File Search & Internal Controls 
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 in November 2008 for passport file searches now deemed inappropriate that were done between late 2002 and early 2008. Some of the 32 had done a single search and did not recall the reason for the search so many years later.  Other stated that they remembered the single search and that it was done for official purposes.  Still others also remembered the reason for the single, allegedly questionable search and explained that it was done pursuant to supervisors or trainers telling them to look up random passport files as a training exercise.  Management denied the grievance on the basis that Management believes that Letters of Warning are excluded from the grievance procedure.  Therefore, the Union is seeking to have an arbitrator first rule on that issue.  

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) with the Federal Labor Relations Authority after Passport Services Management implemented changes in working conditions as part of a new emphasis on internal controls.  Determining the internal security practices of the Agency is a Management Right under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. 7106), but that same law gives unions the right to bargain over the procedures and appropriate arrangements for the implementation of changes relating to that authority.  A ULP is an allegation that the Agency violated the law, specifically 5 U.S.C. 7116.  The Union had sought to separately account for the time that employees had to perform new locking and security functions, and had sought to obtain tools (such as lockers) for employees to be able to comply with locking requirements, but Management refused to bargain with the Union and never responded to the Union's proposals.  The ULP also alleged that Management implemented a new regulation in conflict with the collective bargaining agreement already in effect, and also that Management inappropriately made inaccurate statements regarding the Union's role in developing internal controls policies.  

National Union/Management Council meeting held in Washington, DC 
December 18, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives and Passport Services Management officials met in Washington, DC on December 16th and 18th for their annual National Union/Management Council meeting.  The parties discussed ergonomic issues, work schedules, internal controls, health and safety issues, and other matters.  The parties also jointly presented the 2007 Union/Management Cooperation Award to Ken Cato, Assistant Regional Director at the Special Issuance Agency and formerly an Operations Offices at Passport Services HQ.  In addition to the meeting with Passport Services Management, on December 17th the Union representatives also met with Consular Affairs Human Resources Managers and staff, and provided representational training to Local 1998 representatives located in Washington, DC.  

Grievance filed over discipline for alleged passport file snooping
December 2, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed a grievance with Passport Services HQ regarding admonishments given to 32 bargaining unit employees who had viewed passport files of celebrities from late 2002 to early 2008.  The Union argued that employees who did the searches as part of their official duties or as part of training should not be disciplined because they did nothing wrong.  Regarding employees who did not recall the reason for a single search done years and over a hundred thousand passport applications ago, the Union argued that there was no evidence on which to conclude the search was done improperly and therefore the employee was being disciplined for failing to have a picture-perfect memory - which, the Union asserted, is not a reasonable behavioral expectation.  As Management had earlier claimed that admonishments were excluded from the grievance procedure based on a section of the Foreign Affairs Manual, the Union further argued that admonishments are included for coverage in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the parties.  

Contractor pleads guilty to passport file snooping
September 16, 2008: Media organizations reported that a contractor had been charged and plead guilty to illegally snooping at the files of numerous "high profile" individuals over the course of three years.  In March 2008 news reports revealed that contractors had improperly looked at the passport files of presidential candidates Senator McCain, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton.  The contractor is facing 0 to 6 months in prison for the misdemeanor, and sentencing is scheduled for Monday.  Washington Post Story  ABC News Story

Passpport Services & NFFE Local 1998 sign MOU re: auditing passport file searches 
August 22, 2008: The Union and Management concluded bargaining on a Memorandum of Understanding that addressed a new program in which Management officials in each office would audit searches by employees of passport files to ensure that they were done for legitimate purposes.  The parties agreed that the privacy of passport applicants must be respected.  Bargaining focused on the manner in which employees would record their searches and the time necessary for searches and recording.  In addition, the parties emphasized that employees investigated for the reasons for a passport file search possessed their full Weingarten Rights.  Other than the Weingarten Rights aspect, the MOU does not address the ramifications of ongoing investigations by the Office of Inspector General, the Passport Monitor Unit, and Passport Services HQ regarding searches done of "high profile" individuals two to six years earlier.  The Union is still communicating to Management regarding that issue.  

OT $ for employee interviewed by OIG
May 16, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 successfully secured 6 hours of overtime pay for an employee interviewed by the Department of State's Office of Inspector General as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the passport file search controversy.  The employee, who did not violate any rules, was interviewed outside of normal work hours by the OIG.  The Union contacted HQ to obtain concurrence that the employee was due overtime pay for performing these official duties, and communicated that information to the employee.  

Management agrees to allow employees to read Internal Controls Guidelines 
April 17, 2008: Passport Services Management informed local office Management that all bargaining unit employees should be given a minimum of 3 hours of work time to read the comprehensive (and lengthy) November 2007 Internal Controls Guidelines, and to hold a 1 hour team meeting to discuss the rules.  The Union had made this proposal to Management on September 13, 2007, in response to the draft guidelines that were shared with the Union, and reiterated the proposal on March 21, 2008.  Local 1998 welcomes this decision by Passport Services Management.  This is another example of the Union and Management working together to better achieve the mission.  

Passport Services embroiled in controversies 
April 5, 2008: Following on the heels of 2007's passport surge debacle, Passport Services has received a great deal of negative media coverage within the last few weeks.  On March 20th, media reports revealed that three contractor employees improperly looked at the passport files for Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, and that a government employee improperly looked at the passport file for Senator Hillary Clinton.  The Department of State Office of Inspector General is investigating the file snooping.  NFFE Local 1998 secured an acknowledgement from Passport Services Management that employees being interviewed by OIG investigators do possess Weingarten Rights and may have a Union representative present during the interview, after a supervisor initially denied the request.  The Union also emailed a reminder to employees nationwide on April 3rd.  Media stories on March 26th reported the shocking news that the passport cover and new electronic chip has been outsourced to foreign companies, including one manufacturing plant in Thailand.  On April 3rd, Passport Services' Acting Managing Director Betsy Anderson and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) Ann Barrett sent messages to all staff nationwide that they would no longer be serving in those positions.  On April 4th, media outlets reported that the top Passport Services manager, DAS Ann Barrett, was being replaced, though no connection was made between that move and the recent controversies.  The Acting DAS for Passport Services will now be Lawrence Baer.  



The United States Passport 

1998-2009 NFFE FL1998 

This site is owned & maintained by IAMAW FD1 NFFE FL1998, the union that represents the bargaining unit employees of Passport Services (a division of the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs). The views expressed here are those of the Union and not the federal government.