Preserving Bargaining Rights and Other AFGE Wins in Defense Authorization Bill

Categories: DoD, The Insider

Thanks to our hard work and persistence, AFGE scored several major wins in the House version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including a provision that protects collective bargaining rights at the Department of Defense.   

The bill, which passed the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) last week, is expected to go to the House floor on July 6 where our union will work hard to stop hostile amendments. The Senate version of the bill is being debated on the Senate floor, but the Senate is unlikely to finish the bill until later this month. 

Here are some of the hard-fought victories included in the House 2021 NDAA:  

1. Preserving collective bargaining rights in DoD 

On Jan. 29, 2020, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum, unsolicited by the Secretary of Defense, to provide the Secretary of Defense broad authority to exclude DoD agencies and subdivisions from being covered under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), which outlines collective bargaining rights for federal employees. We worked with members of Congress to successfully block DoD from using appropriated funds to take away our union rights and negotiated contract. This measure was adopted 34-22 with every Democrat and three Republicans voting for it, a significant win for our union. The Senate version of the bill, however, doesn’t include this provision, so the issue will be settled in conference where House and Senate conferees meet to iron out their differences. 

2. Protecting and restoring jobs  

The committee prohibited arbitrary reductions of the DOD civilian workforce and required consideration of the impact of proposed reductions on workload, costs, readiness, lethality, and military force structure. We also were able to restore jobs that had been cut performing increased mission requirements in the Defense Agencies, such as the Defense Contract Management Agency and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.   

3. Equalizing locality pay for Wage Grade and General Schedule employees  

Hourly and salaried workers working in the same locations would receive the same local pay rates if this measure that AFGE supports became law.   

4. Holding contractors accountable  

The committee established a measure that improves oversight over the department’s lack of sufficient progress in contract services inventories, planning, programming, budgeting and management controls as required by recent acquisition reforms championed by HASC on bi-partisan basis to ensure consistent compliance with existing statutory requirements on outsourcing and privatization of government jobs.   

The committee prohibited direct conversions that evade public-private competition moratorium and other statutory limitations on privatization. The committee required the same scrutiny over contract services as currently applied to DoD civilian employees.  

The committee also prohibited the expansion of the use of public-private talent exchanges. The committee struck from the existing public private talent exchange law’s provisions that allowed contractors to supervise federal employees and perform inherently governmental functions. Also struck down are provisions that limit liability for contractor employees while detailed to the federal government and subject federal employees detailed to contractors to potential ethics reviews based on highly subjective and potentially overly broad limitations on disclosure of information. 

5. Prohibiting merger of military grocery stores and retail stores   

The committee prohibited merger of the Commissaries with the Exchanges. The committee also directed the Defense Resale Task Force to update its business case calling for the merger after the Government Accountability Office found that the task force overestimated savings and underestimated the costs of its recommendations to merge Commissaries with Exchanges, and that DoD did not fully disclose to Congress the concerns of the military department stakeholders regarding the merger.  

6. Expanding federal employee paid leave benefits   

The committee corrected a technical error in a new parental leave law that grants most federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption or foster of a new child. The technical correction would expand the paid parental leave benefit to federal employees who are currently ineligible because they are not Title 5 employees. This includes Federal Aviation Administration employees, certain Department of Veterans Affairs employees, District of Columbia Courts and Public Defender Services employees, certain employees of the Executive Office of the President and White House Office, non-screener personnel at the Transportation Security Administration, and Article I judges, including bankruptcy and magistrate judges. 

7. Prohibiting downsizing of military hospitals and clinics 

The committee extended for another year a ban on the department’s plan to downsize military positions in the military medical treatment facilities. Downsizing military positions would increase the risk of facility closures as well as privatization. 

Stay tuned for updates on the NDAA. 

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