such powers sparingly. Employees could still seek redress before the independent Merit Systems Protection Board, but the standard for overturning punishment would be much higher.
Defense officials contend in the summary that the changes will balance employee bargaining rights with the department's need to act swiftly, and that new disciplinary procedures preserve due process rights. Union leaders, who contend that Pentagon officials routinely ignored their concerns and suggestions in a series of talks about the new plan, say otherwise.
Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, said unions would be left with no meaningful role at the Pentagon and employees would be at the mercy of managers' whims.
"Union people get creamed," said Junemann, who reviewed the summary document. "Workers are going to lose rights and privileges they now have. . . . There's nothing defined. 'Pay for performance' remains only a title and nothing more."
Ron Ault, president of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department, said: "The problem they are trying to fix is bad management. This is not going to fix the problem; it is going to make it worse."
Pentagon officials have defended the development of the new system, noting that employees have provided feedback through town hall meetings, an interactive Web site and meetings between top officials and union leaders.
The earliest the new rules could take effect is 90 days after publication Monday in the Federal Register. The law requires 30 days for public comment followed by 30 days in which the department is to confer with employee unions. Congress then has 30 days to weigh in.
"NSPS has been and will continue to be a broad-based participative process," Pentagon spokeswoman Joyce K. Frank said Tuesday. "We encourage all interested parties to review and comment and help shape the future of the DOD civilian human resources system."