Chronology of Union efforts to address concerns about the integrity of the passport issuance process
 
This is a chronology of the written record of the Union’s and employees’ efforts, and Management’s response, to enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process, including the efforts to achieve sufficient time for Passport Specialists to diligently adjudicate passport applications.

What is not included in the written record are the multitude of verbal communications and expressions by the Union and the employees over the years regarding concerns about vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process to Management in every Passport Office and at every managerial level – from the front line GS-12 Supervisors, to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and even the Assistant Secretary of State.

Statement from former Local 1998 president, Bill Beardall:
Beginning in September 2001 and continuing until May 2002, I had the privilege of visiting with employees from many of our passport offices as I traveled to do representational training with our union officers and stewards.  I was able to visit with employees from passport offices in Washington, D.C., Charleston, Portsmouth, Boston, Norwalk, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco.  As we discussed the tragic events of September 11th, employees in every office expressed to me that when they first learned of the attacks on New York and Washington, that one of their first thoughts included, "I hope we didn't issue a passport to one of the perpetrators." 

Passport specialists are hard workers and deeply concerned about the integrity of the United States passport.  Many of them expressed to me their deep concern about having sufficient time to adjudicate each passport application.  They felt that the emphasis was on numbers and not quality, and were concerned that a fraudulent application could slip through in a rush to meet the daily quota.

During my remaining months as Local 1998 president, I went to management on numerous occasions with requests for the union, the exclusive representative of Passport Services employees, to be included in the process of standardization due to the concerns of employees.  Management representatives repeatedly refused us the opportunity to participate, but did say that they would keep us informed of their progress.

Note: Mr. Beardall served as President of NFFE Local 1998 from June 1, 1998 to May 31, 2002.

 

Statement from former Local 1998 president, Alex Allen:
Without a doubt, the topic that most people wanted to talk about during my office visits since management began working on them was the new standards. Everyone has felt that they were too high if management intended for employees to do everything that needed to be done. Many felt that their ratings would suffer while others just did not believe they could make these new standards.

(Note: President Alex Allen made numerous office visits between June 1, 2002 and November 19, 2003.  In some instances, he would conduct training in one Passport Office while Union representatives from nearby Passport Offices would visit to participate in the training.  He met in person with employees and Union officers from Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Connecticut, Houston, the National Passport Center in Portsmouth NH, New York, Pennsylvania, Seattle, and Washington DC., as well as New Orleans, where he is stationed.)

Note: Mr. Allen served as President of NFFE Local 1998 from June 1, 2002 to November 19, 2003.

 

Statement from current Local 1998 president, Colin Walle:
I have served as a national officer with Local 1998 since I was elected Secretary-Treasurer on June 1, 1998. The # 1 issue that heard from our bargaining unit employees and Union reps was concerns over vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process, specifically the concern that we would issue a passport in error to a criminal or terrorist. There were widespread complaints about the unfair adjudication standards that did not provide sufficient time for Passport Specialist to diligently adjudicate applications. Technological and work processes changes over the years have added additional steps while Specialists were expected to meet the same quota.

Other concerns, such as those mentioned in the GAO Report that was released on June 29, 2005, were also brought up repeatedly. These include insufficient training and resources, problems with the CLASS database, and problems with workload transfers. 

After "traditional" Union efforts (negotiations, partnership meetings, grievances, ULP's) failed to convince Management to sufficiently address these issues, the Union and the employees initiated "Plan B" in December 2003. This was a reluctant was necessary step. As a result of the Union's efforts, the Congress asked the GAO to investigate the matter, the GAO issued a critical report, and the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing. A number of positive changes have already resulted, and hopefully more will in the future.  

Note: Mr. Walle has served as President of NFFE Local 1998 from November 20, 2003 to the present.

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>

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>

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.  

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. 

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.  

January 13, 2009: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle requested that Passport Services Management lower the adjudication quotas so that Passport Specialists 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.  Here is a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article titled, "Dead people's identities stolen to cover up wrongdoing", that reported on over 100 passport fraudulently obtained by criminals using deceased identities:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/17/BAVV12VO5L.DTL 

 


December 17, 2008: Ambassador Joe Huggins (retired), a member of President-Elect Barack Obama's Transition Team for the Department of State, met with NFFE General Counsel Susan Grundmann and NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives (Colin Walle, Rob Arnold, Jennifer Gile, and Kamaria Blandford).  The Union representatives conveyed concerns about vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process that are a priority that the Union believes should be addressed.  The Union expressed its appreciation to Ambassador Huggins for the meeting.  Letter to President-Elect Obama's DOS Transition Team

December 16, 2008: At the National Union/Management Council meeting held in Washington, DC, the Union requested a response to the emails sent by the Union asking for a reduction in the numerical desk adjudication standard.  

October 2, 2008: Passport Services HQ Management issued a memo to all Passport Specialists nationwide implementing Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross's January 8, 2008 order.  Arbitrator Ross had issued that order following up his October 23, 2007 decision in NFFE Local 1998's grievance (filed on March 30, 2007) over the unfair measurement of desk adjudication performance while on overtime.  Passport Services Management had filed an Exception (an appeal) to the Arbitrator's order, but on September 30, 2008 Management withdrew the appeal.  As a result of the arbitration decision, measurement of overtime production now factors in many of the other tasks that Passport Specialists must perform when assigned to adjudicate passport applications.  The Arbitrator's January 8th order concerned the retroactive application of the fair measurement.  According to Passport Services, 396 Passport Specialists' production averages for 2007 were raised as a result of the retroactive calculation.  However, partly due to other factors within that job element (e.g., counter adjudication production), Passport Services asserted that only 8 employees were affected to the extent that their rating for the numerical job element was raised, and only 2 of those 8 had their overall rating raised (with 1 receiving a performance award as a result of an adjusted overall "Outstanding" rating).  If other employees believe they should also have received a higher level rating, NFFE Local 1998 encourages them to contact their office Union representative or Union President Colin Walle as soon as possible.

September 15, 2008: National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) President Rick Brown wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appealing the Department of State's (DOS) September 5th denial of the Union's July 29th FAIR Act challenge.  In the September 5th denial, the DOS claimed that the function of identifying passport applicants was not inherently governmental and could be contracted out.  However, the DOS stated that the practice had ceased and would not continue, noting that 400 adjudicators had been hired since September 2007.  NFFE President Brown expressed appreciation for that statement, but argued that the job function was inherently governmental and that the door to using contractors for that job should be closed permanently.  

September 5, 2008: The Union contacted the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services to formally request that the numerical standards be lowered, arguing in part: 

With the massive backlog of work last year and mandatory overtime, it did not seem likely that Management would agree to allow more time for employees to spend carefully adjudicating each passport application. With the increase in staff this year, and the resulting decrease in workload pressure, the focus has been on training and there have been more non-measured days (fewer days measured against the standard and therefore less concern about its unfairness). Next year, we are expected to get “back to normal”, so to speak. This is the best time to make a positive change in the numerical standards. 

I think that some managers who have come before you, and some current managers, have become entrenched in their mindset that they will not support a reduction in the numerical standards. They believe that because the employees meet the standards why, then, of course the standards must be fine. The Union and the employees come at the issue of the numerical standards from a different point of view. Our knowledge that the numerical standards do not provide enough time is not a “belief” “about” something that we gathered from reports or statistics. Rather, our knowledge comes from our experience or actually adjudicating passport applications within the allowed time frames, and when we state that the numerical standards do not provide enough time that is not an “opinion” about this subject, that is reporting the facts of our experiences to you. Specifically on the issue of passport fraud, there are indicators of that crime that can – and have – been missed when we are zipping through the applications. Even with more time, we of course would not reach a point where we’d make zero errors – but we can decrease the number of serious, dangerous mistakes that we make. 

I would like to reiterate a point made in the request sent back in 2007. Year after year, the employees have shown they can meet the numerical standards. We can push the passports out the door at the pace that is expected of us. The reason that this issue is of such great concern is that we, the adjudicators of the passport applications, know that the pace that we are working is not a safe speed. 2007 was a record year in passport issuances, but we will all come to find in time that it was also a record year for fraudulent passports issued in error. Let’s get this right now, in 2008, while we have the staff and while we are doing the training, in advance of the increase expected for 2009. In a meeting I attended at PPT HQ in 2007, I was told that PPT had a policy of “zero tolerance for passport fraud”. The Union and the employees we represent could not agree more with that sentiment. Now, in 2008, it is time to make that goal a reality. 

August 28, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile filed a Grievance Between the Parties with Passport Services HQ alleging violations of Article 4 and Article 13 - specifically, Section 8, which states: “Changes to the Foreign Service Institute Passport Examiners Correspondence Course will be shared with the Union prior to implementation, with sufficient time provided to respond.”  The Union had come to find that the course had been changed in 2005 and 2006, but no notice has ever been provided to the Union of a change since the collective bargaining agreement went into effect on July 3, 2001.  Beyond the specific contract violation, the Union argued that it makes no sense to have citizenship adjudication training provided to domestic, Civil Service passport adjudicators - who handle over 95% of the passport applications - that is created and taught by Foreign Service Officers, and with the course materials written from the perspective of working overseas.   

July 31, 2008: The National Federation of Federal Employees issued a press release regarding the FAIR Act Inventory challenge filed on July 29th over the use of contractors to perform the passport application acceptance and execution function.  
Note: this story was picked up by the Government Executive on August 5, 2008 and by Federal Daily on August 8, 2008.  

July 29, 2008: National Federation of Federal Employees President Rick Brown submitted a challenge, or appeal, to the Department of State concerning the use of non-governmental contractor employees for the job of accepting and executing passport applications.  The job involves identifying the passport applicant, administering the oath, helping to prevent passport fraud, and other functions.  Prior to June 2007, it had been Department of State and Passport Services policy that only government workers could perform this function, but while under pressure from the public, the media, and the Congress to address the nearly 3,000,000 (three million) passport application backlog, this policy was reversed.  The challenge was filed in accordance with the FAIR Act.  

May 23, 2008: Passport Services and NFFE Local 1998 issued a joint memo announcing the implementation of new performance elements for the nearly 1300 Passport Specialists represented by the Union.  This is the product of a successful collaboration between the Union and Management.  This change came about as the Department of State (DOS) Human Resources office sought to make more meaningful distinctions in rating levels.  For example, in 2006, 83% of all DOS staff were rated "Outstanding" overall (the highest possible level), while only 32% of the Passport Specialists were rated at that level.  That difference is not expected to continue.  The new elements have some generic job duties that are identical for all DOS staff but, for the most part, contain the same language the previous elements had - just moved to different places as 4 critical elements and 1 non-critical element under the old system are now 4 critical elements and 3 critical commitments in the new system.  Management agreed in December to a Union proposal to allow all employees to watch an informative town hall video and participate in a Union survey, and that input was utilized by the Union during numerous communications with Management officials over the last 6 months to jointly determine where the old duties would be placed in the new elements.  The most significant change in the performance rating system is that each element/commitment will be rated on a 3-level scale rather than the old 4-level scale.  One very positive result of this change is that the 32 passports adjudicated per hour Outstanding level (using the GS-9/11 figure) is no more; employees seeking the highest rating for the numerical element will now have to adjudicate 28 passports per hour.  As the integrity of the passport issuance process is the most important concern of the employees, this is a welcome change indeed because it will allow those employees an additional 16 seconds per application in order to more diligently detect passport fraud and make fewer errors.  

February 27, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle submitted an "Opposition" to the February 7, 2008 Exception (appeal) that the Department of State submitted to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).  The Union argued that Management's Exception should be dismissed by the FLRA because it was not timely filed and because Management's argument that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority was erroneous.  If the Union prevails in this appeal, and the FLRA dismisses the Exception, then that means that employees who were not measured fairly in their 2007 overtime desk adjudication performance will have their production figures revised effective February 28, 2007 onward.  

February 7, 2008: The Department of State Office of Legal Advisor filed an exception (an appeal) to the Federal Labor Relations Authority challenging Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross's January 9th decision on the Union's desk adjudication overtime measurement grievance.  NFFE Local 1998 representatives are working with NFFE National to file an opposition to the exception.  

February 1, 2008: In the first grievance of its kind that Local 1998 has filed, Local 1998 submitted a Grievance Between the Parties regarding the new passport applications.  The grievance alleges violations of Article 1 (the integrity of the passport issuance process), Article 4 (Union/Management Cooperation Agreement), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.  The changes to the forms were made without involving the representatives (Local 1998) of the employees who work with the forms on a day-to-day basis to the degree required by Article 4.  The Union requested that Management make certain changes to the next version of the forms and involve employee representatives on the drafting committees for future revisions. 

January 9, 2008: Passport Services HQ informed the Union on New Year's Eve that, pursuant to the Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross's October 23rd decision on the grievance, they would apply a new "0.875" factor to the measurement of desk adjudication on overtime starting on January 1, 2008.  This would take into account the so-called "nonproductive tasks" that employees must perform while on overtime other than adjudication.  Management stated that this solution would not be applied retroactively.  As the arbitrator retained jurisdiction over the case, the Union invited Management to jointly contact the arbitrator, but Management declined, so the Union requested an order directing Management to comply and the arbitrator issued that order on January 9th.  Management was directed to apply the solution from February 28, 2007 onward for those employees who did not have their nonproductive tasks taken into account previously.  

 


December 7, 2007: Management officials from the Department of State's Human Resources office and Passport Service Headquarters visited Seattle to meet with the Union President, Secretary-Treasurer, and the Seattle Senior Steward and Union Stewards to discuss the proposed new performance appraisal plan.  

November 20, 2007: The Union asks for a response to the November 16th email by the end of December (no response is received).  

November 16, 2007: The Union emails Passport Services Management and again requests more time for diligent passport adjudication, arguing in part: 

The employees that we represent are meeting the numerical expectations placed on them by HQ. This is not a case of a few employees who cannot work as quickly as expected who are complaining about the system. These employees can and have met the numerical expectations. That gives them a credibility and authority that should not be ignored when they have reported that the numerical expectations do not give them enough time to do a quality job. Yes, they can do the quantity expected, but they state that the result of that is that quality suffers. HQ knows this all too well, which is why you took the unprecedented step in 2006 and 2007 to wipe out the error rate expectation for all adjudicators nationwide. Yes, employees met the numerical standard, but the byproduct of that was that a great number of them exceeded the allowable error rate (and even that number was minimized by inaccurate recording of errors). 

This is not a case where the employees are whining because they don’t want to make widgets in a factory as fast as the boss wants them to work. This is a case where the employees are gravely concerned that the fast pace at which they must work creates a vulnerability in the integrity of the passport issuance process. There is a threat out there – persons attempting to commit passport fraud in order to aid in the commission of (or flea from apprehension for) another crime. The pace at which adjudicators must work makes it all too easy for fraud indicators to be missed and overlooked (the large majority of frauds issued in error that we know of had indicators that should have been spotted, if the employee had enough time). The persons who successfully fraudulently obtain a passport obviously do not report our error back to us, like our customers for whom we’ve misspelled their names for example, instead they go on with the commission of their other criminal acts. Those that are eventually caught by law enforcement are in most cases not found out for many years later. So, we don’t know exactly how many frauds were issued this past year, but we do know that by working too quickly indicators were missed, and frauds did successfully obtain passports from us. 

November 1, 2007: Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross issued his decision on the grievance filed by NFFE Local 1998 regarding the measuring of desk adjudication on overtime.  The Union had argued that by not including the "non-productive tasks" (e.g., locking/unlocking, logging in/out of the computer and other programs, obtaining/moving batches, etc.) in the calculation of overtime performance, Management had violated Article 18 of the collective bargaining agreement.  Passport Specialists are measured on desk adjudication for 6.5 hours in a regular 8.0 hour day, but for 7.5 hours in an 8.0 hour overtime day.  Article 18 requires that performance be measured fairly, equitably, and using the most accurate methods available.  However, the Arbitrator decided that the bill should be split equally between the Union and Management ($3952.10 apiece) because he did not believe it was proved that employees perform exactly and precisely the same non-productive tasks on overtime as on regular time.  The Arbitrator ordered Passport Services Management to "cease and desist" using the MIS category "Overtime Desk - All Applications" and he remanded the grievance to Management "to account for Passport Specialists' nonproductive tasks while performing desk adjudication on overtime."  The Arbitrator also retained jurisdiction of the grievance if there is any dispute over the remedy.  Note: the bill was later split with the Union paying $3202.10 and Management paying $4702.10, per the collective bargaining agreement.  

August 27, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 submitted a complaint to the Offices of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice, along with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), regarding a "pilot program" being explored by the Department of Homeland Security with the State of Washington and other states.  This plan would use a supposedly "secure" driver's license in place of a U.S. passport or the under-development passport card for travel across land borders into and out of the United States.  The Union argued that this identification card amounts to a de facto passport, and that only the federal government should be in the business of issuing passports.  Furthermore, the Union argued that the process for issuing these identification cards would be too vulnerable to fraud and that because of that vulnerability, and the variations each state would have in its own card, that would undermine the intent of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  

August 10, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services concluded two days of grievance arbitration hearings covering two different grievances.  The arbitrator was Jerome H. Ross, who previously decided a case for the parties in 2001.  The first grievance concerns the measurement of desk adjudication performance on overtime.  The Union alleges that Management violated Article 18 of the collective bargaining agreement by not accounting for so-called non-productive tasks during overtime (such as logging in/out of the computer, locking/unlocking desks and cabinets, obtaining and moving work, reading email policies and instructions, and safeguarding or shredding sensitive documents and materials).  The Union argued that this was not fair or reasonable, and also that Passport Services should look to the positive example set by the National Passport Center, which both performs the most overtime and the most work, but also measures employees' performance the same on overtime as on regular work days.  The second grievance contests the refusal of Management to excuse employees from mandatory overtime, provided that other qualified volunteers perform addition hours in place of the employee seeking to be excused.  This is a requirement of Article 28 of our collective bargaining agreement.  The deadline for submitting post-hearing briefs for the second grievance is September 10th, while the deadline for the first grievance has been extended.  

July 13, 2007: The Department of State Office of Inspector General referred the Union's complaint to the Department's Office of Legal Advisor on July 3rd.  After repeated attempts to convince HQ to not implement a controversial and unprecedented plan to use non-governmental workers (contractors) to perform the job of administering the oath and executing passport applications at the public counter failed, the Union submitted a complaint to the DOS OIG.  The Union did warn HQ that such a complaint would be filed.  The OIG responded on July 3rd that the issue had been referred to the Office of Legal Advisor.  On the 3rd and 13th of July, the Union contacted the Office of Legal Advisor to express the Union's view that the job of executing passport applications is an "inherently governmental function", as defined by OMB Circular A-76, and therefore should not be contracted out.  The Legal Advisor had issued an opinion on July 21, 2000 reiterating that the overall job of adjudication is an inherently governmental one.  The Union has argued that because determining and applicant's identity is an "exercise of discretion in applying Government authority", determining whether sufficient identity and parental relationship/permission is a "value judgment in making decisions for the Government", and because ensuring that the DOS issues passports to the true individuals and not fraudulent person is something that is "intimately related to the public interest" (quoting from A-76), then this job function is not one which should be contracted out.  The union also expressed concerns about customer service, efficiency, security clearance, and passport integrity ramifications.  

July 6, 2007: A story in the Christian Science Monitor, Are new passport rules making the US safer?, written by Zoe Tillman addressed the passport backlog and also the numerical adjudication standards.  

July 3, 2007: A suggestion by the Union submitted to Passport Services HQ aimed at boosting production received a quick and positive response from HQ.  Since most of the nearly 3 million passport application backlog is waiting to be adjudicated, the Union suggested that adjudicators nationwide adopt the "best practice" followed at the Charleston, SC and Portsmouth, NH Megacenters whereby the evidence and enclosures are stuffed by contractors after the adjudication function is complete, thus freeing up the adjudicators to focus on citizenship determination and other adjudicative tasks.  

June 20, 2007: The Department of Homeland Security announced that the land/sea phase of the WHTI would be delayed until Summer 2008.  The Union reacted positively to this development.  

June 19, 2007: The Red Tape Chronicles, a featured blog/column on MNSBC.com written by reporter Bob Sullivan, had a story titled': "Worker Dearth, Citi Blamed in Passport Mess" which explored the reasons for the passport backlog and discussed the adjudication quotas.  

June 19, 2007: Ambassador Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  NFFE staff member Cassie Kerner attended on behalf of passport workers.  

June 13, 2007: The Union representing Passport Services bargaining unit employees today called for a delay in the implementation of the land/sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).  The WHTI will require a passport or equivalent document to enter the United States from the Western Hemisphere.  The air travel phase went into effect on January 23, 2007 and the land/sea border phase may go into effect as early as January 1, 2008.  On May 11, 2007 numerous media reports quoted a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson as saying that the January 1st date was a "firm deadline" and would not be moved back, despite calls from Congressional Representatives and Senators to do so.  NFFE Local 1998 strongly supports the WHTI, but believes a delay in the land/sea phase is unfortunately necessary as the Department of State is not prepared.  Once sufficient staffing is brought on board and the proposed passport card (a wallet-sized version of the passport intended for land/sea border entry) is ready, then the WHTI should be fully implemented.  The National Federation of Federal Employees issued a press release on Local 1998's behalf this same day.  Also check out the WHTI webpage linked in the "Hot Topics" section.  

June 12, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge after Passport Services Management refused to honor the Union's request to negotiate over a plan to have non-governmental contractor workers accept passport applications at the Philadelphia and Boston Passport Agencies.  Accepting an application involves identifying the applicant, ensuring that he/she is who he/she claims to be, recording evidence, taking fees, administering the oath, witnessing the signature, signing the application, and entering it into the computer.  This has always been considered an "inherently governmental function" by both employees and Management, and this change appears to conflict with Department of State and Passport Services written policy.  Passport Services has firmly instructed acceptance facilities (e.g., clerks of court, post offices) that they may not use contractors to accept passport applications.  HQ notified the Union of this proposal on May 29th and the Union responded that same day that it objected to that plan for a number of reasons, though none were personal or professional criticisms of the contractor workers themselves. Government workers take an oath of office to the country and the Constitution.  Contractors do not have the same clearance level as government workers, and the contractors do not have the training or experience that Passport Specialists have in performing acceptance functions, especially the key role of detecting passport fraud and identity theft.  The Union believe that the integrity of the passport issuance process should not be sacrificed even though there is a large backlog of applications.  The Union also objected to this plan on the basis that adjudicators in many offices had been pulled from adjudication to perform functions that contractors could perform, despite the massive backlog, so this plan does not increase productivity.  Because Management implemented the change without bargaining with the Union, the Union feels that Management committed an unfair labor practice (a violation of 5 U.S.C. 7116).  

May 25, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services agreed to schedule two grievances with the same arbitrator, tentatively scheduled for mid-August.  The first grievance relates to the Union's allegation that adjudication performance on overtime is unfair and unreasonable, and forces to work employees to work even faster - which further weakens the integrity of the passport issuance process.  The second grievance relates to the contract provision allowing one employee to substitute for another when mandatory overtime is ordered.  

327 (non-probationary) adjudicators sign petition asking Passport Services for sufficient time to diligently adjudicate
March 30, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 sent a petition signed by 327 Passport Specialists from 16 offices around the country asking Headquarters to lower the numerical performance requirements ("quotas") "because the current numerical standards do not give us sufficient time to diligently scrutinize the applications and evidence for fraud". The petition was gathered between late January and early March. Only non-probationary employees were invited to sign (probationary employees have few rights to contest terminations, and some expressed concerns about retaliation). Of 383 non-probationary employees asked to sign the petition, 327 chose to sign their names - which is an overwhelming 85% participation rate. Virtually all of the Senior Passport Specialists (GS-11's) signed the petition. The Union asked HQ to respond to this petition within a month's time. The petition marks yet another effort in a long series of attempts by the Union to address this issue with Passport Services Management (see "Hot Topics" link: The Integrity of the U.S. Passport Issuance Process).  Click here to read the petition cover letter, including the wording of the petition: 2007 ADJ PETITION.  

March 30, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 filed a Grievance Between the Parties challenging the system of measuring performance during overtime hours. While GS-9 and GS-11 Passport Specialists must adjudicate, on average, 156 applications every 8 hours normally, on overtime they are required to produce 180 applications. This issue took on greater urgency after HQ ordered all workers nationwide to perform 16 hours of mandatory overtime between March 9th and April 9th, and is ordering workers to again perform another 16 hours of mandatory overtime between April 16th and May 16th. The Union believes that the measuring system is unfair because it does not provide any time for the non-productive tasks (e.g., logging in, locking up, obtaining work and supplies) that is accounted for in a normal day. The Union is also concerned that requiring already-strained workers to produce at an even faster pace will only result in more fatigued workers, more repetitive motion injuries, hurt retention efforts, and further undermine the integrity of the passport issuance process by requiring workers to spend an average of 2 minutes and 10 seconds adjudicating each application rather than the normal 2 minutes and 30 seconds (which is already viewed by employees and the Union as insufficient time - see story about petition above). On March 9th the Union had asked HQ to measure employees the same on OT as they are measured on regular time, but on March 30th HQ replied that it would not. Click here to read the grievance: 2007-03-30 GRIEVANCE.  

March 9, 2007: The Union responds to Management's unprecedented order for nationwide mandatory overtime: 

2. Measure overtime adjudication production fairly - the same way as adjudication on normal workdays.  

7. Quality concerns: whenever we get the “big push” to get more numbers produced, there is the ever-present concern that we may be sacrificing quality at the expense of quantity.  Some reminder(s) to all staff to keep the focus on doing a good job (catching errors, adjudicating correctly, preventing passport fraud) would be helpful.  In a November 24, 2006 email (titled “Emphasizing quality/anti-fraud efforts: other options to consider besides lowering the #'s”) NFFE Local 1998 addressed suggestions and solutions for boosting quality and anti-fraud efforts.  Now that the push for quantity has reached an unprecedented level, the Union would appreciate a response to those ideas for emphasizing quality and would like to initiate a dialogue on these issues.  

February 1, 2007: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) began a series of visits to various Passport Services offices.  The GAO is looking into a number of issues relating to passport document and process integrity, partially following-up on its 2005 report on this subject (see "Hot Topics" link: The Integrity of the Passport Issuance Process).  

 


November 24, 2006: The Union submitted a list of suggestions to HQ for ways, other than lowering the numerical quota, that quality and fraud detection could be emphasized. These include awards for anti-fraud work, accounting methods, anti-fraud training and meetings, and changes in tools and resources. 

November 24, 2006: The Union responded to Management's October 2nd denial of the Union's request that Passport Specialists be given more time so that they can diligently adjudicate passport applications and detect passport fraud. The Union cited a number of facts and statistics that lead us to believe that frauds can and have been issued in error as a result of requirements that employee work too quickly. The Union asked that HQ reconsider the decision to not provide more time. 

October 2, 2006: Passport Services Management rejected the Union's September 8th request to lower the numerical standard for passport adjudication.  The Union had asked Management to lower the quota so that workers would be able to do a better job of detecting and preventing passport fraud, and making fewer errors.  

September 8, 2006: Union President Colin Walle emailed HQ and once again formally asked that workers involved in the adjudication of passport application be given enough time to do the job right.  He explained that the current quotas are such that Management should have no confidence that attempts to fraudulently obtain passports will normally be successfully prevented.  The overwhelming majority of passport specialists responding to the Union's surveys (see earlier stories) stated that more time is needed.  Walle added: 

The relevant question is not how many specialists (seeking to retain their jobs, be promoted, garner awards, receive a good evaluation, etc.) produce a number that meets the standard. The question that should be asked is, given the current rate of speed at which employees work, “how easy is it for someone to fraudulently obtain a U.S. passport?” The answer, from those of us who do the work, is that it is unfortunately all too easy. 

To this day it is still perplexing to me why, after hearing the people who do the actual work of adjudication tell Management that there is cause for alarm and that we need more time to do the job right, we have been stonewalled and no changes have been made, even when Management is fully aware of the fact that changes in TDIS, CLASS, the data entry contractor, and other changes take more time. If we were working on an assembly line filling Twinkies, trust me you would not be receiving an email like this – you are receiving this because we are talking about United States passports, and the speed with which we are required to work is not adequate to do the job right. The 2004 standards were unreasonable to start with*, but the duties we have now take significantly more time than the duties we had in 2004. Under my predecessor’s leadership, we had proposed that a more accurate study be done in order to gauge a fair and reasonable standard, and we have continued and still continue to support that idea. The study would involve first establishing the correct procedures to adjudicate (including operating CLASS/Namecheck and following consistent procedures, notations, and evidentiary requirements) and then having employees adjudicate on official time to see what results. Management has never agreed to do this study. 

Since we first starting raising our concerns with vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process with Management years ago, there have been numerous cases of passports fraudulently obtained that would have, but for the rushed work we are required to do, been caught, and there have been a multitude of mistakes made which have caused many applicants to complain to us or to their Congresspersons or the press. 

Do we really have to wait until one of these mistakes makes the headlines before things change? 

The PPT HQ officials receiving this email are responsible for managing Passport Services and how we conduct our business. PPT HQ Management has choices it can make – to choose to listen to the Union and the employees on this subject, or to choose to dismiss these concerns. Management can choose to establish a reasonable and fair standard that ensures that all applications are actually adjudicated, or can continue with the current standards. Management can choose to believe that we have an acceptable level of vulnerability to fraudulent applications and that the number of fraudulent applications we issue now is at an acceptable level, or can choose to enact changes that will reduce our current vulnerability. Management can choose to work the Union on this most important subject, or can choose not to. The choices that Management has made thus far seem very clear to me; I am emailing today to ask PPT Management to re-think those choices and consider making new ones. I do know that all managers and supervisors, like all or our employees, do care about the integrity of the passport issuance process and that no one wants us to issue passports to frauds, terrorists, or criminals. The problem is that we have a disconnect here where the workers are telling the managers that there is a problem but that message is not getting through, not sinking in, or not being accepted – for some reason, our efforts to communicate this issue have been unsuccessful. 

Once again, we ask the Management officials of Passport Services: for the sake of the integrity of the passport issuance process, to give specialists the necessary time to fully and completely adjudicate all passport applications, and to help achieve the goal of “zero tolerance” for passport fraud, please provide more time (by lowering the numerical standards/quotas) for specialists to diligently adjudicate. We should strive to ensure that we only issue U.S. passports to U.S. citizens/nationals, who are who they claim to be, who are not wanted by law enforcement, and who are entitled to receive them. 

August 28, 2006: In connection to the ongoing contract negotiations, the Union responds to a request from Passport Services Management to provide a list of "shortcuts" used to make the adjudication quota.  The Union forwards the email sent on July 21, 2005 to HQ.  

August 21, 2006: At the National Union/Management Council meeting the Union expressed concerns about fraud detection resources, database problems, inconsistent adjudication practices from one office to another, and related issues.  

August 1, 2006: The Union suggests that Passport Services Management, which had to-date rejected attempts to provide more time for adjudication by lowering the Fully Successful numerical standard, consider lowering the numerical standards for the Excellent and Outstanding appraisal levels.  The Union referenced a number of recent grievances in support of that suggestion.  

July 25, 2006: On April 21, May 23, and July 25, 2006 the Union submitted three official 5 U.S.C. 7114(b)(4) Information requests in connection to the ongoing contract negotiations, seeking information about passport frauds to support the Union's proposals to enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process by establishing a reasonable numerical adjudication standard.  

May 18, 2006: The Union contacts Passport Services HQ to inquire about consistently applying the same measuring period used on regular work days to overtime days (the so-called "0.8125 factor") and partial or part-time days.  

February 17, 2006: Passport Services HQ formally rejected the Union's December 2005 and January 2006 requests to establish a more reasonable adjudication performance standard and more fair method of measuring the quotas.  

January 30, 2006: The Union compiled some of the results of the first comprehensive survey of bargaining unit employees (conducted between January 9 - 13, 2006) and informed Management that on the issue of the adjudication performance standards, the Passport Specialists spoke loudly and clearly, with the overwhelming majority agreeing with the following statement: "The numerical performance standards do NOT provide me with sufficient time to diligently adjudicate passport applications (without taking shortcuts) and carefully scrutinize the evidence/application/tools for fraud indicators.”  Out of the 368 employees who indicated a firm response, 248 said they “Strongly Agreed” and 98 said they “Agreed” with that statement – an overwhelming 94% of Passport Specialists (there were 58 employees - mostly new hires - who indicated they were "Neutral", left the question blank, or wrote "N/A", and 23 employees combined who “Disagreed” or “Strongly Disagreed”). In addition, 97% of employees indicating a response said that the focus in adjudication is on quantity instead of quality, employees listed the "integrity of the passport issuance process" as their # 1 issue out of 10 options, and out of 228 written comments that were received 112 focused on the numerical adjudication standards (111 - 99% - took the time to argue that they should be lowered and that we need to focus more on quality).  Almost every Passport Specialist who was present during the week of the survey participated. 

January 24, 2006: Contract negotiations begin.  The Union submits a number of proposals intended to enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process.  

 


December 2, 2005: Union President Colin Walle submitted a formal request to the Passport Services Managing Director asking that more time be provided to Passport Specialists for diligent adjudication of passport applications. The Union requested that Management lower the numerical production standards expected of approximately 500 Passport Specialists nationwide. Employees have repeatedly expressed concerns about this issue (see "Hot Topics" link above - The Integrity of the U.S. Passport Issuance Process, and see July 15th entry below). Numerous changes throughout 2005 (including the new 2-page application, incorporating cashiering into the adjudication/processing system, and huge numbers of errors from a new data entry system) have made the already unreasonable 2004 adjudication standards even more unreasonable.  

August 4, 2005: OIG Criticizes Elimination of Assistant Fraud Program Manager Position. The Union's May 2005 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to have portions of the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) November 2004 review of passport fraud efforts was partially approved, focusing on the decision to eliminate the Assistant Fraud Program Manager (AFPM) position. The released portions reveal that "DS agents working with passport fraud, CA/FPP officers, and all passport agency FPMs" were not "consulted prior to the announcement of the decision to abolish the assistant FPM position in late 2003", adding that "[a]ll of the stakeholders claimed they would have opposed this personnel policy had they been consulted". The report mentioned the fact that the "union had expressed concerns about the effect that the elimination of this position would have on detection of passport fraud". As a result of the elimination of the AFPM's, "[s]everal of the FPMs said they are now spending more time training staff, are involved in a never-ending training mode, and have less time to devote to operational work, case development, and analysis". The OIG formally recommended that the AFPM positions be reestablished. Click here to read more.

July 21, 2005: Union President Walle emails Passport Services Management in an attempt to persuade Management that the numerical standards do not provide enough time to catch passport fraud attempts.  In response to a request from HQ, he reiterates a list of "shortcuts" that are taken to make the quotas, but explains "The biggest and most worrisome shortcut is simply not taking the time to scrutinize 1) the application, 2) the evidence, and 3) the computer screen for fraud indicators."  Walle adds: 

I’ve read about tests done by investigators (by the GAO or OIG or some group like that) where they tested entry into federal buildings or courts using false ID, tested entry into the U.S. using fake evidence, and tested screening for weapons by sneaking them through metal detectors. Now, if you looked at the millions and millions of people who enter the U.S. or enter federal buildings, or look at the millions of people or bag/luggage that goes through metal detectors, you’d find that the overwhelming majority are good people, safe people, and are not sneaking weapons or explosives in. Does that mean that those authorities are doing a good job in preventing entry into the U.S. or a federal building, or that metal detectors are doing a good job in preventing weapons being smuggled in? Does that mean that it is hard to beat those systems? No, it simply means that most people are not attempting illegal entry. Most people do not put weapons in their baggage. 

If you want to study how well a system does in stopping entry into the U.S. or a federal building, or how well it does in catching smuggled weapons, you’ll have to look at it from the other point of view. That’s what these investigators did. They tried to enter the U.S. using false documents, enter federal buildings using fake ID, and smuggle weapons past metal detectors. By and large they were successful. This is the key point: while the percentage of bad/bogus people passing through these gatekeepers is very low, their vulnerability to having bad/bogus people getting past them is very high. 

So, for those people that are attempting passport fraud or who are fugitives attempting to apply for passports, how well do we do in catching them? 

July 18, 2005: Union asks Management to Work Together on Passport Integrity Issue. Union President Walle emailed a memo to Passport Services HQ formally asking Management to work together with the Union to enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process, including establishing reasonable adjudication performance standards. Walle cited the results of the survey of passport specialists and also noted the fact that the 2-page application and other changes have made it even more difficult to achieve the quotas. No response has been received as of August 15, 2005.

July 15, 2005
: Survey by Union Confirms Concerns About the Integrity of the Passport Issuance Process. The results of the Union's June 27th - July 8th survey of passport specialists views on passport integrity and performance standards issues were released. The survey reached approximately 336 of the 489 passport specialists, and 142 employees responded. The total number of responses and the percentage of employees participating (42%) is the highest of any survey since at least 1998. The results of the survey:

  • 96% said that the numerical performance standards do NOT provide sufficient time to diligently adjudicate passport applications and detect passport fraud
  • 93% said they have to take shortcuts to make the quota
  • 93% felt that the emphasis in the job (retention, appraisals, awards, promotions) is on quantity, not quality or a good balance
  • 94% are concerned that we will issue a passport to a criminal or terrorist
  • 54% believe we do NOT have sufficient anti-fraud resources training, 26% believe we do, and 19% said we don't have time anyway
  • 98% disagreed (some very strongly) with the claim that "nearly every specialist is making the numbers, so that proves that the standards are just fine and there is no reason to reduce them"

July 1, 2005: A Special Edition of Local 1998 News was published - the 9th edition issued since 1998. The July edition focuses solely on the subject of the integrity of the passport issuance process. Click here for newsletter.

June 29, 2005: GAO Issues Critical Report: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Vulnerabilities in the passport process.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report today titled "Improvements Needed to Strengthen U.S. Passport Fraud Detection Efforts" which criticized the Department of State's efforts to detect and prevent passport fraud. The U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing today titled "Vulnerabilities in the U.S. Passport System Can Be Exploited by Criminals and Terrorists", which addressed the GAO's report on this issue. Four NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives attended the hearing along with a NFFE National official and an IAMAW official. The GAO made six recommendations:
1) consider way to improve interagency information sharing; 
2) establish a centralized and up-to-date fraud prevention library; 
3) consider augmenting fraud prevention staffing; 
4) assess the extent to which interoffice workload transfers may hinder fraud prevention; 
5) strengthen fraud prevention training; and 
6) strengthen fraud prevention oversight.

The report was also critical of the development of the adjudication performance standards and stated that the changes did put more emphasis on quantity rather than quality, but concluded that since the work processes kept changing during the time period studied, they were unable to draw firm conclusions on the issue at this time. All of these issues were brought to the attention of Congress and the GAO by NFFE Local 1998 and the employees that we represent as part of "Plan B", with the aid of NFFE, the IAMAW, other NFFE and IAMAW locals, and our friends and families. To read the full GAO report, click here. To read the prepared testimony of the hearing witnesses, click here.

June 29, 2005
: New York Times Front Page Story: Passport Issuance Process Vulnerabilities & GAO Report.  The New York Times had a front page story on the GAO report and problems with the integrity of the passport issuance process. The Times reported that "Insufficient oversight by the State Department allows criminals, illegal immigrants and suspected terrorists to fraudulently obtain a United States passport far too easily, according to a report on the test by the Government Accountability Office to be released Wednesday", which they obtained from "an official critical of the State Department who had access to it in advance". The article stated that "the department placed too much emphasis on rapidly processing passport applications", according to former Diplomatic Security Special Agent in Charge Mike Johnson. Numerous other media outlets also reported this story. Click here for links to additional news stories on passport integrity.

June 28, 2005
: NBC Nightly News Report: Passport Applications Not Checked Against Fugitive/Terrorist Watchlists.  NBC Nightly News reported on the GAO investigation and the U.S. Senate Committee hearing scheduled for June 29, 2005. The report focused on the fact that 37 of 67 persons that are wanted were not listed in the Department of State's lookout list, so that if they applied in their true identities they would receive a passport. In fact, one fugitive - James Eberhart (accused of defrauding people in excess of $11 million) - was issued a passport. Another fugitive listed on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List - James Webb (wanted for murdering a police chief in 1980) - was also not listed in the database. The report quoted Senator Susan Collins as stating that, "The American people have a right to be angry about this .... At this stage we should not still be having these problems. They are inexcusable." To read an online version of this story, click here.

June 24, 2005: Congress Schedules Hearing on Passport Integrity Concern: GAO Report to be Released.  The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has scheduled a hearing on June 29th at 9:30 AM titled "Vulnerability in the U.S. Passport System Can Be Exploited by Criminals and Terrorists". The hearing will cover the GAO's report on this topic. Between December 2003 and March 2004 the Union and the employees contacted Congress to express their concerns about problems affecting the integrity of the passport issuance process. This hearing is a product of those efforts. Click here for more information

June 22, 2005
: News Report: Passport Applications to be Checked Against Terrorist/Fugitive Watch Lists.  National news media reported that Passport Services DAS Frank Moss testified before Congress on a soon-to-be-implemented plan to check "everyone who applies for a U.S. passport against a list of suspected terrorists" as well as those who are "subject to a federal felony arrest warrant". Click on this link to the Washington Times article. The Union conveyed concerns to HQ Management at the December 2003 National Union-Management Council meeting, specifically concerns that applications were not linked to terrorist watch lists. Managers at some regional offices were already aware of this problem. HQ replied that they would pass on our concerns. Subsequently, as part of the "Plan B" effort to communicate passport integrity concerns to Congress, some employees reported to Congress that this problem had still not been addressed. In response, HQ issued a memo (click here for memo). The Union believes that this new plan to check passport applications against terrorist watch lists/fugitive databases will greatly enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process. 

May 10, 2005: The Union filed a Step 2 Formal Grievance challenging the year-end appraisal given to a GS-11 Senior Passport Specialist. That employee had been rated "Outstanding" overall for the past 10 years, and had been rated "Outstanding" overall in an interim evaluation given on October 27, 2004, yet that rating was reduced to "Excellent" overall for the year-end rating. The grievance challenges the overemphasis on the quantity of the employee's work at the expense of ignoring her accomplishments in the quality aspects of the job.

April 26, 2005: Deadline for submitting claim forms for “suffered and permitted overtime” in connection with the Union’s April 20, 2004 grievance challenging the FLSA status of bargaining unit employees. Over 300 bargaining unit employees submit claims forms for “suffered and permitted overtime”, which is defined as working outside of one’s normal schedule, with the knowledge of Management. The Union had strenuously argued on a number of occasions that the adjudication performance standards virtually required employees to work through breaks or lunch in order to achieve the quota, and that this was one of the “shortcuts” employed by Passport Specialists in order to meet supervisor’s expectations.

April 12, 2005: The Union files a Formal Step 1 Grievance after Management rejected the Union's March 16, 2005 Informal Grievance.

April 8, 2005: HQ Management replies to the Union’s March 30, 2005 Memo, stating that they appreciate the Union’s “views and the opinions of all our front-line employees whom you represent”. Management explains that the goal of the new applications “was to make it more legible, provide additional space for the specialist to record documentation, and comply with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software requirements”. Management states that “the union will receive notification when CA/PPT begins preparation for the next version of the application” and that they will “ensure that, before the deadline date and the final version of the application is decided, the union will have an opportunity to submit comments and suggestions.” Management “will consider all appropriate actions”, so if “it is apparent that additional accommodations are necessary or the employees need a ‘grace period’ these options will be explored”.

March 30, 2005: Union President Walle emails HQ with a Memo regarding the new 2-page passport applications. Walle reports that he has “heard from a number of employees, in various positions, in most of the offices, that the new 2-page passport applications are more cumbersome and take more time to work with than the old 1-page applications. There are also a number of complaints about how the forms are designed.” He states that the “new application forms should have formally been shared with the Union before the ‘point of no return’ when the forms were approved and sent to the printing presses”. Walle has been “advised that this is a potential ULP, but we are not going to be filing anything”, instead, “We should focus on looking forward and making the next version better….” The Union has three formal requests: 1) take employees comments/input into account in the next version of the forms, 2) institute a “grace period” for all employees to meet performance standards working with the new forms, and 3) reexamine the performance standards as a result of the effects of the new forms on the employees’ abilities to meet them. One final suggestion: use four or five of the regional Union/Management Councils, with employees and supervisors working together, as development committees to craft the next version of the forms.

March 18, 2005: The Union sends an informal survey via email to employees regarding their reaction to the new 2-page passport applications. Employees unanimously respond that the new forms take longer to work with. Some employee comments: “Two page applications take longer”; “ask Washington (managers) if they would give us a grace period of adjudication numbers on the counter as well as the desk”; “The info [on the application] does not match the [computer] screen order which makes it difficult to review”; the info “on the DS-11 & DS-82 are in different locations’; “It's quite cumbersome to continually flip pages looking for information”; applications are coming in with “the photo [stapled] into the two pages so the staples have to be removed and the photo has to be re-stapled”; we “particularly [need] ... a grace period to get adjusted to the new forms”; “The orange/purple shading hides adjudication markings in some areas”; “It's time consuming-trying to review two pages and still make sure that this is the true person makes it very difficult”; “There is not enough room at the counter to adjudicate the new forms, especially when we have more than one applicant”; “We are NEVER included in the implementation of anything … If they included a panel of ADJUDICATORS … then we could get the forms to benefit both the applicants and the adjudicators”; “No one likes these forms!!!”; “THE COLOR IS BLINDING”; they have “drastically altered the application, [but] have they taken in to account the time it will take to adjudicate?, 2 pages, twice as long to adjudicate”.

March 16, 2005: The Union files an Informal Grievance after a Senior Passport Specialist receives an Excellent overall rating and a Fully Successful rating in Element 2 for the 2004 appraisal. The employee, hired in 1995, had received Outstanding ratings every year prior to 2004. The employee had been rated Outstanding in every sup-part of Element 2 except for the sub-part that set the production quota of 24 per hour where the employee was rated only Fully Successful. Despite greatly exceeding work expectations in every other sub-part of Element 2, the Fully Successful performance in that sup-part dictated the rating for the entire element, and that in turn caused the overall rating to fall from Outstanding down to Excellent. Management denied the grievance.

March 7, 2005: The new 2-page DS-11 and DS-82 passport applications are distributed to the public. Union President Walle emails the Union reps in each office and asks them to forward to him the input and reaction they receive regarding the new applications.

February 8, 2005: The Annual National Union/Management Council Meeting is held in Washington, DC. Though it is not on the agenda, Management officials express their feelings regarding the Union and the employees contacting Congress regarding concerns with the integrity of the passport issuance process. These officials state that they would have preferred that the Union not contact Congress, and work with Management instead, and they expressed anger at the wording of some of the letters sent to Congress. The Union responded by stating that great efforts were made for more than two years to work with Management on this serious issue, but that these efforts were repeatedly rebuffed, and that contacting Congress was the very last resort. The Union and the employees did not feel that they could simply drop the subject once the traditional efforts (partnership, negotiations, grievances, information request, etc.) had been rebuffed by Management, and that there was a moral imperative to take action. The Union also reminded the Management officials that they had previously complained about some of the wording of the sample letters on the Union’s website, but had been invited verbally and via email, to point out what they disagreed with, and that the Union would have reviewed these concerns, but no response was ever received to that invitation in December 2003. At the meeting, the Union was provided for the first time with a preview of the new 2-page passport applications. Management officials expressed that it had been their intent to share this with the Union previously, but that there had been an oversight, and now it was too late to make any changes before the applications were printed for the public.

February 2005: An experienced Passport Specialist who has consistently received high ratings in the past wrote a memo to his supervisor explaining why he chose Option C. This Adjudicator explained that the only part of his elements with which he disagreed was the requirement to adjudicate a minimum of 24 applications per hour. He stated that this number was "too high", and that while he was able to achieve this quota, there was a cost to doing so. For example, he had to forego lunch hours and work through the time allotted each day to manage email and other administrative tasks. This employee believed that "quality and accuracy" should be more important than to "crank out the best 'desk work' numbers that I possibly can".

 


December 9, 2004: Passport Services Managing Director Ann Barrett replies to the Union’s November 30, 2004 Memo, stating that Management took the step to eliminate the AFPM in order to raise fraud awareness.  She added that Management would continue to evaluate the program.   

November 30, 2004: Union President Walle responds to the November 16, 2004 reply from Assistant Secretary of State Harty.  Walle clarifies that in all ten of the offices that had AFPM’s, other Passport Specialists were rotating through the FPM office for a number of years, so that there has been a misconception that these employees were not gaining any experience in the FPM office.  The AFPM position coexisted with Passport Specialists rotating through the FPM office, and having an AFPM furthered that goal by providing continuity of training during the absence of the FPM (vacation, sick leave, training, lunch, breaks, etc.).  He also points out that the Assistant Secretary was provided with erroneous information, and that the statistics she referred to actually revealed a worsening, rather than an improving, situation.   

November 16, 2004: Assistant Secretary of State Harty replies to the Union’s November 8, 2004 Memo.  The reply claims that the elimination of the AFPM position has led to better development of other Passport Specialists, who will now have the opportunity to rotate through the AFPM position, and has help improve fraud detection.  

November 10, 2004: Management changes a checklist related to the integrity of the passport issuance process, without employee or Union input, and mandates that it be used nationwide.   

November 8, 2004: Union President Walle sends an email Memo to Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty asking her to reconsider the decision to abolish the Assistant Fraud Program Manager position.  Walle cites support for the recreation of the AFPM position from 1) Management officials past and present, 2) Fraud Program Managers, 3) comments from former Assistant Secretary of State Mary Ryan, 4) numerous Management Assessment and Internal Controls Review reports, 5) bargaining unit employees, 6) the Union, and 7) other DOS Bureaus and other Government Agencies.  Walle states, “Our Union and our employees strongly feel that creating a new GS-11/12 AFPM position in all sixteen Passport Agencies (and more than one in the larger offices), and allowing all eligible employees to apply, would greatly strengthen the Fraud Prevention Program at the Passport Agencies, and this would in turn contribute to enhancing the integrity of the passport issuance process.  The 12 employees who had faithfully served as AFPM’s in 10 different Passport Agencies made numerous contributions to anti-fraud efforts.  They provided needed continuity and back-up to the Fraud Prevention Managers, ably and reliably filled in during absences, gave expert training both to Passport Specialists and Acceptance Agents, served as trusted and knowledgeable liaisons with other entities (<OMITTED>), offered valuable language/translation resources, created and maintained award-winning fraud prevention resources and training guides, and even created a <OMITTED>.” 

September 2, 2004: HQ Management emails the Union with copies of the revised Performance Standards for 2004, to be applied retroactively to the beginning of the year.  The quota at the public counter is lowered to 7 per hour from 9 per hour for GS-9 and 11 Passport Specialists.  Management’s April 2003 study showed that employees were averaging 6 per hour, so this change brought the standard closer to a reasonable number.  Management also lowered the DS-19 quota at the Charleston Passport Center, the production requirements for all grades at the Special Issuance Agency, and the DS-11 quota at the National Passport Center.  The Union had previously informed HQ in December 2003 that the DS-19 quota was too high, and that the Charleston supervisors had agreed with that assessment.  The reason for the change at the National Passport Center was due to the change in work processes: since they had been adjudicating the same way in 2004 as the regional passport offices (without contractors performing “document review”), then their standards were adjusted to be identical to those offices. 

August - September 2004: The Government Accountability Office (GAO - formerly "General Accounting Office") continues their investigation into the Department of State's efforts to combat passport fraud by visiting the New York Passport Agency, the Miami Passport Agency, the Charleston Passport Center, and the New Orleans Passport Agency.

August 17, 2004: The New York Passport Agency Union VP Two-Feathers Neal emails Union President Walle with a description of the numerous negative effects that the new computer/cashier processes are having on Passport Specialists both at the desk and at the public counter.   

August 12, 2004: Union President Walle emails HQ to ask about “ a new DS-11 [passport application] … being created that would be two-pages long….  Are you planning on getting reactions or ideas on this before it is issued?”  He adds that, “as we have previously discussed, there was a lot of dissatisfaction when the current DS-11 was released….  A number of employees have expressed concerns about how a 2-page DS-11 would affect how they do their jobs.”  The Union’s concern is “with the process, and we believe that the employees across whose desks 150 - 400 of these forms pass every day would be good resources to utilize in creating any new forms.  At the least, they would be good people to ‘bounce’ any proposed DS-11 revisions by before millions of forms are printed or downloaded.”  Walle specially asks that “employees be brought into this process and that any proposed DS-11 be shared with employees (specialists, processors, and typists) prior to going to the printer for their reaction.  Another idea would be to treat the form like the draft Passport Instructions, which are being shared with the Union prior to being completed.”  The Management response received that same simply states, “Thank you for your comments”. 

July 20, 2004: NFFE Local 1998 President Walle receives an undated memo from Passport Services Management: Click here for Memo. The memo states that Management was informed by Congressional staff members that 6 of the 10 fugitives on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List were not in the computer database against which passport applications are checked. Management asserts that testing the database to check on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List and releasing the results to Congress was a violation of the Privacy Act, and that employees are to "immediately cease" running these tests.  Note: the Union disagrees with Management's assertion that the Privacy Act was violated.

July 13, 2004: Passport Services Management contacts Union President Walle and informs him that they have conducted the 6-month review of the adjudication performance standards and have decided to make a beneficial change.  The reason for the change was that Management found that 88 of the approximately 420 Passport Specialists nationwide were not meeting the new quotas.  Though the hourly standard will remain the same, the time against which employees are measured is being changed, retroactive to the beginning of the year.  For example, a GS-11 Passport Specialist at a regional agency who works an 8 hour day will now be measured for 6.5 hours of work instead of 7.0 hours.  So rather than having to adjudicate 168 applications in a day, on average, the employee will now need to adjudicate 156 applications.  Measuring employees for 6.5 hours on the 8 hour day was the Proposal # 14 in the October 24, 2003 Union Request to Negotiate.  Performing a 6-month review was something that Management had told us they would do and which we formally incorporated into Proposal # 9.  Walle emails the other Union representatives and tells them that “this is definitely a step in the right direction.  Based on comments that I have received from numerous specialists, I do not believe that even those who were meeting the quota were happy about the shortcuts they had to take to get there, so unfortunately this does not resolve all of our problems.  We still have the same problems with their methodology for determining the standards that we expressed to them last year, namely that they are basing what the number should be on how employees are actually performing – and if employees have to take shortcuts and are making mistakes to get that number, then a standard based on that number means that those shortcuts and mistakes would continue to be made.”

June 24, 2003: At the suggestion of Union officers, who received the idea from the Union rep at the Miami Passport Agency, the Seattle Passport Agency adopts an award program to reward employees in the area of passport fraud detection. 

June 4, 2004: The General Accounting Office (now Government Accountability Office - GAO) and the Department of State's Office of Inspector General are provided with a list of ten concerns that employees have with the Department's efforts to combat passport fraud.  The Passport Specialist performance standards are only part of one of the ten concerns.  The other concerns include insufficient training, resources, focus, and staffing.  They also include the elimination of the Assistant Fraud Program Manager position and gross disparities in fraud detection rates from one office to another (comparing hundreds of thousands of applications from the same region).  Due to the nature of some of these issues a copy of this document is not being linked here.

June 2004: The General Accounting Office (GAO) sends three investigators to the Seattle Passport Agency and the Los Angeles Passport Agency to interview Management officials, employees, and Union officers. 

May 14, 2004: The Department of State responds to the April 27, 2004 letter from Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA).
Click here for: Letter from State Department

May 2004: The General Accounting Office (GAO) is asked by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate the concerns about the passport integrity process raised by NFFE Local 1998.  The GAO begins by interviewing Management officials at Passport Services Headquarters and at the Washington, DC, Passport Agency. 

April 23, 2004: Management's Passport Services Weekly Update includes this entry: "Union's Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against Passport Services:  On April 7, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) dismissed two Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges filed by the National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1998 (the Union).  The Union filed the ULPs, after the January 1 implementation of the new performance standards for Passport Specialists, alleging that Passport Services violated the contract by failing to negotiate before implementing the new elements and by failing to provide the Union with additional information on the new elements.   The FLRA determined that Passport Services had no statutory obligation to bargain with the Union over a change in working conditions because the parties' collective bargaining agreement addresses the matter in dispute.  Article 18 of the contract between Passport Services and National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1998, expressly covers the development and implementation of new performance elements; therefore, there was no violation.  Since there was no violation, the FLRA saw the second ULP, which was a request for additional information in connecting with negotiations, as unnecessary. The Union has until May 10, to appeal."
Click here for: FLRA Ruling

April 8, 2004: The Union filed a grievance over the elimination of the Assistant Fraud Program Manager and Assistant Customer Service Manager positions in response to Management's refusal to bargain with the Union over this issue.
AFPM/ACSM Grievance

March 9, 2004: Management responds to Union's January 30, 2004 regard violations of the Contract.  All requested relief is denied.
Click here for: Management's Response

March 4, 2004: The Department of State responds to the February 6, 2004 letter from Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA).
Click here for: Letter from State Department

February 27, 2004: The Department of State responds a letter from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Click here for: Letter from State Department

February 6, 2004: Congressman Henry Waxman (CA) and Congressman Tom Lantos (CA) write to Secretary of State Colin Powell with concerns about the integrity of the passport issuance process and ask for information used to develop the adjudication elements and standards. Congressman Waxman is the Ranking Minority Member on the House Committee on Government Reform and Congressman Lantos is the Ranking Minority Member on the House Committee on International Relations.
Click here for: Letter to Secretary Powell

February 5, 2004: Interim Union President Walle meets with staff member at Congressman Jay Inslee’s office to express the Union’s concerns about the integrity of the passport issuance process. 

February 2004: Local 1998's efforts to maintain the integrity of the passport issuance system were highlighted in the February Federal Employee, newsletter for the National Federation of Federal Employees.  A one page article chronicles the concerns expressed by many passport specialists about the issuance process and the extensive effort made by Local 1998 to reverse recent actions by Passport Services management officials.
Click here for: February Federal Employee (see page 6)

January 30, 2004: The Union files a Grievance Between the Parties in response to contract violations committed by Management.
Click here for: January 30th Grievance

January 27, 2004: The Union files two Unfair Labor Practices charges against Management.  The first charge is for violations of 5 U.S.C. 7116(a)(1), (5), and (8) for failing to provide necessary information in response to the Union’s September 12, 2003 Information Request.  The second charge is for violation of 5 U.S.C. 7116(a)(1), (5), (7), and (8) for implementing the 2004 Adjudication Performance Standards and Elements prior to the completion of negotiations, so that no meaningful negotiations took place. 

January 22, 2004: IAMAW President Tom Buffenbarger blasts Passport management over the new quotas established for passport examiners. President Buffenbarger said, "Our national security is at stake and Passport Office Management is insisting that employees serve up US passports faster than a happy meal at McDonalds. If management won't listen, Congress should
step in to ensure terrorists and criminals don't get US passports."
Click here for:
IAMAW Statement

January 22, 2004: Management replies to the Union's January 13th inquiry, refusing to provide any additional response.
Passport Management Formal Response to Union's October 24, 2003 Memo

January 13, 2004: Interim Local 1998 President Walle inquires about Management's January 9th response to the Union's October 24th proposals.
Click here for: President Walle's Inquiry

January 12, 2004: Passport Specialists are provided with their Performance Appraisal Plans for 2004. Many choose to select "Option C", indicating that they do not agree with the plan.

January 12, 2004: NFFE National President Rick Browns writes to approximately 60 Congressional representatives about the passport integrity concern. President Brown states, "These employees ... simply want to be allowed enough time to perform their mission with the care and diligence it deserves."
Click here for: President Brown's Letter

January 12, 2004: NFFE National issues Press Release regarding passport integrity concern.
Click here for: NFFE Press Release

January 9, 2004: NFFE News, published by NFFE National, includes an article on the passport integrity concern.
Click here for: NFFE News

January 9, 2004: Management formally responds to the Union's October 24, 2003 proposals.
Click here for: PPT Management Formal Response to Union's October 24, 2003 Memo

January 2, 2004: The new adjudication standards/elements are implemented.

December 2003, January 2004: Passport Specialists and friends write, email, and visit Congressional Representatives to ask for their assistance.
Click here for: Sample Letters

 


December 18, 2003: During a regular monthly conference call with Passport Services Management officials, Interim President Walle is told that the HQ officials are very angry at the Union for contacting Congress.  Walle is told that this will negatively impact how Management deals with the Union in the future, including upcoming contract negotiations - including what Management will and will not be amenable to including in the contract.  The Management officials express outrage over the contents of some of the sample letters on the Union website for contacting Congress with concerns over the integrity of the passport issuance process.  Interim President Walle issues an invitation to Management to provide him with a list of criticisms and inaccuracies in the letters or other portions of the website.  He commits to giving the list a careful and open-minded review, and promises to remove anything that is inaccurate or inappropriate.  Later that day, Walle emails the Management official and reiterates his offer: "If there's something on the website that is unfair or inaccurate or offensive, let me know and - obviously we have different perspectives - I will strive to be open- and fair-minded, and if I agree that there's a problem, I will remove or change any of those items."  Note: As of July 29, 2004, Management has yet to provide any list to the Union.  In his email, Interim President Walle also adds: "I feel extremely uncomfortable - even physically and digestively uncomfortable - going to Congress on this, and when I try to put myself in your shoes I understand your anger.  If you could put yourself in my shoes, see what I've seen, and heard and made the efforts that I - that we - have made, you would see this is a matter of principle and personal responsibility - we can't afford to do nothing.  I obviously don't want to wreck our relationship with Management or end up at Homeland Security.  But this is one of those 'sleep at night' and 'look myself in the mirror' issues - we need to do what we can to give each application the scrutiny it deserves.  If we fail, then at least we tried.  Again, we aren't complaining to Congress about every little thing, like AWOL, work schedules, awards, bus passes, etc.  We are only taking this step because we feel that we have exhausted all of our other efforts, and some other ideas (that would result in 100 people getting PIP's) are illegal."

December 11, 2003: Passport Services Management briefs the staff of the U.S. Senate Government Affairs Committee in response to the concerns brought to that committee by the Union.

December 8, 2003: Passport Specialist start to receive their 2004 Elements & Standards.

December 5, 2003: Management issues Memo including Standardized Performance Elements for Passport Specialists.  “The goal has been to develop fair and reasonable elements and responsibilities that reflect the current complexity of the passport specialist position …. We asked for and received many excellent suggestions and comments on this project from passport agency management, supervisory personnel and Passport Specialists throughout the project.”

December 1-2, 2003: Annual Union-Management Council meeting in Washington, DC. The Union requests again its position that the employees do not have enough time to do their jobs, and asks if Management is planning on working with the Union and considering allowing more time per application. Management unequivocally replies that they will not. The Elements and Standards shared with the Union on August 6, 2003 will remain unchanged.

(November 20, 2003: Colin Walle becomes Interim Union President.)

November 13, 2003: Secretary-Treasurer Walle answers Management’s questions: “You do understand me correctly - basically I was a bit taken aback that the idea was out there that the Union had missed its chance to have input/make proposals into the numerical standards. I thought we were on the same page - you were going to look at the numbers, get that to us, and then we'd respond - the study we'd proposed last year wasn't rejected by you at the time so much as tabled 'til the future (which is now). The email … was intended to just clarify that we felt we weren't done with this process on August 6th, and that our October 24th proposals/input should be considered, as well as employee input (in accordance with your original plan). We would still like to do the study, but are considering some alternatives. I'm more interested in a response to the October 24th proposals than the November 10th email below - the email below is just a way of saying that the October 24th proposals are relevant, should be considered, and were not submitted ‘late’, as well as correcting the record for anyone else who has joined in on this issue after some of the events listed.”

November 13, 2003: Management responds: “Colin, we are working on a response to your Oct. 24 e-mail. That too, is quite lengthy, so it is taking us some time…. I don't think we will have a response to you before the end of next week. If I understand you correctly, you want us to take into consideration the information you are providing here before we respond to the Oct. 24 e-mail. We will do that, although it may add a bit of time to our response time.” (Note: Management does not respond to the Union’s October 24th proposals until January 9, 2004)

November 10, 2003: Secretary-Treasurer Walle emails DAS Frank Moss and other DC Management officials with a correction to misstatements made in Management’s October 14th denial of the Union’s September 16th Grievance Between the Parties.
Walle responds to this false statement in that October 14th response: "Regarding the alleged violation of Article 18, Section 4, regarding employee participation in establishing the standards, as well as the alleged violation of Article 4, Section 6, regarding Union participation, headquarters tried to engage NFFE Local 1998 in the process through the local partnerships. However, we understand that local participation was discouraged by NFFE from the national level (see attachment)." Walle cites examples of input from New York, Seattle, and Miami as evidence that local offices did participate. Walle then lists three examples of Management stating in 2002 that Management did not want to consider the numerical standards at the time. He summarizes: “The Union expressed in May 2002 (and on numerous occasions since then) that it wanted to develop its input into the numerical portion of the standards by means of a study. Management did not want to address the numerical standards with the Union at any time prior to 8-6-03. When the Union then re-proposed the study, Management rejected it, partly on the grounds that the Union had already had a chance to give its input. Clearly this is contradictory and illogical. Management can't have it both ways. Management expressed that it wasn't interested in working on the numbers with the Union before, but is now saying that the Union should have given its input into this back when Management wasn't interested. Management is rejecting the Union's study now partly on the basis that it should have been done previously, yet it had previously rejected it. In conclusion, the numerical standards issue - which is intrinsically related to the quality/fraud prevention/integrity of the process drum that we have been banging on for years - was not addressed by Management and presented to the Union until August 6, 2003.”

November 5, 2003: Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frank Moss visit the Seattle Passport Agency. S/T Walle asks to meet with DAS Moss and Assistant Secretary of State Harty to ask them one question: will Management work with the Union on the numerical standards, or not? The visiting Management officials do not have time to meet with Walle, so he hands DAS Moss two copies of an email (one copy for DAS Moss and the other for Assistant Secretary Harty). The email asks if Management has decided whether or not to work with the Union on the numerical performance standards. No response to this query is received until December 2, 2003.

October 31, 2003: Secretary-Treasurer Walle emails Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frank Moss: “I understand that both of you may be visiting the Seattle Passport Agency on November 5th.  I will be assuming the duties of Union President in mid-November, as current President Alex Allen will be stepping down since he's been selected for a supervisory position, but I would like to take the opportunity to talk to both of you when you visit if you are available.  One issue that I would like to discuss with you is the direction of the ongoing development of the 2004 adjudication performance standards/elements, and specifically the Union's concerns over maintaining/enhancing the integrity of the passport issuance process.”

October 24, 2003: The Union submits its proposals in response to Management’s formal notice of the change in elements/standards. The Union proposes more time for each application, but continues to assert that an objective study would be the best way to determine a reasonable number. The Union’s introductory sentence emphasizes that its goal is to help “maintain and enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process.”
Click here for: 10-24-03 Union Proposals

October 23, 2003: Los Angeles input: "Based on my personal opinion, the management believed that the new modern technology has greatly helped improve our productivity. However, they failed to realize that the proposed quality and quantity requirements for passport specialists were set before the current technology took place. Since the original requirement standard was set up, they keep adding more and more of what we have to do with the same amount of time."

October 20, 2003: New York input: "Quality and quantity do not match-up in the present system. With the pressure to get higher numbers, the error rate will also get higher.  Common sense is common sense."

October 14, 2003: Management denies the Union's grievance over its proposal to do a more comprehensive study on the performance standards. 
Management cites a May 16, 2002 email from the then-Union VP in Chicago as a basis for denying the Union’s September 16, 2003 Grievance Between the Parties, even though the instruction in that email from then-Union President Beardall to not participate with Management was reversed by new President Allen on June 19, 2002. 

October 10, 2003: Union S/T Walle responds to Management's reply: "Whoever is telling you to fight with all you breath any input from the Union on this is giving you some really bad advice and you ought to ignore it." S/T Walle explains, "The portions of Article 18 that address changes
in performance standards were negotiated in 1991 in the context of each office having individual standards. The Union made proposals in 2000 that would have "nationalized" some of these things, but Management shot them down (e.g., all offices will count all applications, including suspended applications and fraud referrals), saying that it wanted to leave these things for each office to decide and would consider weighing in on these "field" decisions perhaps in the future. I don't think Alex, or Bill before him, has a problem with a national standard - the problem the Union has repeatedly enunciated is with the process that Management has gone through
to set that standard.... During the process leading up to this, [a Management official] stated that the numbers - the issue of biggest concern to the employees - would not be addressed until the end, so the employee have not, until now, had a chance to respond and give input into that vital
issue."
Click here for: Request For Information

October 10, 2003: Management reply to President Allen's September 12, 2003 information request: "As [a Management official] stated early in the August 6th meeting, the substance of critical performance elements and standards is nonnegotiable, as it is reserved by 5 USC 7106 to management. [That Management official] further informed NFFE that the implementing procedures and appropriate arrangements for unit employees adversely impacted by the exercise of management's retained right to establish and modify critical work requirement statements (aka "impact and implementation, " of I&I), have already been negotiated and agreed upon during the last contract renegotiations. Article 18 of the contract, Performance Standards and Evaluation, sets forth those procedures and appropriate arrangements. If NFFE wishes to propose an otherwise negotiable I&I proposal the substance of which is neither presently covered by the contract nor was introduced and later withdrawn from consideration during contract renegotiations, management will take NFFE's proposal under consideration."

October 9, 2003: San Francisco input: “based on my experience, production has been the sole determination of competence for Passport Specialists. I feel 'under the gun' and suspect that my coworkers do as well. Who holds management accountable?”

October 7, 2003: Management provides some of the data used to develop the numerical standards. The data shows, for example, that GS-11 specialists adjudicated 23.30 applications per hour and that GS-9 specialists adjudicated 22.63 applications per hour, yet Management proposes that both GS-9’s and GS-11’s raise their production to 24.00 per hour in 2004.

September 19, 2003: Union President Allen emails all 600 bargaining unit members, and 3 HQ Management officials with a copy of the September 16th grievance.  He also states: “Now this is really where I do not want to be misunderstood.  I am encouraging everyone to work with whatever system your management comes up with but do not kill yourself doing it.  Give management an honest days work….  Just so we understand each other, I am not at all encouraging anyone to work slower or anything like that.  What I am suggesting are things like, do not work through your lunches or breaks and do not cut corners to meet these new standards or to make any of the other ideas such as centralized suspense work.  By the way, it is illegal for you to do any of those things anyway.”

September 16, 2003: The Union files a Grievance Between the parties over the denial of official time for the study.
Grievance - National Standards Study

September 12, 2003: The Union files an official Information Request with Management, asking for - among other things - all "Studies and reports created or collected by Management in DC or by Management in the field offices on the number of frauds issued in error for each of the last 10
years".
Click here for: Information Request

September 8, 2003: Management provides formal notice to the Union of its proposed 2004 Adjudication Elements and Standards.

August 29, 2003: Honolulu input: "PD slows us down considerably.... I am getting sick of having to fight with mgmt about numbers!  I wish they would get away from the factory how-many-widgets-can-you-make-in-an-hour type of mentality! It is so history, we have moved on from the Ford assembly line!"

August 28, 2003: Management denies the Union’s request to conduct another study:
“After consulting with other members of the PPT management team, I am not approving the request for official time to perform a second survey of ppt specialist production.”

August 8, 2003: The Union contacts Management and expresses the following: “I think it bears repeating that as far as the numbers are concerned, the employees and the Union are concerned about this not because we want to do as little as possible but because we strongly, deeply, and sincerely care about doing our jobs the right way. We just want enough time to do all of the things that we are supposed to do. We are not a bunch of lazy bums who just want to avoid work. As (Manager X) said, none of us wants to issue a passport to a terrorist, like those visas that were issued by the State Department and INS. For that matter, we don’t want to issue a passport in error to a gun runner, murderer, child molester, drug dealer, sniper, or other criminal – and you all know this isn’t a hypothetical list, but actual applicants that I’m describing.”

August 8, 2003: Washington DC input: “I am not at all comfortable with management's proposal of 24 adjudications per hour ….  I cannot meet the current ‘posted’ quota of 160 per day unless I take no morning break, skip lunch entirely, and have ‘high energy’ that day….  Therefore, we should counter-propose nothing higher than ... 20 per hour.  Another issue: the survey conducted by management at WN should be considered invalid, because: they would not answer questions and tell us what it was for, but simply told me … ‘show me what you can do.  I want maximum numbers.’  For this reason, I set aside all CTZNSHP cases and suspense letters and did not do them, thus inflating the amount I was reasonably capable of doing.  This is not my fault; I was following the directions of my supervisor, which I am always supposed to do no matter what….  If I am forced to sign these numbers of 24 per hour next year, then I will feel like I am cutting my own throat, and I will also feel the union has let me down if they agree to this….”

August 6, 2003: Management and the Union meet in Washington, DC to go over the elements/standards. The Union states that its primary goal is, “We need enough time to do our jobs the right way. If our employees and our Union didn’t care about quality, then we wouldn’t be raising these concerns. The employees are not concerned about the numbers being too high because they are lazy and want to do as little work as possible. The employees are concerned about the numbers being too high because they care very deeply about the integrity of the document that we are producing. This is the point we have been trying to make on this issue for a number of years.” The Union expresses its belief that, “In the past, the primary emphasis has been “all about the numbers”. We have spoken to several managers at all grade levels who have told us privately that their primary concern is production.” The Union adds, “Passport Specialists report that they feel they are working too fast and many are concerned that we may issue a passport to a fraud or even a terrorist.”
Click here for: 8-6-03 Meeting minutes
Click here for: 8-6-03 Overall Performance Concepts
Click here for: 8-6-03 Standardization of Process and Procedures

August 4, 2003: Management sends the Union its proposed Performance Standards and Elements, dated August 1, 2003.
Click here for: 8-1-03 Proposed Standards.

July 30, 2003: National Passport Center input: Some people work during their breaks and lunches.  If their numbers are included in this proposed national standard, the numbers are wrong….  Did the Supervisors & Management sit down and do these numbers themselves for a week or more to see if these numbers are good?  Have they also held a pen in their hand 8hrs a day at the centers?  How can Management say push, push, push the work, here are your errors (why so many) and by the way why didn’t you catch that fraud?”

July 29, 2003: Charleston Passport Center input: “It may be nice to know what time management study was used to arrive at a national standard and how that study related to NPC, CPC, and PPT/NO in relation to the counter agencies.  Also what adjustments to the standards were made post 9/11 with regards to more time being spent on fraud training and in examining applications for fraud.” 

July 28, 2003: Los Angeles input: “Please ask them to lower the counter count because it takes extra time to do the PIERS searches . Los Angeles doesn't have a computer at each counter and I don't know if the other agencies have one at the counter but it does take time to go to the back to our desk to our computer and I think that should be factored in. I also think that the desk should be lowered also because a large number of applicants have previous passports and they take extra time to reclear.”

July 3, 2003: HQ Management in DC issues its response to the Step 3 Grievance filed by Seattle Union VP Rob Arnold concerning the addition of complex casework to the applications that employees must adjudicate while trying to meet their quota (the Union had filed a grievance contending that while the quota had remained the same, the addition of the time-consuming complex cases into the mix made it harder to meet the quota). Management comments, “you referred to the standardized performance elements. You will be pleased to hear that Headquarters is making steady progress. As stipulated in Article 18, Section 4, once standards are developed, we will share the proposed changes with the Union.”

April 17, 2003: President Allen emails officers with update: “Frank Moss, the new DAS, visited our office today and we had a good conversation. He also told us about some of the things in the pipeline for us. They are working on putting a computer chip on the back page of the book and there is real talk about some type of travel document, whether it be a Passport or some other document, for travel to Canada, Mexico and other regions in the hemisphere that does not now require a passport. We talked a little about the national standards and his vision is that it be fair and that it gives you the time to do the things that you need to do.”

April 11, 2003: Seattle Union VP Rob Arnold files a grievance over a change in work processes that affect the Passport Specialist’s ability to meet the performance standards.  Previously Management had allowed the complex cases to be removed and adjudicated by a specialist assigned to that task only, who was not measured against any numerical standard, leaving the other specialists to attempt to meet the standard while adjudicating the less complex cases. 

April 2003: The two-week review of adjudication work in all agencies conducted by Management takes place.  Management does not notify the Union of this study.  The Union had previously pointed out serious problems with this methodology – the basic idea being that basing a future standard on how employees are currently working, when those employees are rushing, working through breaks, and cutting corners to meet the current standard, will only force employees to continue these unsafe practices in the future.

March 7, 2003: Union President Allen reports to the Union officers on his monthly phone call with Management: “The National Standards are still on hold.  They received some numbers from the agencies but his comment to me was that they could not justify them to themselves so they knew that they would not be able to justify them to us.  So they went back to the drawing board.”  These numbers are not shared with the Union, and at this point the Union is still waiting for a proposal from Management to which it can respond.

March 2003: The Department of State’s FY 2004 Performance Plan is published.  It states that “Photo substitution is now more difficult with the photodigitized passport; the Department will continue to identify ways to enhance the physical integrity of the passport.  In addition to maintaining document security, the Department must now close the loop on fraud perpetrated during the application process.”  Part of the Department’s Strategic Objective #1 – Protect the Nation – is the “Effective and timely passport issuance, with document integrity assured.”  The Mission Statement included in the report recognizes that “The Department has important homeland security responsibilities, such as combating visa and passport fraud ….” 

February 3, 2003: New Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services Frank Moss emails all Passport Services employees: “Passport Services has a well deserved reputation for serving the needs of our 7 million American Citizen customers each year and I want to let all of you know how much I appreciate the commitment to service that all of you demonstrate each day.  I certainly look forward to working with all of you as we continue our shared effort to provide great service to our American citizen customers while also meeting our critical responsibilities to strengthen the Nation's security.  I have a request for all of you.  If you have a suggestion as to how the work of Passport Services could be improved, feel free to share that with your Regional Director, Ann Barrett, the Managing Director, or me.  The best ideas for improving service and security often come from those most directly involved in the process so please share your ideas and suggestions.  Passport Services is a great operation today; let's continue to improve it by working together as we face new challenges and opportunities.”

January 16, 2003: Seattle Union-Management Council meeting: Union: there is “a need to lower the numbers because of national security concerns and that an increase in the quality of our work would keep the number of rewrites to a minimum.” The Union is “concerned that specialists are not referring as many as they should due to rushing in order to meet production quotas…. (citing) the frauds that were issued in error as anecdotal evidence of the result.”

January 9, 2003: Miami question: "I have a meeting with management today about the standards and the many concerns that have been addressed to me. I plan to use this time to express that I feel no one should be penalized for not making the old numbers when the debate is ongoing for the national standards."

 


December 5, 2002: Washington DC input: during membership drive at lunch at the Washington, DC Passport Agency, many employees express their concerns about the performance standards issue, and their concerns that they have too little time to adjudicate properly.

December 3-4, 2002: Annual Union-Management Council meeting in Washington, DC. Management informs the Union about its August 19 – September 3rd study, and the Union points out numerous flaws with Management’s methodology. The Union states, “improvements in technology have helped immensely with the quality of our work, they make the work take longer, and there has been no corresponding decrease in performance standards. Concerned that employees are rushing to meet their quotas, which employees often believe is all Management cares about, and that errors and even fraudulent applications are being issued as a result.” Management: "The numerical quotas are the last thing that will be focused on."
Click here for: UMC Meeting Minutes
Click here for: Standards portion of UMC Meeting Minutes

October 28, 2002: Boston input: “The GS-11 numbers sound to high to be realistic.  One would be lucky to meet minimum standards, let alone exceed them for a higher rating.” 

October 25, 2002: Union S/T Walle inquires: “On the performance standards/elements issue, if you have wording but not numbers, or numbers but not wording, we’d still be interested in seeing the latest. We’d also like to be apprised of where we are at in the timetable to complete this. Is it still the goal to have these in place for 2003?”

October 25, 2002: Management: “The working group met and left with several separate tasks to complete. When we have something complete, we will show it to you. We are still planning to implement in 2003, but not necessarily at the first of the year. We do not have numbers yet.”

October 24, 2002: Union S/T Walle inquires: “Regarding the agenda, I’m assuming that performance standards for 2003 will be on it.  Is that correct?  Where are you at on that initiative?  We haven’t heard anything for a while, and that management team met a month ago on the subject.  Do you have the latest wording on the elements?  And have you come up with numbers yet that you think would be appropriate for each GS-level?”

September 23, 2002: New Orleans Union officers provide input into the proposed standard to New Orleans Management, including request to gather statistics on complex cases. 

September 20, 2002: Secretary-Treasurer Walle emails all bargaining unit employees at the Washington, DC Passport Agency: “I’m writing to you on behalf of Local 1998 President Alex Allen….  As you probably all know, Management has been working all year on developing standardized Performance Elements and Standards, including desk and counter adjudication quotas, that will be implemented in 2003 for all Passport Specialists nationwide.  As we have no union members from PPT/WN, we have had no input on this from any employees in your office.  We would very much like to hear from you so that we can do our best to represent your views on this subject in our response to the final draft that Management will be sending to the Union.  We have heard that you had a quota of 40 per hour for GS-11’s before, which would be the highest in the nation, but then heard conflicting stories that a) the quota was for TDIS-III, b) the quota was for “paper adjudicating” only, and that another specialist would check the information against the TDIS screen, and c) the quota for only for checking the information against the screen for already-adjudicated applications.  So, as you can see, we need not only your input on how you feel the elements and standards should read and what an appropriate quota would be, but also on what your elements/standards have been in the past and how you actually perform your adjudication duties.  We have about 180 union members out of the 600+ employees in the Passport Services bargaining unit, and have received input on these elements/standards from many union members and non-union members alike.  We’d very much like to include your input in these efforts.”

September 20, 2002: HQ Management replies: “We're still working on the content. The numbers will be addressed later. The overall approach was to have a basic standard that works for most agencies and then adapt as necessary for other agencies.”

September 20, 2002: Union S/T Walle inquires about performance standards and elements at the Special Issuance Agency (in Washington, DC).

September 19, 2002: Miami employees/Union inform Management that their production quotas and error rates are not realistic. Miami Management stated that they were forwarding the employees concerns to the Management committee that is development the elements/standards.

September 19, 2002: Union S/T Walle emails Connecticut Union: "Whatever input you get from your specialists, and pass on to your mgmt, please also share with Alex and me."

September 19, 2002: Connecticut input: I think that before establishing a National standards to be in place, the team that is going to work on this next week should do a study for about 2 to 3 weeks. In this study they should be involved and adjudicate at their desk and at the counter and see if it is feasible to leave the high numbers established on the proposals of 8-7-02.  PD 1.3 is slower. And not counting the duties as assigned that each Passport Specialist have to do. Specially in smaller offices such as CT and Honolulu.

September 13, 2002: Union S/T Walle encourages the Miami Union/employees to participate in the development of the elements and standards, but to not get involved in the numbers, since they will be the same in each office and we “need to present a united front”.

September 12, 2002:  San Francisco input: "I was under the impression than since 9/11 the integrity of the US passport is more important now than it has ever been. ...... And now we are being asked to spend LESS time inspecting documents submitted with each application. How can management justify this?????"  "It's taking more & more time to process each application. The # standard should cut in half."  "Since every application is different, can the union work to eliminate the #'s altogether & let us work at our own pace?" "It is not fair that they are raising the Standards. With this new conversion to TDIS-PD VERSION 1.3 they should lower the numbers needed to adjudicate because this version 1.3 is so slow when the application comes up on the screen after wanding the application."  "This new fully successful standard is nearly unattainable for the following reasons: tdis 3.1 is slower, derivative cases take longer and are more complex, fraud referrals take time to write-up, 2 parent consent cases sometimes require a thorough review of many pages of the dissolution of marriage judgements for custody orders.... You can only squeeze so much blood from a person - then there is just no more."

September 12, 2002: Management: "However, the numbers are the last things we'll get to. It is important to first reach agreement on what we expect people to do, then get to how many. When we get to discussing numbers, I can assure you that there will be an explanation of where they come from.”

September 11, 2002: Union President Allen emails all 32 Union officers (VP and Stewards in all of the 17 offices except for the Special Issuance Agency in DC), and also cc’s a Passport Services Office of Field Operations (FO) Management official in DC: “In a conversation with FO today, there may be some misunderstanding about what we want to tell management about the new performance standards.  We would like for you to engage in open and honest discussion about the proposed elements except for the numbers.  We feel that the numbers should not be discussed until there is some good method for determining if they are fair.  Many of you are having council meetings about the standards and that is good.  I say again, please discuss the elements but we ask that you do not submit numbers for the quotas at this time.”

September 5, 2002: Houston input: “We should be concerned about QUALITY as well as quantity. These are not mutually exclusive, nor are they mutually harmonious. With the addition of CCA, Two parents signature, Prism, Clasp, and more, I think our plate is full. I fear that some may go into a ‘stamp and sign’ mode, which you and I are opposed to…. Fight the good fight.”

September 5, 2002: Chicago input: “The standards are … too high! With the amount of responsibilities that are now incorporated into adjudication, you will need 12 hrs instead of 9 hrs we now have…. It can be done without giving quality work and just going with quantity.”

September 5, 2002: Chicago input: “I just thought I would send you another point of view. I became an adjudicator [more than 2 decades] ago. At that time the quota for all adjudicators was 25 applications an hour. At that time adjudicators only had to notate applications and check citizenship evidence at the desk. Now, we have to call applicants, check information in the computer, add endorsements, check clearance ‘hits’, check PFM records. Also, the regulations have become more complex with the new adoption laws, the two parent signatures, and the new citizenship laws.”

September 5, 2002: Union President Allen emails Union officers and NFFE National: “
For some time management has been working on a proposal to set national standards for all Passport Specialists in every agency.  We have repeatedly requested to be let in during the planning stage of this process but management is forging ahead…. The primary focus seems to be on speed.  We feel that especially since 9-11 there should be more of an emphasis on accuracy.  We know for a fact that many specialists are taking shortcuts to make the quotas.  Although management will not admit it, quotas are what they look at most and it is definitely the thing that they council and hold over their heads most….  The latest proposed set of standards that they have going around actually raises the quotas.  What can we do?  How much leverage do we have when they present us with a proposal and some kind of deadline to agree or disagree?”

September 4, 2002: San Francisco input: “San Francisco previously suspended all complex derivative cases, assigning them to the derivative box where one person would adjudicate all until completed.  Time spent on derivatives was not counted as production and therefore not held against employee.  Since CCA and TDIS-PD- all complex cases and CCA's are kept in the batches and processed by adjudicator themself….  No special time allotment given for them.  I actually had 16 derivative cases in one routine box.  5 different families.  Needless to say, I did not make my hourly production.  I did inform management and suggested reverting back to the derivative box and special assignment for processing.  That was shot down.”

September 4, 2002: New York Regional Director forwards input from Union/employees to HQ Management, including lowering the quota.

September 4, 2002: Boston Regional Director emails Union and employees with the proposed standards. This version contains very high quotas that are not included in other versions.

September 3, 2002: HQ Management emails Regional Directors with update on Performance Standards and Elements, referencing planned meeting on September 24-26 to decide on how to set the numerical quota.

August 19 – September 3, 2002: First unannounced Management study of Performance Standards, not revealed to the Union until the December 3-4, 2002 National Union-Management Council meeting.

August 2002: Union Newsletter: President's Message by Alex Allen: "I will fight with every ounce of tenacity in me to ensure that any standards set will be fair."

August 2002: Union Newsletter: former President Bill Beardall: "The development of national performance standards is evidence of management's failure to comply with Article 4 [of the collective bargaining agreement]. Since the September 2001 union/management meeting in Washington, D.C., Local 1998 has made numerous pleas and inquiries about the process of developing these standards. We have continued to remind management that the union and
those we represent, the people doing the work, need to be fully involved in this process.... Management has invited us to share our thoughts, but even at this late date, the union has otherwise been fully excluded from the process.... This issue is one both of fairness to employees and one of preserving the integrity of the United States passport."

July 15, 2002: George Lannon appointed Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, in place of Mary Ryan. His message: “To all CA bureau staff: A change in leadership is always complicated. Given the respect and affection enjoyed by Ambassador Ryan, my period as acting assistant secretary for CA will be especially challenging. I know that you will all stay focused and continue to move forward in safeguarding our nation’s security. The President’s legislative proposal for a Department of Homeland Security gave the Department firm marching orders and a leading role in the global war on terrorism. Our experience, ingenuity, and patriotism uniquely qualify us to implement the president's vision as codified by the congress. We in CA have a prominent place in the front lines of this global war. We’ve never failed to do our part in the past, nor will we in the future.”

July 11, 2002: Union President Alex Allen contacts HQ Management and expresses his concern about our operating under a “Passport Express” system, similar to the “Visa Express” program that was blamed in the media for the September 11th hijackers receiving their visas. President Allen explains, “We do not want to be the ones on the 6:00 news for issuing a passport to a terrorist”, and he includes a copy of a July 11th Washington Times article regarding the retirement of Assistant Secretary of State Mary Ryan.
Click here for: Text of e-mail

July 9, 2002: Seattle Union completes its poll of the employees on the elements/standards and submits the results to Management. One comment from that poll: "I think the managers in Washington D.C. need to clarify how future changes to the system which further slow us down will be addressed in the numbers standards. Agreeing on an acceptable production quota is
meaningless if they just introduce another time-consuming change to adjudication right after it goes into effect."

July 5, 2002: President Allen forwards a memo from an employee in Houston to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Georgia Rogers: "The idea of establishing national standards for a quota system is analogous to replacing a single part in a dilapidated vehicle when buying a new car would be more advantageous. The quota system effectively ensures that production remains
high. Passports are quickly processed and put into the hands of applicants. However, in a "post-September 11th world" the quota system sustains an environment where more importance is placed upon the production of a product than on security.... Production is held in higher regard than quality. Therefore, the production of a product is more important than ensuring that passports are not issued to those not entitled to them. The US State Department recently created a superior passport document with high-tech security features, but even if the document is secure, US security may be compromised through a passport issuance system based more on an industrial mentality of the past century than a 21st century model.... Several months ago the INS received criticism for not carefully adequately controlling who they allowed into the United States. If a person ever does harm to the United States with the aid of a US passport, the press would love to discover that passports are issued on a quota system that causes some of the DOS workers who issue those passports to feel like they do not have time to worry about checking for fraud because they have to produce, produce, produce. I hope that CA [Consular Affairs] will reconsider the quota system and create an environment where passport specialists can adjudicate passports without pressure placed upon them by an outdated system."

June 27, 2002: Union President Allen emails all Union officers with the poll developed by Seattle Union VP Rob Arnold as an example of how they can collect input to provide to their local Union/Management Council. 

June 25, 2002:  Los Angeles input: I don't think that GS-5's should have a quota. I also think that the new quotas are not very realistic. As an Adjudicator, one has so many obstacles (i.e. For us here in L.A., language barriers; CCA law, PFM checks, etc.) that slows the adjudication process down. We had a meeting week before last with our fellow Union members, and we all agreed that first, no ADJUDICATOR was used to establish these numbers. Second, management did not even allow us to be in this process of standardizing anything!!!  What do you think about these comments?

June 21, 2002: President Allen emails study idea to Management. He adds, "On another note, I do not think that a GS-5 should have a quota for the first year. They should be able to concentrate on training. I have seen many times that people do not develop the basic skills to be good Specialist because their main focus is on trying to learn how to produce numbers."

June 19, 2002: President Allen emails Union Vice Presidents in each Passport Office, encouraging them to participate in the development of the non-numerical portions of the standards: "To that end, I would suggest that we work closely with your Council and provide input on the wording of the elements. I would still like for us not to endorse or comment on the
numerical standards. I would like for you to give your comments in writing and e-mail me copies of whatever you suggest. Please ensure that all members of your bargaining unit know what we are doing on this issue. If you have not already forwarded them copies of my previous e-mails, please do so ASAP. They have a need to know and if they have questions or concerns about issues, we need to know them sooner than later." This constitutes the "further notice" referenced in former President Beardall's May 15, 2002 email: from April 29, 2002 until June 19, 2002 the Union was formerly advising to hold off on participation in local meetings, but from June 19, 2002 onwards the Union is encouraging local participation.

June 17, 2002: Union President Alex Allen emails Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Georgia Rogers with input collected form employees on Elements 1 and Element 2.  He adds: “We are also aware of many other things that we am not sure you want happening.  The current atmosphere, at least in some Agencies, is that you live and die by the numbers.  Nothing is more important  than making quota.  To that end many bad habits have developed.  I was even told by more than one Specialist that they had been told by their supervisors that they had a very low error rate and they could improve their production by letting a few more things go by.  I ask you, after 9/11 how absurd is that?  Some Specialist do not unstack the names to be cleared.  Some do not fully document the applications.  Some work through lunch or breaks.  Some have even told me that they look through batches to see if there are thick citizenship cases before taking them.  By setting the standards at a fair level, Specialist would not feel that they have to resort to these shortcuts to avoid prosecution.  We also feel that we play a big part in ‘Homeland Security’.  We feel that it is our job to ensure that passports are only issued to bonafide United States citizens and nationals.  With the rush to get things ‘out the door’ we feel the integrity of the Passport may be compromised.  We would like to work with management to establish standards that would be fair for the Department and the employees.  One of the problems we have, even though we are the ones doing the work everyday, is that we do not have the magic answers to what is a fair number.  We would like to conduct a study using actual Specialists at the different agencies doing the actual work without any of the shortcuts to determine what is fair.  We do not think this is too much to ask.  We do not feel there is any other way to determine what is fair.  We feel that we must look closely at the ‘best practices’ at each agency and determine how it should be done across the board.  Again we ask that we work together for the common good of the Department, the employees and ultimately this country.”

June 17, 2002: Union Secretary-Treasurer Walle emails Union President Allen and endorses the new president’s plan to try to work with Management, despite the fact that the Union believed that Management had violated the contract and committed Unfair Labor Practices in the manner in which the standards had been developed to date: “I know Bill didn’t want the local partnerships to get involved in this and to only work through the national Union leadership since Mgmt was doing an end-run on the Union.  However, I think that so long as we make SUPER-clear that the local partnerships will give only preliminary input to local Mgmt, but that the National Union is the official, final voice of the employees on this issue, then it should be allowed to try to shape this issue earlier in the process.  I think that what would have been ideal would have been for Union and Mgmt to have worked on this from the beginning.  Each team studying each element should have been half Union and half Mgmt, and it should have all been done under the requirements of Article 4 of the contract.  But that train has left the station, and I think we should use every opportunity we have to get our input in.” 

June 14, 2002: Union President Allen has Union VP's forward email on standards to all Union members: "One of the main thing that seems to be on everyone's mine now is the "national standards". I like I am sure most of you only want them to be fair. Management seems to be forging ahead with their plan to exclude the union be going directly to the bargaining unit. My major concern, and I thing it should be yours, is where are these numbers that they are throwing around coming from.... I was even told by more than one Specialist that they had been told by their supervisors that they had a very low error rate and they could improve their production by letting a few more things go by. I ask you, after 9/11 how absurd is that.... I understand that we have a responsibility to get passports in the hands of American citizens in a timely manner but we also have some responsibility for "Homeland Security". Unless I totally misunderstand what our job is, our mission is not to see how many we can get out of the door.... I would like to see a study group formed with Specialist from different agencies. These Specialist would be instructed to do everything that was expected of a Passport Specialist and they would all do it the same way. Their totals would be compiled and a rational recommendation made from that."

June 7, 2002: Management notifies President Alex Allen of Phase II of the standards development: "Please note that the instructions for this phase of the project again specifically request that the working group solicit input and hold discussions about performance elements with passport specialists through their local union/management committees. Additionally, the
information you have been provided contains a new timeline that delays the targeted date for presenting the Union with a developed proposal to late August. Regrettably, workload constraints necessitated this change." An attached memo recognizes that, "Since January 2002, all passport agencies are operating with the TDIS PD system. During the conversions to the new system, all passport specialists were trained on the system. Passport specialists are required to perform both the "paper adjudication" and the review and approval of the data on the system. The review of the accuracy of the data on TDIS PD, including CLASS holds, MIV, IP, and CLASP is either included or implied in these elements. The complexity of the work has
changed due to the implementation of the Two-Parent Consent requirements and the Child-Citizenship Act. The complexity of the work coupled with the implementation of TDIS PD has changed the work performed by passport specialists."

The revised timeline includes the following deadlines:

Notification to the Union leadership: August 26, 2002
Union’s response to be submitted: October 4, 2002
Management to finish reviewing the Union’s response: October 18, 2002
Notification to the employees: November 18, 2002
Implementation of new elements/standards: January 1, 2003

(June 1, 2002: Alex Allen is elected as Union President, and Colin Walle is re-elected as Union Secretary-Treasurer)

May 30, 2002: Outgoing Union President Beardall emails all Union officers: "Though we have accomplished much, I leave this office with a great deal of frustration. Four years ago I came carrying the banner of partnership and union/management cooperation. We have had some success, particularly at the regional office level. At the national level, we have struggled to establish union/management cooperation. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it does not work.... At present, management has working groups that are doing the preliminary work in anticipation of establishing national performance standards for adjudication. Since that issue was first raised last September, we had asked to be included in as a partner in this process. A few weeks ago I sent a letter to DAS Rogers raising our concerns and once again asking to be included as a partner in the process. Management responded that they envisioned that union/employee response could be done at the local level. We feel that we should be sitting on the committees with management and together soliciting that input. We are not being treated as 'full partners' as specified in Article 4 of the contract. If ever there was an issue that we should work together as partners, this is it. However, management feels much different. I have already discussed these issues with President Allen. He agrees with me that we need a greater role in this process. I will be discussing with him strategies that we have considered for dealing with this important issue."

May 17, 2002: Management's weekly report acknowledges changes as a result of the Photodigitization process: "A Photodig/CLASP Upgrade Committee is being organized to develop the training materials, guidelines, and Green Instructions for the next release of TDIS-PD version 1.3.... The focus will be on all the changes to adjudication by the conversion to Photodig."

May 16, 2002: Chicago Union VP X (no longer in that position) responds to Chicago Management’s May 14th request to “discuss with you … the new standardized elements for passport specialists”: “I contacted Mr Beardall Union President, and I was informed that I am not to participate in any discussion with management regarding the new standardized performance elements.”  (Note: this email is cited by Management on October 14, 2003 as a basis for denying the Union’s September 16, 2003 Grievance Between the Parties, even though President Beardall’s instruction to not participate was reversed by President Allen on June 19, 2002)

May 16, 2002: President Beardall and Secretary-Treasurer Walle meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Georgia Rogers during her visit to Seattle. Beardall and Walle express their concerns about the process of how the standards are being developed.

May 15, 2002: President Beardall emails Union Executive Board with update on his April 23, 2002 letter and Management's May 14, 2002 response, including his concern that Management's approach will not adequately gather input from employees and the fact that the Union is the voice of the employees: "This process for establishing standards is being coordinated at the national level for Passport Services. However, they are not affording us an
opportunity to be part of that discussion and process. Basically, they are only asking for our opinion at the local level which will then be filtered through your regional management teams before being assembled at the national level. I have made it clear numerous times that Local 1998 wanted to be included in the whole process and that to filter employee opinion through management officials would only dilute actual employee opinions. I have a list of the management officials that are serving on the working groups to ultimately establish national standards. I doubt if there is anyone on that list that has served as a passport examiner in the past five years.... It is my opinion that management is in clear violation of Article 4, Union/Management Cooperation Agreement.... It is also my opinion that if management continues to do nothing more than ask for our opinion in this process, that they will also violate Article 12 on mid-term negotiations and Article 18 on performance standards.... We do believe that one of the most important things we need to do is to be prepared to respond when
management's final proposal is dropped in our laps on July 29th.... Previously, I had asked you to not to discuss performance standards with management. PLEASE CONTINUE TO MAINTAIN THAT POSITION UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. What you can tell your management teams is that we, the exclusive representative of all passport specialists, are in the process of gathering
and analyzing information and we will be glad to share our thoughts when we are more fully prepared.... Though my days as president are now numbered, I am working to make sure that we have laid as much groundwork as possible on this issue so that the new president can take over on June 1 and continue without interruption."

May 14, 2002: Management responds to President Beardall's April 23, 2002 letter: "We envisioned that this dialogue with the union during the "discussion" phases would occur at the local level. The step on the project plan that mentions providing the union with proposed new standards in July [2002] refers to our target for presenting you with an actual, developed
proposal, in compliance with Article 18 of the contract."

April 29, 2002: President Beardall emails Union Executive Board with advisory to hold off on discussing standards locally until response is received to his April 23, 2003 letter: "As you are all aware, management has proposed establishing national adjudication standards. Last week I sent out our letter of concern to passport management regarding the union's exclusion from this process. Until the issues addressed in that letter are resolved, I think it is best if we avoid talking to management about adjudication standards. This came up last week when Jon Peterson (VP - PPT/SE) indicated that management here in Seattle wanted to talk about a performance standards in the next union/management council meeting. After some consideration, I advised him that we need to resolve the issues addressed in the letter and
work out a plan for joint colaboration on this issue before we have any discussions at the regional office level."

April 23, 2002: Union President Bill Beardall contacts Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Georgia Rogers to express his concerns about the number standards, specifically the impact of technological changes on “quantity and quality”, and requests negotiations as appropriate. President Beardall summarizes previous communications on this issue from November 1998 to the present.
Click here for: Union Letter to Georgia Rogers
Click here for: Union Request for Information
Click here for: Union Request For Negotiations

April 22, 2002: New Orleans Management emails Vice President Alex Allen: “I shared the proposed elements with the Adjudication Supervisors and asked them for their comments on Element One.  Since employees are to be afforded the opportunity to participate in the establishment of critical elements, the supervisors held team meetings to discuss the proposal with their staff members.  Their suggestions were then brought before our local Union/Management Council for concurrence.  It appears that the employees here have no problem with the wording in the elements.  Their 2 major concerns were adjudication standards (numbers) and counter production.  The consensus was that due to the extra duties, i.e. CCA, 2 parent signature, PFM hits, etc., they felt that our current production standards should be lowered.  The consensus was also that due to our small counter traffic, that those standards should be dropped from the elements.  As I explained to them, these are going to be national standards and that some agencies such as New York and Los Angeles have a very large counter and that removing the counter information would not be possible.  It was then suggested that perhaps in both counter and desk adjudication that a statement be added ‘whenever work permits’”. 

April 12, 2002: New Orleans input: “I think this is a fight worth fighting.  It will also have other far reaching implications.  I have the same problem in my agency.  Management wants to do things and just prior to implementing them, call us in to inform the Union.  I have taken them to task about this several times….  My personal suggestion about the numerical standards is that a national study group be formed.  Specialist should be selected at random using SSN.  These specialists should be instructed to do complete adjudication and documentation. The problem is that people are taking shortcuts to try and make quota.  Different types of applications (DS-11 DSP-82, DSP19 and Expedite Applications) should be done on different days.  At the end of about a two month period, the results should be analyzed.”

April 10, 2002: Union President Beardall emails Union officers: “We believe that a national adjudication standard can be a good thing, if it is done with thought and involves not just management officials, but you and your bargaining unit employees.”

April 5, 2002: Management faxes President Beardall "a copy of the Passport Specialist Performance Element Project Timeline." After he reviewed the timeline, President Beardall "discovered that the Union would not be included in the process until July 29, 2002, even though parts of the process began as early as January 7. It appears from the Project Timeline that there is no inclusion of Local 1998 in the developmental process.... The agenda provides for a period of feedback, but there is no question that the Union, the exclusive representative for every passport specialist, has been excluded from the process leading up to this point." (Note: this is the timeline that Management stated on March 1, 2002 that it would send to the Union)

April 4, 2002: Union President Beardall replies: “What causes you to raise this question?  We first raised the issue of concerns over the current # standards last September.  We were told that they would be undertaking a study/review of the current #s.  We asked at that time to be involved.  We also emphasized the importance of involving people in the study who are doing the work, not just managers who haven't done regular adjudication in years….   I have re-raised this issue during Jan/Feb/Mar phone calls with DC mgmt.  I have asked for the time frames/agenda on this.  I have continued to raise the issue of having real adjudicators involved in the process.  I have not yet received a thing.  I made another request today for more information.  I have been told, that we are scheduled to be brought into the process down the road.  Whatever happened to partnership?  #s are a mgmt right, though we have a contractual right to be involved in the process.  My fear is that the foundation will be laid, the framing put up, the wiring and plumbing done, and we will be involved in choosing which shade of ivory paint will go on the walls….  The biggest issue I have had raised during my travels over the past several months has been the fact that adj's are having a difficult time meeting their current standards with all the changes over the past 2-3 years.  I have heard numerous stories of how adj's are cutting corners to meet the standard.” 

April 4, 2002: A Passport Specialist in Seattle emails Union President Bill Beardall: “Does the union have any contact with whomever is on the panel to create the national numbers standard?  If so, is there any idea where they are going with this?  Whatever the outcome, it is going to be a big deal (headache) for the union and we may want to be proactive on this.  At least start a dialog so no one can say they didn't know we were interested.  If they tell us that it isn't any of our beeswax then that can be dealt with or we can just tell them, truthfully, that we could be their biggest ally with implementation for the cost of a little involvement.”

March 28, 2002: President Beardall contacts Management by email and asks about the "Status of discussions on the performance standards review. You had mentioned that you had a list/agenda of some sort that would lead PPT through the process of setting national standards. Do you have that? Can we have a copy?" During a subsequent phone conversation, a Management official "advised me that the review had just begun. He indicated that he would forward me a copy of the agenda."

March 26, 2002: A Management official in DC emails 29 participating Managers across the country about the project to standardize Adjudication Performance Standards and Elements in 2003.  This email includes a draft of the elements and standards created by the Seattle Regional Director, as well as an outline work done on this project by Assistant Regional Directors on September 10, 2001, and a timeline for how the project will unfold during the remainder of the year.  This email, and the six attachments included, is not shared with the Union until May 14, 2002.  (Note: the Union believes that this plan by Management to bypass the National Union leadership and select which Union officers it will consult with on this issue constitutes an Unfair Labor Practice – a violation of 5 U.S.C. 7116, since it is not for Management to decide which Union officials will speak for the Union on a national issue.)

March 22, 2002: New Orleans Union Vice President Alex Allen files information request with Management: "Information Requested: Adjudication production standards/quotas for the last ten years. In conjunction, a copy of the elements for Adjudicators/Passport Specialist for the same time period. In addition, we request the number of expedite applications received and their percentage of the total work received over the same time period. Particularized Need: To evaluate and provide input in accordance with article 18 paragraph 4 of the agreement between Passport Services and the National Federation of Federal Employees- Local 1998 Federal District 1, International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO."

March 1, 2002: President Beardall contacts Management by phone, and a Management official "advised me that management has an agenda and that the Union would be brought into the process at the appropriate time. I asked for a copy of the agenda and [he] agreed to provide it."

February 27, 2002: President Beardall emails Management asking, "What is the status of the study on performance standards?"

February 20, 2002: New Orleans Union VP Allen emails his members on the results of a Union/Management Council meeting: the gist “of the conversation was that the memos that have been discussed are not to be done without consideration for whatever else is going on at the time.  The example that I used in the memo about someone making quota ten days and missing it one day and getting a memo was not what they intended.  They assured us that if you are able to justify to your supervisor what you are doing, no memos or anything else like that was suppose to be done.  They also told us that if you got what you think is an undeserved memo, you could come to them and explain your case.”

February 20, 2002: Union President Beardall emails employees with weekly update, including this comment: "Two of the biggest issues that were raised during these visits were promotions and work quotas. There are changes in the contract that address these issues (see Articles 15 and 18). For your information, there is discussion about a possible national standard for work numbers, particularly adjudication. Many of you have expressed concern that there needs to be a change in the numbers due to changes in the process (photo-dig) and changes in laws. As we address this issue on a national basis, we need your feedback in order to fully represent your views. Please pass that feedback on to your office vice presidents or to myself. We believe that this is an important issue that not only affects your job, but also the integrity of the U.S. passport."

February 19, 2002: New Orleans input (question posed to New Orleans Union VP): “Are you aware some examiners will work through lunch to make their quota?”

February 19, 2002: New Orleans Union VP Allen emails his Regional Director: “It has been brought to our attention that a new policy of giving memorandums to individuals that miss their quota has been put into effect.  The way that it is understood by many is that the memos will be given daily without regards to the total picture.  An example would be an individual surpasses their quota for ten days but misses it one day and gets a memo.  It is not our position that employees should not be held accountable. We feel that everyone should do their job.  What we have concerns about is whether the established standards are fair and equitable.  Since the standards were set some years ago, the task in adjudication have changed drastically.  We feel that before these memos should be put into individuals files, it is important to ensure that the standards are fair.  We have changed from to TDIS-III to TDIS-PD.  The number of expedite applications have skyrocketed .  The individual task in adjudication such as the names to be cleared must be re-typed, addresses must be changed, and adjudicators must investigate and clear holds have all changed.  The number of citizenship cases have increased dramatically.  These are only a few areas that increase the time to do PROPER adjudication.  We feel that it is time to comply with Article 18 paragraph 4 of our contract which says in short that employees should have input in establishing standards….  The Union is here to assist employees as well as management and we would like to see things run as smoothly as possible.  We are requesting a meeting with management to discuss the issues of quotas and accountability.”

January 24, 2002: President Beardall emails Management, and later engages in conference call with Management, that includes discussion on the performance standards. From the email: "You indicated in your Jan 7th response to Colin that there would be discussion at the RD conference regarding the approach for studying performance standards. How did that discussion go? Has a process and study group been identified to review this situation? As I have discussed changes with specialists in a majority of the offices, this has become an issue of great concern with all the changes over the past two years. Without question, the events of September 11th have increased that concern."

January 7, 2002: New Orleans input (question posed to New Orleans Union VP): “I don’t know if this would be an issue at our level to discuss, but has any mention been done about lowering our quotas or anything with all these CCA cases, and children that we have to keep checking for the two parents’ signatures, etc???”

January 7, 2002: According to the timeline provided to future Union President Alex Allen on June 7, 2002, the project to create the 2003 standardized Adjudication Elements and Standards officially commenced on this date.  The Union was not aware at the time that the project had started. 

January 7, 2002: At 5:04 PM Eastern Standard Time, HQ Management replies: “There is not yet a national committee formed to look at performance elements. It was another initiative that was to have taken off at the Sept. conference. We will be discussing this at the RD conference (briefly, about the approach, not about what they should be.) I will mention the union’s interest – obviously we have to work with you to change the standards.”

January 7, 2002: Union S/T Walle contacts HQ Management, expressing the Union’s concern about the performance standards, the quota being too high and possibly leading to frauds being issued in error, and requesting to be involved in the committee to set national standards. S/T Walle writes, “The big issue right now that Bill wanted me to address to you is performance standards for adjudication. We have heard from many employees in many offices about this. The basic issue is that with changes in working conditions (photodig, new laws, changes in namecheck, etc.) that make it harder to reach the same production as before, the standards should be adjusted accordingly. As acknowledged by PPT Mgmt in visits to many passport offices over the years, our staff is made up of hardworking employees who are dedicated to providing quality service to the travelling public in high quantities, while also remaining vigilant to those attempting to commit passport fraud. According to the reps in four of our biggest offices, 100% of the adjudicators in one office feel the numbers are too high, 99% in another, 92% in another, and all of those surveyed (which was “most” adjudicators) in another office. This is an issue of fairness, quality, fraud detection, and health.”
Click here for: Union Request For Information

January 3, 2002: Seattle Union VP emails members: “I have brought up the concerns of changes in workplace conditions in regards to the numbers issue, and management here has claimed that they cannot implement any changes in the numbers locally.  It looks like I will have to talk to Bill and Colin about pursuing the issue on the national level.”

January 2, 2002: Chicago Union statement:
“According to the job standards the GS-11 don't have a quota but we have been informed to maintain a quota of a GS-9. This was told to us during our quarterly reports by the way most of the 11's were told that we were not doing this. I have spoken to most of the agents and they think the quota's are to high for photodig in addition to the new laws it’ not fair. And don't forget we have to do our own hold, so it’s really a mess. And at the counter there is no difference in EF's everything is lump in together.”

 


December 20, 2001: National Passport Center input: "Please note that not only do the 2 parent, cca, namecheck problems and photodig slow us up, but the new letters are a real pain in the butt.... And it seems like almost everyday there are more fraud factors to look for from different
locations--the more work we do we have more problems to look for.... The ability to have consistent numbers would only be possible if every case we worked on was cut out by a cookie cutter. Since that isn't the case and we aren't machines, we should not have a quota to follow.... This is all my opinion but I know I am not the only adjudicator that feels this way."

December 19, 2001: Seattle input: "I think our work should be evaluated more on the quality as the overall rating factor- definitely more important than quantity."

December 19, 2001: Seattle Management proposes: "Lower the hourly numbers to: GS-5 - 17; GS-7 - 21; GS-9/11 - 23. Eliminate ranges and excellent and outstanding numbers.... Add EFs to the number element." Note that the GS-9/11 number proposed is 23 per hour, while the national number proposed by Management for 2004 is 24 per hour. Management also proposes: "No more "fudge factor". By doing this, we are eliminating the "squishy number" issue. The new standard would be a "hard" number - if people's average falls below it, we would have to look at counseling and possibly performance improvement plans." Management incorrectly states that "We are the only agency that doesn't include EF's."

December 18, 2001: Acting Union President Walle emails all Union members on behalf of Union President Beardall: “Performance Standards: We have received voices of concern from many offices that the changes implemented in the last year or two have negatively impacted the employees’ ability to meet their production standards. Specifically, the conversion to Photodig (and updates), problems with Namecheck, the enactment of new laws (320, 2 parent consent), and the new DS-11 application form have been listed as factors that have made it harder to achieve the same performance level. Whether you agree or disagree with this contention, it is important that you express your views to your office Union representatives and to Bill and myself. During the annual Union/Management meeting on September 25th, this issue was discussed and it was decided to explore the issue further as Management is planning on studying the impact. For the Local to represent the views of the members, we need to hear from you on what you think about this.”

November 27, 2001: President Beardall emails Management: "Production standards: This is another concern that is popping up in several locations. The changes in law, namecheck problems, and the new system appear to be having a negative impact on employees. Those that do well, are working harder and suffering more stress to meet their quotas. Those that are fully
successful, seem to be pushed towards the edge of being less than fully successful.... It does seem logical to me that these changes need to be objectively analyzed to determine their impact on employees and the quality of the work.... Local 1998 would certainly like participate and receive any information generated by such a study."

November 19, 2001: New Orleans input: “One issue that I have come up with now that I am dealing with the CCA's and the two parent signature (I was out when it really got heavy), is that the numbers perhaps should be adjusted since these cases DO take more time. I just know it takes me longer since there is more to review.”

October 19, 2001: Negotiations between Management and the Union over a new Security Awareness Performance Element and accompanying standards are completed.  This element had originally been scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2001, after the Department of State negotiated details with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), but after the Union protested, the parties agreed to negotiate over the impact and implementation of this change in working conditions.  Later, Management will erroneously cite Article 18, Section 9 of the contract as a justification to ignore Union proposals on the implementation of the 2004 Adjudication Performance Standards and Elements, but that argument was not offered during the negotiations over this new job element (even though this action was accomplished after the contract went into effect on July 3, 2001). 

October 3, 2001: Miami input: "I can say personally that I find the new system is more time consuming and therefore it has had an impact on my production."

October 2, 2001: Miami input: "The process of photodigitization has had a negative effect on production. The workers are struggling to obtain the office objective. What are the union plans?"

October 1, 2001: Los Angeles input: "I definitely feel that is has had an impact on production. If name check is having a problem, it takes forever to clear if it clears at all, and if it doesn't clear, you can't complete the box sometimes. The new CCA especially when at the counter creates
problems because there is more writing we have to do with regarding notating all the info from the green card, determining if the IR7 is an adoption or not. The two parent law signature is a definite problem.... PHOTODIG ... is more time consuming."

September 28, 2001: New Orleans input: "Both the new equipment having more functions and having more functions to clear has definitely had a negative impact on most not all employees. The numbers were already high at the New Orleans Agency and being held to the same standards with the influx of CCA cases more than the two-parent signature has made a difference.... Quantity is a great factor here and surely, if it were not a factor in light of terrorist we should be able to check more closely the applications and the information included. 1 to 2 minutes is surely not enough to determine if the identification ss # addresses and phones are accurate.... I really believe that the information given should be handled with more thought and a more through investigation done before issuing. Perhaps more information gathered as would be for immigration, since we are making basically the same determinations."

September 25, 2001: September 25, 2001: Annual Union/Management Council Meeting in Washington, DC. The Union tells Management that, "Passport specialists in many offices (are) concerned that ... changes in work processes may have negatively impacted the quantity and quality of work being produced. Cites anecdotal evidence of increased number of fraudulent passports being issued in error. Would like the issue to be seriously studied together by the Union and Management and then discuss any necessary changes."
Click here for: UMC Meeting Minutes

Click here for: Impact of Photodigitized Passport Issuance

September 11, 2001: Terrorists hijack 4 airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing almost 3000 people.

September 10, 2001: Standardized elements and standards for Passport Specialists are discussed during the Assistant Regional Director Conference and outline of issues that should be addressed is formed.  This outline refers to and comments on previous drafts of the different elements.  This outline is not shared with the Union until May 14, 2002. 

September 5, 2001: Union President Beardall submits a proposed agenda to HQ Management for the upcoming National Union-Management Council Meeting, scheduled to be held on September 25, 2001. He includes this as part of the proposed agenda: "Impact of photodig & new laws: Concern of adjudicators over ability to maintain current number standards and quality in light of challenges posed by photodig, namecheck problems, Child Citizenship Act, and the Two Parent Signature requirement. As partners, how can we work together to address these issues?" In an email to NFFE National, Beardall explains that "This is a complicated issue. I have heard from a number of passport specialists (adjudicators) that changes in the computer system (photodig), system problems, and changes in law or making it much more difficult to reach their quota. We are not sure what the solution is. We are not necessarily proposing a reduction in number standards, but we believe that we should have dialogue on this issue and a recognition of the challenges. From where I sit, as the assistant fraud program manager, I have seen passports issued where the application should have received deeper scrutiny. They were signed off by excellent specialists, but the pressure of meeting quotas pushed them to give the application a cursory review."

July 3, 2001: Collective Bargaining Agreement between Passport Services and the Union goes into effect. The Union had made proposals for Article 18 that would require methods used to measure Passport Specialists' performance to include all applications, not only applications that were approved. Many offices only gave credit for applications that were issued, and gave no credit for applications that were not approved because of insufficient evidence or fraud indicators, even though these applications take more time to adjudicate. Management did not agree to these proposals and they were not included in the CBA. The 2004 Adjudication elements, proposed to the Union on September 19, 2003, finally incorporate this principle of counting all applications. One version of the Union's proposal read: "The Parties agree that standards measuring the quantity of the work done by Passport Specialists shall be based on the general principle that the Specialist is expected to adjudicate a required number of passport applications." The subtle emphasis on "adjudicate" rather than "issue" was intended and explained to Management to mean that all applications would be counted.

 


December 14, 2000: San Francisco Union VP asks: “Have you heard of any Agency who have changed their number standards, if so could you please let me know because we have not changed our as of yet.”

December 8, 2000: New Orleans input: "It really should not take much to get Mellon Bank to enter names to be cleared on separate lines. This would eliminate the need for us to change so much information while adjudicating."

December 7, 2000: Management response: "Two-parent rule - we don't know what impact it will have, although we are concerned that it might increase our suspense caseload which, of course, does have a negative effect on workload. The regulation has not yet become final; a draft instruction is in the works, and will be sent out for comments soon."

December 7, 2000: Union President Beardall inquires with Management about the new "Two Parent Consent" law: "We would be interested in any studies or discussions regarding the impact of this requirement on the work."

November 17, 2000: Stamford (later Connecticut) Passport Agency input: "We in Stamford are not happy with the standard because in the past we did not have to inspect the boxes now we adjudicate and inspect the batch and the standard has not change it has been mention to management on several occasions with no action.... We have no idea of what we are going to do
when photodig arrives."

November 17, 2000: National Passport Center (Portsmouth, NH) input: "Our standards are under review with the partnership committee. Another point is how the workmen's comp claims have risen since the new system has kicked in."

November 17, 2000: Charleston Passport Center (Charleston, SC) input: "That issue is a big problem in our office.... If we don't circle 10 or 5 years, it's an error, if we don't circle the R for Regular book, it's an error.... When you put something in suspense and remove it at document review, that isn't included because it's not counted as being done because it has been removed. Sometimes I have 15 suspense [cases] that took time to do but are not being counted. Numbers under photodig need to be done over."

February 28, 2000: During a visit to Seattle by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Lannon and other DC Management officials, one Management official acknowledges that the Photodigitized passport process is “maybe a little less efficient” and another states that we “need to make it user friendly”.  The first official states that “there will be training on Windows … ideas about technical gaps that you need training on, [you] should suggest areas that you need work on.”  Management explains that hopefully the new system will be installed in Seattle in May or June, and also mentions the Reid Amendment, which will require both parents to consent to the issuance of a passport to a minor under age 14. 

January 24, 2000: Annual Union/Management Meeting in Washington, DC.

 


November 1999: Union Newsletter: President's Message from Bill Beardall: "We are dealing with constant change in the Passport Office due to technology advances and a government work place being reshaped by the political climate. If we do not form strong partnerships, nationally and locally, these changes will be made without our input."

September 29, 1999: Seattle Management proposes to the Union a numerical standard for Expedite Fee applications, which make up between 30 – 40% of the work and take longer on average to adjudicate.  An existing standard of 25 applications per hour for GS-9’s and GS-11’s had already been set for Routine applications.  Management proposes a standard of 17 applications per hour for GS-9’s and GS-11’s.  This proposal does not get adopted, and specialists in Seattle do not have a numerical quota for Expedite Fee applications until January 2, 2004, when the Routine and Expedite Fee applications have a common quota of 24 applications per hour. 

 


November 16, 1998: New Photodigitized passport issued. This passport is designed to prevent tampering and altering, especially photosubstitution (photo-subbing) of the passport. It is understood that with the increased integrity of the passport itself, more frauds will now try to get passports via the application process rather than altering a stolen, borrowed, or purchased passport belonging to someone else. See this testimony in September 2002 referencing this effect: http://www.house.gov/judiciary/phillips091902.htm

November 18, 1998 DOS Press Release:
http://usembassy-australia.state.gov/hyper/WF981118/epf315.htm

November 2-3, 1998: Annual Union/Management Meeting in Washington, DC. Management states that with the implementation of the new Photodigitized passport ("Photodig" or "PD") that we "need partnership - need user input" on how to make the system work better. Management states that we "will have to look at performance standards because Namecheck hold will [now] pop up when app[lication] is wanded at adjudication (inspection)", so the Passport Specialists will now have to perform additional, time-consuming, but very important tasks while meeting their quota, rather than having those tasks performed afterwards by a specialist detailed to handle these cases who is not being measured against the quota. The new system will be "user friendly - will be much better". Management acknowledges that "photodig will be traumatic for [a] number of employees". The Parties discuss performance standards, including the quota for adjudicating/accepting applications at the public counter. Regarding the new appointment system at the New York Passport Agency: they "have a lot of ID witnesses and language problems, so have lower number per hour than [the Los Angeles Passport Agency] at [the]
counter". Management states, "yes, we need to look at this" and "eliminate the frantic stuff". The Union states that "we have [a] problem with [the] standards, not [the] appointment system or screening" and recognizes that with "different offices" we may need "different standards". Management replies that this is "a good point" and that the "Booz-Allen study may help". Management acknowledges that with photodig, "all standards will have to be revisited", that "we will have to work with you" on this, and that "we wouldn't want [the] standard [to be] so inflexible that one office suffers".
Note: these quotes all come from the notes takes by Union S/T Walle, and were not released as joint meeting minutes (that practice was not adopted until the September 25, 2001 meeting).

August 20, 1998: Michael Darcy appointed AFPM at the National Passport Center.
Click here for Memo Announcing Appointment

June 24, 1998: Management send an official memo to Union President Beardall, notifying him of the planned implementation of the new photodigitized passport, and stating that “the primary objective is to enhance the security of the United States passport.” 

(June 1, 1998: Bill Beardall is elected as Union President and Colin Walle is elected Secretary-Treasurer)

March 1995 (approximately): Seattle Union employee Bill Beardall submits a memo to Seattle Management, in response to proposed changes in the performance standards from 1994. In response, Management does lower the numerical standard at the public counter, but does not lower the number for “desk adjudication” – adjudicating applications executed at acceptance facilities (e.g., post offices, clerk of courts). With regard to desk adjudication, Beardall comments that, “the emphasis here seems to be on numbers. Even though the fully successful number has not changed on paper, the way the workload is now distributed has changed the ability to achieve that number. The movement of Urgent/EF applications to specific specialists has aided in raising routine desk adjudication numbers. On the other hand, amendments and suspense have more than offset the gains achieved by the change of Urgent/EF applications. Therefore, I would have to consider the 195-210 to be an increase.” He continues, “it is perceived by most employees that numbers are all that count. If the integrity of the U.S. passport is to be maintained, this attitude must achieve more balance. I realize that this is not just a Seattle problem, but is a national problem. It is an issue that must be addressed.” Beardall adds, “We have been made to feel like robots on an assembly line.”