News Archive: 2009


Management Addresses Error Rates for 2009

December 28, 2009: Management responded to the Union's November 13th grievance by arguing against the merits of the Union's arguments but nevertheless agreeing to not apply the error rates for 2009. 


Arbitration Invoked re: Termination of 4/10 CWS at the Chicago Passport Agency
December 22, 2009: The Union invoked arbitration over the unilateral termination of the 4/10 Compressed Work Schedule (CWS) at PPT/CG.


Employees Entitled to Respect & Dignity

December 4, 2009: The Union filed two Step 2 grievances with HQ, alleging that employees in 2 offices were being treated unprofessionally.


Adjudicators Want Enough Time to Do the Job Right

November 20, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 forwarded input from Passport Specialists gathered during a survey in advance of production standards being developed by Management for 2010. 


Grievance Filed over Error Rates for 2009

November 13, 2009: The Union filed a Step 2/Final Step grievance with Passport Services HQ, alleging that the error rates introduced in September were not fair and reasonable, nor were they being applied consistently on a nationwide basis. 


Grievance Filed re: Termination of 4/10 CWS at the Chicago Passport Agency
October 13, 2009: The Union filed a grievance over the unilateral termination of the 4/10 Compressed Work Schedule (CWS) at the Chicago Passport Agency.  Twenty-two employees working the 4/10 CWS were forced to work 8-hour or 5/4-9 CWS schedules on the day shift, in violation of the Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982.  
Thirty NFFE Local 1998 Union Reps attend training class at the Winpisinger Center
October 2, 2009: 30 NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives from all across Passport Services attended a special week-long class at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center from September 26 through October 2, 2009.  The class focused on grievances and bargaining.  This was the first ever FL 1998-only class at the Winpisinger Center and the Union Reps were greatly appreciative of that.  
FL 1998 only class
Managers & Union Reps receive joint training on the new CBA 
September 25, 2009: 25 NFFE Local 1998 Union Reps attended joint training on the new contract with about 40 Management officials.  The training was graciously hosted by Passport Services HQ officials.  Department of State Chief Labor Management Negotiator Steve Polson and NFFE Local 1998 Union President conducted the training and answered questions on the new contract.  This marked the first time that joint training had ever been done on the collective bargaining agreement.  

NFFE Local 1998: More than 400 members strong!

September 10, 2009: For the first time ever, NFFE Local 1998 has over 400 dues-paying Union members!  Just two years earlier, Local 1998 reached a milestone with its 240th member.  Our members are the foundation and strength of our Union.  To join NFFE Local 1998, complete an SF-1187 Dues Deduction Form - - and send it to: NFFE Local 1998, PO Box 2221, Seattle, WA 98111.  
2009-09-25 JT


New job element implementation date pushed back as a result of new CBA 
September 3, 2009: As a result of the new CBA, the implementation date for new data and notational error rate changes to the Passport Specialist job elements got pushed back from an August date to September 3, 2009, according to Passport Services Management.  This gives employees more time to adjust to the myriad number of new rules going into effect.  The Union did invoke its right to bargain over the change and argued that the date would more logically be January 1, 2010, after notational and other policies have been developed. 


Special Edition of Union newsletter
August 26, 2009: The Union issued a special edition of its newsletter - One Voice, Union Strong - to highlight changes in the new collective bargaining agreement.  


Revised collective bargaining agreement goes into effect
August 25, 2009: The Undersecretary of State for Management signed a revised collective bargaining agreement between Passport Services and NFFE Local 1998.  The Union had filed a petition for review (negotiability appeal) with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) after Management had alleged that certain provisions of the July 20, 2009 CBA were contrary to law.  The Union had disputed whether those claims were properly or timely served on the Union.  


NFFE Local 1998 receives recognition in IAMAW Newsletter contest
August 20, 2009: The IAMAW announced the winner of its newsletter and website contest and NFFE Local 1998 was recognized for three awards for our newsletter - One Voice, Union Strong.  Local 1998 won 3rd place for General Excellence and received honorable mention for Best Layout and Design and Best Feature. Secretary-Treasurer Jennifer Gile serves as the editor of the newsletter, Union President Colin Walle serves as the publisher, and PPT/WN Union Steward Tanika Jenkins wrote the article that received Honorable mention for Best Feature. The NFFE National newsletter - The Federal Employee - also received a number of awards.  
Arbitrator rules for the Union
July 30, 2009: Arbitrator Sean P. Rogers ruled for the Union in the case of whether admonishments are excluded from the negotiated grievance procedure.  The parties had attended an arbitration hearing on May 21, 2009.  This issue was important not only for the employees affected but also to reaffirm the principle that the exclusions to the grievance process are only determined by law and collective bargaining - Management cannot unilaterally exclude an issue from coverage by the grievance procedure.  

New CBA goes into effect! 
July 20, 2009: The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Passport Services and NFFE Local 1998 went into effect.  However, Management disputed that the CBA was in effect. 
NFFE mourns passing of Union President Richard N. Brown
July 1, 2009: Friends and members of the National Federation of Federal Employees mourned the passing of Union President Richard N. Brown on June 30th.  President Brown had led NFFE for over a decade and was a strong champion for justice in the federal workplace.  Local 1998 appreciates and remembers all that President Brown did over the years in support of the bargaining unit employees of Passport Services, and we mourn his passing.  
NFFE Press Release
Funeral Arrangements/Condolences

Contract negotiations finally completed!
June 19, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services concluded bargaining on a successor collective bargaining agreement on June 12th.  The Agency has a 30-day review period, which the parties agreed to start on June 19th,  to ensure that no provisions conflict with law.  The Union negotiators were Chief Negotiator Steve Flory from NFFE along with Local 1998's President Colin Walle, Vice President Rob Arnold, Secretary-Treasurer Jennifer Gile, and Washington Passport Agency Senior Steward Melissa Toby.  


Arbitration hearing held re: exclusions from the grievance process
May 21, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 VP Rob Arnold and NFFE Assistant Directing Business Representative Bill Fenaughty presented the Union's case in an arbitration hearing held in Washington, DC.  The case focused on the issue of whether admonishments are excluded from the negotiated grievance procedure.  Passport Services had issued admonishments in November 2008 to 32 employees for allegedly improperly viewing a passport file between 2002 and 2008, but had denied the Union's grievance on the claim that admonishments are excluded from the grievance procedure.  The parties will submit briefs within 30 days and hopefully receive a decision within 30 days after that.  


Union reps make connections
May 19, 2009: Three Local 1998 Union representatives made visits to other Passport Services locations in May.  Secretary-Treasurer Jennifer Gile visited New York, Connecticut, Boston, and Portsmouth (NH), while Vice President Rob Arnold and Senior Steward Lisa Bohannon - joined by NFFE Business Rep John Griffin - visited Charleston, SC.  The reps provided training and orientations, and also conducted membership drivers.  


IAMAW holds 2009 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC
May 15, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 President Colin Walle attended the IAMAW's Legislative Conference held from May 11-14, 2009. Union members heard speeches from members of Congress and also visited Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of worker issues. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis were in attendance, among others.  
Union reps attend Senate Committee hearing on stopping passport fraud
May 5, 2009: The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing titled, "The Passport Issuance Process: Closing the Door to Fraud", chaired by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).  Five Local 1998 reps attended, along with NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin, to hear testimony by Passport Services DAS Brenda Sprague and GAO International Affairs & Trade Director Jess T. Ford<SEE Statement by Senator Feinstein (D-CA)>  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>

NFFE submits written testimony to Senate hearing re: passport fraud
May 5, 2009: The National Federation of Federal Employees submitted a written statement to be included as part of the record for the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security's hearing about passport vulnerabilities.  NFFE also issued a press release regarding the submission.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>
Latest edition of newsletter published 
April 28, 2009: The April 2009 edition of the Local 1998 newsletter, "One Voice, Union Strong", was published today.  


NFFE press release: don't blame employees; Passport Services accepts responsibility for "systemic problem"
April 25, 2009: The National Federation of Federal Employees issued a press release on April 21st defending the 4 employees blamed unfairly by the Department of State for the applications issued in error to the Government Accountability Office, who allegedly failed to wait for the results of a required check prior to approving the applications.  Passport Services responded on April 23rd to by acknowledging that "we never provided a clear directive that all work had to be held on a Social Security check to come back."  Also see the article.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Passport Services initiates proceedings to the FSIP to terminate compressed work schedule on night shift
April 24, 2009: Management at the Washington Passport Agency notified the Union that HQ had initiated a filing to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP).  Management had proposed in January 2009 to terminate the 4/10 compressed work schedule (CWS) on the night shift, effective February 2009.  The parties continue to bargain over their proposals, but if that is not successful Management had indicated it will ask the FSIP to order the termination of the 4/10 CWS on the night shift.  <SEE "Work Schedules" HOT TOPIC>


Grievances assist employees in promotions
April 22, 2009: Two employees, in two different Passport Agencies, were able to receive their career ladder promotions after receiving assistance from NFFE Local 1998.  The Union filed two grievance steps on behalf of one employee who was unfairly denied his promotion from GS-9 to GS-11.  In the other case, the employee filed the grievance over her promotion from GS-9 to GS-11 herself with the backing, guidance, and help of Union representatives. 


Contract negotiations will resume in June
April 20, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services Management agreed to meet for a week of mediation from June 8-12 in Washington, DC, in an attempt to resolve the contract negotiations that have been going on since January 2006.  <SEE "Contract Negotiations" HOT TOPIC>


Department of State blames employees for GAO test results
April 16, 2009: The Department of State (DOS) publicly blamed the employees who approved the 4 GAO test applications for those errors in statements to the media and to the GAO.  An April 13th letter from the GAO to Congress said that DOS "officials told us that a combination of human error and a lack of access to information resulted in the failures identified by our undercover tests. According to State, passport specialists did not wait for the results of a required SSA database check before approving our fraudulent applications.”  This follows up on actions taken by Management against those employees, including the unprecedented step of suspending their adjudication privileges.  The Union filed a grievance over those actions.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Discussion held over grievance regarding the passport application notational policy and error rate
April 10, 2009: Passport Services HQ Management and the Union held a teleconference to discuss the grievance filed by the Union over the policy for notating passport applications and the allowable notational error rate, which was not included in the 2008 and 2009 performance elements.  


Mandatory overtime ordered for all employees
March 30, 2009: For the first time since 2007, and for only the second time ever, Passport Services Management ordered all employees to perform mandatory overtime (16 hours minimum in a 30 day period).  


GAO tests integrity of passport issuance process: 4 passports fraudulently obtained out of 4 attempts
March 13, 2009: The Associated Press reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted four passport applications with fraudulent documents as part of a test of Passport Services, and successfully obtained passports in all four attempts.  NFFE Local 1998 has warned Passport Services Management repeatedly about a number of vulnerabilities in the passport adjudication process that make it all too easy for fraudulent applicants to succeed in their attempts.  The Union previously contacted Congress and the GAO about this issue, which led to the June 29, 2005 GAO report referenced in the latest GAO investigation.  The Union is hopeful that the GAO's test will lead to sustained improvements. <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Adjudicators once again state that more focus needed on quality work; quotas need to be lowered to catch frauds
March 13, 2009: In a Union survey of adjudicators started in late February, 628 stated that their production quotas should be lowered to improve efforts to detect passport fraud, 18 stated the quotas should remain the same, and 10 did not know. The percentage of adjudicators - 95% - stating that more time is needed for diligent scrutiny of applications is virtually the same as in previous surveys done by the Union in 2005, 2006, and 2007. <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Union asks Management to amend collective bargaining agreement: add fraud prevention and quality awards
March 10, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 had proposed in January 2006, as part of contract negotiations, that Passport Services and the Union dedicate specific minimum percentages of awards funding towards fraud detection efforts.  Some of Passport Services' 18 offices have anti-fraud awards, but many do not.  While contract negotiations are still not yet complete, the Union recently proposed that the parties simply amend the current CBA to dedicate at least 15% of awards funding to fraud prevention and at least 15% to quality work.  The purpose of these proposals is to put more emphasis on quality, as employees had overwhelmingly reported to the Union that there is too little focus on quality in the system they work under.  The Union has not yet received a response.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


FLSA Grievance filed on behalf of employees
March 6, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 filed an FLSA grievance and an information request with Passport Services Management. (click for more)


Union thanks DAS for taking positive steps 
February 27, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 thanked the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services, Brenda Sprague, for recent steps taken to enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process.  The Union also invoked its right to bargain over process changes and expressed concerns about aspects of recent process changes that negatively affected employees. <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Operations Officers included in Passport Services bargaining unit per settlement agreement 
February 27, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services signed a settlement agreement to resolve the Clarification of Unit.... (click for more) 


Union Seeks Response on Numerical Standards
February 17, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 inquired with Passport Services Management about a response to the Union's request to lower the numerical standards to a reasonable level.  Passport Services Management responded the following day that a reply would be forthcoming.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>


Orientation and membership drive held at SIA
February 11, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle conducted two orientation sessions for employees at the Special.... (click for more)


Arbitration invoked over grievance exclusions and Warnings for passport file searches
February 4, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle invoked arbitration after Passport Services Management denied the Union's grievance regarding Letters of Warning given to 32 employees.... (click for more)  


ULP filed in response to implementation of internal controls guidelines
January 29, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 Vice President Rob Arnold filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge (ULP)....  (click for more)  (click for more)


Local 1998 newsletter renamed and latest edition issued
January 29, 2009: The NFFE Local 1998 newsletter was renamed "One Voice, Union Strong" by a vote of the dues-paying Union members.  The latest edition was issued in late January 2009.  
Union asks that production quotas be lowered so that passport fraud can be prevented
January 13, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle requested that Brenda Sprague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services, lower the adjudication quotas so that Passport Specialist would have more time to scrutinize the applications and prevent/detect passport fraud.  Walle stated that with more time to diligently adjudicate fewer passports would be issued in error to frauds, citing as one small example the work of Operation Deathmatch, which has uncovered numerous passports obtained by criminals: 
<SEE "
Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>