News Archive - 2008 and earlier
 
 

Local 1998 included in NFFE newsletter
December 31, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 was mentioned twice in the latest edition of The Federal Employee, the newsletter published by the National Federation of Federal Employees (see pages 10 and 15).  

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

NFFE Local 1998 Union reps meet with President-Elect Obama's DOS Transition Team
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 
(click for more on contracting out acceptance function)
<SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>

Membership drive held at Washington DC Passport Agency
December 17, 2008: Five bargaining unit employees made the decision to become Union members at a membership drive.... (click for more)  (click for more) 

Four Union Reps attend advanced training pilot program at IAMAW's Winpisinger Center
December 12, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle, Vice President Rob Arnold, Senior Steward (PPT/NO) Debra Reese-Jolly, and Senior Steward (PPT/TO) Kamaria Blandford.... (click for more)

Grievance filed over discipline for alleged passport file snooping
December 2, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed a grievance with Passport Services HQ regarding admonishments given to 32 bargaining unit employees who had viewed passport files of celebrities from late 2002 to early 2008.  (click for more)

Unfair Labor Practice charge filed against Passport Services Management
November 28, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge (ULP) against Passport Services....  (click for more)    

Four Day Workweek option added at New Orleans Passport Agency 
November 23, 2008: The Union and Management at the New Orleans Passport Agency agreed to implement....  (click for more)    

Union files Clarification of Unit seeking answers on 4 positions excluded from Union coverage
October 22, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed a Clarification of Unit with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.... (click for more) 

NFFE Local 1998 marks 27 years as exclusive representative of Passport Services employees
October 19, 2008: Twenty-seven years ago, on October 19, 1981, the Federal Labor Relations Authority certified NFFE....  (click for more)  

Rick Brown reelected as President of NFFE; Local 1998 reps attend convention
October 6-9, 2008: Rick Brown was reelected for the fourth time as President of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) at the Union's 48th convention held in Milwaukee, WI.  (click for more)

Passport Services implements Arbitrator's decision in 2007 OT adjudication performance measurement grievance
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.  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>

Grievance filed re: sick leave restriction
October 2, 2008: Kamaria Blandford, Senior Steward for the Passport Services Office of Technology Operations, filed an Informal Grievance regarding the sick leave restriction placed on an employee.  

Management rejects two grievances
October 1, 2008: Passport Services HQ Management rejected two grievances filed by NFFE Local 1998.  The first was a Step 3 Grievance filed over the 2007 appraisal and the career ladder promotion for a GS-9 Passport Specialist.  Management replied that the Union did not prove the merits of the case.  The second was a Step 2 Grievance concerning a Passport Specialist's delayed promotion from GS-7 to GS-9, and GS-9 to GS-11.  Management responded that the grievance was not timely filed, and that it was without merit.  

Union VP Rob Arnold visits National Passport Center, Boston Passport Agency, and New York Passport Agency 
September 24-25, 2008: New Union Vice President Rob Arnold visited the Passport Offices in Portsmouth NH, Boston MA, and.... (click for more)   (click for more)

Contractor pleads guilty to passport file snooping
September 16, 2008: Media organizations reported that a contractor had been charged and plead guilty to illegally snooping at the files of numerous "high profile" individuals over the course of three years.  (click for more)

NFFE challenges FAIR Act appeal denial; argues contractors should not perform critical passport acceptance agent function 
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.
(click for more)  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC> 

Sen. Obama addresses IAMAW convention
September 12, 2008: Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), candidate for President, addressed the 2008 IAMAW convention by live video feed.  (click for more)

Donate to help those affected by Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Hanna
September 12, 2008: The Union is encouraging all members to donate to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief for those affected by the hurricanes.  Passport Services employees, including those represented by NFFE Local 1998 at the New Orleans and Houston Passport Agencies, have been affected by these hurricanes.  An easy and quick way to donate is to use your cell phone to text the word "GIVE" to "2HELP" (24357), or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.  

IAMAW convention tackles difficult issues and numerous proposals for amendments and resolutions
September 8-12, 2008: Delegates to the 2008 IAMAW convention voted on scores of proposed amendments to the IAMAW Constitution as well as dozens of proposed resolutions, but no issue was more contentious than a proposed increase in Union dues.  (click for more)

NFFE Union Reps attend IAMAW convention 
September 7-12, 2008: Over half a dozen members of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) attended the 2008 IAMAW convention(click for more)

Unfair Labor Practice charge filed against Passport Services for disciplinary action taken against Union representative
September 9, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge....  (click for more) 

2008 IAMAW convention theme: FDR's "Four Freedoms" 
September 8-11, 2008: The 2008 IAMAW convention had for its theme the "Four Freedoms" speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, given in his 1941 Inaugural Address. (click for more)

Newest IAMAW member Hillary Clinton makes motion to endorse Barack Obama for President
September 8, 2008: The 2008 IAMAW convention welcomed Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who gave an address to the convention and thanked the IAMAW for its endorsement during the Democratic Party Primary.  (click for more)

IAMAW Convention kicks off on September 7th; Sen. Hillary Clinton to address delegates
September 5, 2008: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) convention was on Sunday, September 7th, at the Coronado Springs Hotel in Orlando, FL.  (click for more)

Grievance filed re: citizenship adjudication training course 
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. 

Passpport Services & NFFE Local 1998 sign MOU re: auditing passport file searches 
August 22, 2008: The Union and Management concluded bargaining on a Memorandum of Understanding that addressed a new program in which Management officials in each office would audit.... (click for more)

NFFE issues press release re: FAIR Act challenge for application execution
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. 
(click for more)   <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>

NFFE files FAIR Act Inventory Challenge regarding use of contractors for passport application acceptance and execution function
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. 
(click for more)  <SEE "Passport Integrity" HOT TOPIC>  

Grievance filed re: tardy reprimand
July 28, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed a grievance regarding a reprimand given to an employee in July 2008 for an incident in May 2007, and for which the employee had already received notice of the violation as well as counseling and training.  Normally reprimands are kept in an employee's file for one year, so the Union argued that the employee had already satisfied that time requirement and kept a clean record.  

GAO criticizes lack of planning for passport increase in 2007 and for future growth
July 25, 2008: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report titled “Comprehensive Strategy Needed to Improve Passport Operations.”  The GAO found that “State was largely unprepared for the unprecedented number of passport applications in 2007….”  Looking to the future, the report noted, "While State also identified a framework to guide its modernization efforts, it does not have a comprehensive plan to prioritize and synchronize improvements to its passport operations.  A comprehensive strategy for making these improvements - for example, using a business enterprise approach - would better equip State to handle a significantly higher workload in the future."  

30 co-sponsors for H.R. 5752 
July 16, 2008: As of July 15th, 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives had signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 5752.  The two most recent co-sponsors are Virgil Goode, Jr. (VA) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ).  The Union welcomes their support!  The bill was originally introduced on April 9th with 10 co-sponsors.  

Union Steward Isis Press (right, PPT/LA) meets with 
Congressional staffer for Representative Tom Berman (D-CA),
 the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to discuss HR 5752

Congressman Tom Allen co-sponsors H.R. 5752
July 8, 2008: Congressman Tom Allen from Maine signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 5752, the bill that would require that the U.S. passport be made in the U.S.  Members of NFFE Local 1998 that are constituents of Congressman Allen had contacted him and asked him to support and co-sponsor the bill, which has been endorsed by the IAMAW, NFFE, and Local 1998.  The Union welcomes his support!  

Managers make up 1/4 of staff but got 1/2 of Awards $ and 2/3 of QSI's in FY 2007
July 8, 2008: The awards report transmitted to the Union by Passport Services HQ, in accordance with Article 19 of the collective bargaining agreement, revealed that in Fiscal Year 2007 - the same time period as the passport backlog and unprecedented waiting times for applicants - bargaining unit employees received only 1/2 of the total money given in cash awards and only 1/3 of the Quality Step Increase awards.  

NFFE asks Congress for 3.9% increase in 2009 and pay parity for federal workers
June 26, 2008: The National Federation of Federal Employees, along with other federal worker unions, has been advocating a 3.9% increase and pay parity between civilian and military employees for 2009.  The Administration had proposed to Congress a 2.9% increase for federal workers in 2009, but the House Appropriations Committee voted on June 25th for a 3.9% increase.  

More night shift employees moved to day shift
June 23, 2008: In addition to the 9 employees at the Washington (DC) Passport Agency moved to the day shift as a result of the settlement of the Union's October 2007 grievance, 19 employees at the National Passport Center (Portsmouth, NH) were moved today to the day shift.  

IAMAW and NFFE issue "Action Alert": 
End Passport Outsourcing! 

June 10, 2008: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) issued an "Action Alert" calling on members to contact their Congressperson to support H.R. 5752, a bill that would stop the outsourcing of U.S. passport manufacturing.  The IAMAW included the action alert in its i-mail message emailed to thousands of members, while NFFE included the action alert on its website, along with a position paper.  To send a message to your Congressperson in support of H.R. 5752, click on this link: "End Passport Outsourcing" Action Alert.  For more information, click on the H.R. 5752 webpage linked under "Hot Topics".  

3 attend federal collective bargaining class
June 9, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Chief Steward Karen Proctor-Adams, NPC Senior Steward Helen Bechard, and PPT/WN Senior Steward Melissa Toby attended the week-long Federal Sector Collective Bargaining class at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Placid Harbor, Maryland.  

June 2008 Federal Sector Collective Bargaining class photo at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center

Latest issue of Local 1998 News issued 
June 3, 2008: The Union published the 14th edition of Local 1998 News.  Topics included the settlement of the night shift grievance, the new adjudication performance standards, and the Union's endorsement of H.R. 5752.  

Union endorses H.R. 5752: manufacturing the passport should not be outsourced overseas
May 29, 2008: NFFE and Local 1998 issued a press release announcing that we endorse H.R. 5752, a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Sali (R-Id) to prohibit the manufacturing of the U.S. passport in foreign countries.  The bill was introduced on April 9, 2008 and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The Union is calling on all members, employees, and supporters to contact to write or email their Representatives and Senators and ask them to support H.R. 5752.  

New adjudicator performance elements
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.  

Night shift grievance settled; 9 employees moved to day shift; new contract article created
May 22, 2008: The Grievance initially filed by the Union on October 29, 2007 after Management at the Washington (DC) Passport Agency (PPT/WN) forced new employees to move to the night shift has been amicably settled.  The Union had invoked arbitration on February 15, 2008, but the hearing has been cancelled.  NFFE Local 1998 Union President Colin Walle and Vice President Mike Garofano signed a Settlement Agreement with Department of State and Passport Services officials.  As a result of the settlement, 9 employees at PPT/WN will move to the day shift, effective Monday, May 26th.  Also, employees on the night/second shift anywhere in Passport Services nationwide who were not given fair notice of the requirement to work the night shift prior to be hiring, or who had volunteered for night (assuming they could return to day shift), have until 8:00 PM local time on June 13th to email their supervisors that they desire to return to day shift.  Those employees will be moved back to day shift by August 12th, though delays in construction at the National Passport Center (Portsmouth, NH), the Charleston (SC) Passport Center, and the Chicago Passport Agency may move that timetable back for those three offices.  Moving from night shift to day shift (and day shift to night shift) is henceforth governed by an amendment (a new Article 38) added to the collective bargaining agreement as part of the settlement.  

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

Honolulu Passport Agency visited by RS
May 14, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile visited the Honolulu Passport Agency to conduct two Union orientation sessions for employees, meet with managers, discuss issues of concern with individual employees, and have a membership drive at lunch.  As a result of the trip, eight employees joined the Union.  

VP visits Connecticut Passport Agency
May 7-8, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Vice President Mike Garofano visited the Connecticut Passport Agency.  He conducted an orientation session for new employees and provided representational training to new Senior Steward Mayla Tillackdharry.  

Now is the time to apply for a passport! 
April 26, 2008: With the implementation of the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative projected for June 1, 2009, there has never been a better time to apply for or renew your U.S. passport.  Current passport information is available on the U.S. Department of State’s website, www.travel.state.gov, or by calling the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

Local 1998 RS & NFFE BR visit Colorado 
April 24, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile and NFFE Business Representative Gary Johanson visited the Colorado Passport Agency.  They met with PPT/CO Management officials, conducted a Union orientation for employees, held a membership drive, and provided representational training.  At least 3 employees became Union members as a result of the trip.  

NFFE Business Representative Gary Johanson, Local 1998 Senior Steward Sarah Sun, 
Local 1998 Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile, and new Local 1998 Union 
members Corrina and Maggie at the Colorado Passport Agency in April 2008.  

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

H.R. 5752: a bill to require that U.S. passports be manufactured in the U.S.  
April 12, 2008: In the wake of news that the production of blank passport books had been outsourced to foreign companies - with actual blank passports being manufactured overseas, including Thailand - Congressman Bill Sali (R-Id) introduced legislation to require that passports be produced in the United States.  The bill, numbered H.R. 5752, had 10 cosponsors and was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  

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

Local 1998 VP & NFFE BR visit New Orleans
March 28, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 Vice President Mike Garofano and NFFE Business Representative Gary Johanson visited the New Orleans Passport Agency.  The two representatives met with Management officials, conducted an orientation of new employees, provided training to the New Orleans Union representatives (Debra Reese-Jolly, Donald Roberts, Yvonne Smith, and Jeanette Triplett), and conducted a membership drive.  Ten employees took this opportunity to become Union members!!!  

Local 1998 VP Mike Garofano, Local 1998 Union Steward Donald Roberts, 
NFFE BR Gary Johanson, Local 1998 Senior Steward Debra Reese-Jolly, 
Local 1998 Union Steward Yvonne Smith, and Local 1998 Union Steward Jeanette Triplett in March 2008.   

13th edition of Local 1998 News published 
March 26, 2008: The thirteenth edition of Local 1998 News was published.  Stories covered in the newsletter included Management's appeal of Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross' ruling in the overtime performance measurement grievance, an upcoming arbitration hearing regarding work schedules, the change in policy regarding "S&R" notations, and the so-called enhanced driver's license.  

Grievance filed re: explanation of rights given to "probationary" employees
March 25, 2008: The Union filed a Grievance Between the Parties with Passport Services HQ regarding the explanation of appeal rights given to employees in a probationary status.  The Union alleged that probationary employees have not been fully informed of their rights, including
§ 5 U.S.C. 7513 appeal rights for those that meet the definition of an "employee" under § 5 U.S.C. 7511, in light of the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the McCormick and Van Wersch cases, and the OPM's recent changes to the CFR.  Hundreds of new employees have been hired under a new "CEP" 2-year probationary period so, among other requests, the Union is seeking to have employees who had one year of current continuous federal service either before they entered on duty or completed midway through their 2-year probationary period properly notified that they had satisfied the statutory requirement for earning the § 5 U.S.C. 7513 appeal rights in the event they are terminated. 

Five NFFE Local 1998 reps attend training 
March 8, 2008: Five representatives of NFFE Local 1998 began a week-long training class at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Education and Technology Center.  The Local 1998 reps in attendance are Recording Secretary Jennifer Gile, Senior Steward (NPC) Chuck Black, Union Steward (NPC) Nate Tortora, Senior Steward (CPC) Russell Gaither, and Union Steward (MM) Jeff Affleck.  They are attending a Federal Employees Seminar.  The training covers issues such as the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, handling complaints, filing grievances, filing Unfair Labor Practice charges, and other matters.  This training, paid for by the Union, enables the representatives to better serve their fellow Passport Services employees.  

Union orientation

Local 1998 Union reps Jeff Affleck, Russell Gaither, Chuck Black and Jennifer Gile pose in front of the new Local 1998 
Union Orientation PowerPoint while at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center in March 2008.   

NFFE Local 1450 part of $24 million FLSA settlement
March 5, 2008: Attorney Mike Snider issued a press release announcing that NFFE Local 1450 and AFGE Council of HUD Locals 222 had settled a grievance regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act payment of overtime wages with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The grievance covers approximately 7000 current and former HUD bargaining unit employees.  As part of the settlement, HUD agreed to pay these employees $24 million.  Mr. Snider previously represented NFFE Local 1998 in a similar FLSA grievance that netted $306,401.09 in back pay plus interest for approximately 500 Passport Specialists. 

Union opposes Management's appeal to FLRA 
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.  

Union invokes arbitration over schedules dispute
February 15, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 invoked arbitration over the work schedules grievance filed at the Washington, DC Passport Agency.  New employees were forced to work the 4/10 Compressed Work Schedule and work the night shift, in violation of the Article 26 contractual requirement that participation in those schedules is "voluntary".  The Union requested a panel of arbitrators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and already received the list.  

NFFE President Rick Brown meets with members
February 7, 2008: Rick Brown, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, visited Local 1998 Union members who work at the National Passport Center.  President Brown met with Union members at lunch and also met with the Union representatives to discuss issues affecting bargaining unit employees. 

NFFE Assistant Directing Business Representative Bill Fenaughty, Local 1998 VP Mike Garofano, and NFFE President Rick Brown, during meeting with NPC Union members on February 7, 2008. 

Local 1998 Union members Jeff Strangman, Sarah Cote, Carissa Guilmette, Dennis Yu, and Mike Gagnon, during meeting with NFFE President Rick Brown on February 7, 2008.  

Management files exception to Arbitrator's award
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.  

Union grieves new passport application
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. 

Forced CWS/night shift grievance continues 
January 15, 2008: NFFE Local 1998 filed a Step 3 Grievance with Passport Services HQ regarding the decision to force new employees to work a 4/10 Compressed Work Schedule on the night shift at the Washington, DC Passport Agency.  

Arbitrator issues decision: OT performance measurement award must be retroactive 
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.   

Local 1998 election results announced
December 26, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 Election Committee members Nathan Tortora and Bernadet Smith announced the winners of the election for Union officers.  Colin Walle was reelected as Union President, Mike Garofano was reelected as Vice President, Pat Caron was reelected as Recording Secretary, and Rob Arnold was reelected as Secretary-Treasurer.  Carissa Guilmette, Ronda Humphries, and Robert Posey were elected as the three Trustees.  The terms of office begin on January 1, 2008 and end on December 31, 2010.  

Union & Management discuss proposed new performance appraisal plan
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.  

Management denies grievance regarding 2nd shift at Washington, DC Passport Agency 
November 29, 2007: Passport Services Management rejected the Union's grievance that was filed to contest the decision to force new employees at the Washington, DC Passport Agency to work a night shift, including a 4/10 compressed work schedule.  

Local 1998 Vice President Mike Garofano and Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold attend a representational training class at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center in November 2007.  The class focused on grievance arbitrations. 

Arbitrator issues decision: Passport Specialists were not measured fairly while performing desk adjudication on overtime
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.  

Nominations begin for new Union officers
October 31, 2007: The NFFE Local 1998 Election Committee distributed the nomination notice to all dues-paying members of the Union.  The positions up for election include: Union President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Recording Secretary (1 position each nationwide); in addition, for each office the Senior Steward position is up for election.  The terms of office will run from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010.  Nominations must be submitted to the Election Committee by November 23rd.  

Latest issue of Local 1998 News published
October 12, 2007: The latest issue of Local 1998 News was published.  Stories included the arbitration ruling on mandatory overtime, the upcoming election, the number of Union members, a 2007 training report, and a 2007 finances report.  

Arbitrator rules for Union on mandatory overtime
September 17, 2007: Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross ruled for NFFE Local 1998 in a grievance filed over a violation of Article 28 of the collective bargaining agreement.  The grievance concerned a provision that allows one employee to be excused from mandatory overtime provided that another qualified employee (or employees) perform additional voluntary overtime in an amount sufficient to cover the mandatory overtime requirement for the first employee.  

Contract negotiations resume after hiatus
September 14, 2007: Passport Services Headquarters Management and NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives completed a week of collective bargaining.  The parties had postponed bargaining sessions originally scheduled for April and May due to the overwhelming workload.  

Record number of Union members
September 1, 2007: Just in time for Labor Day, NFFE Local 1998 announced that it had reached a record number of dues-paying Union members.  240 Passport Services employees have signed up to be members of the local.  To join NFFE Local 1998, complete an SF-1187 Dues Deduction Form - http://nffe1998.org/misc_documents/nffe-1187.pdf - and send it to: NFFE Local 1998, PO Box 2221, Seattle, WA 98111.  

Union disputes utility and legality of so-called "enhanced border crossing driver's license"
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.  

Two grievance arbitration hearings held 
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.  

Representational road trip to the Northeast
July 27, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 President Colin Walle and Vice President Mike Garofano concluded a weeklong trip visiting the National Passport Center ("NPC" - Portsmouth, NH), the Boston Passport Agency, the Connecticut Passport Agency, and the New York Passport Agency.  The Union reps met with employees and Management officials, and provided representational training to both new and experienced Union reps.  NPC Union members organized a fantastic meal for their lunchtime meeting with the two Union reps, while the Union reps brought in pizza for employees meeting with them at the Boston and Connecticut offices.  

OIG refers complaint re: contracting passport execution function to DOS Office of Legal Advisor
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.  

House Foreign Relations Committee holds hearing on passport backlog 
July 11, 2007: The House Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the passport backlog.  NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin and Local 1998 Chief Steward attended on behalf of passport workers. Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the committee, made the opening statement.  

Christian Science Monitor reports on passport backlog and quotas 
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.  

Adjudicators not to stuff envelopes any longer? 
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.  

Relaxed dress code for mandatory OT
July 2, 2007: Employees at the Seattle Passport Agency had a morale boost when Management announced that they had agreed to a Union suggestion to adopt "Casual Friday" dress code during the summer mandatory overtime.  The Union greatly appreciates this gesture.  

Homeland Security announces delay in land/sea phase of WHTI 
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.  

MSNBC.com "Red Tape Chronicles" covers passport backlog and quota issues 
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.  

Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearing on passport backlog
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.  

NPC Union & Management address desk sharing
June 15, 2007: Union representatives and Managers at the National Passport Center (the Megacenter in Portsmouth, NH) cooperatively addressed desk sharing that will be happening as a result of bringing in additional Department of State staffing resources to help deal with the backlog. 

NFFE Local 1998: delay WHTI land/sea phase
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.  

HQ contracts out passport application acceptance; Union files Unfair Labor Practice charge 
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).  This story was covered by the Federal Daily in the June 20, 2007 online edition.  

Arbitration scheduled for 2 grievances
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.  

Grievance filed re: mandatory OT 
April 13, 2007: The Union filed a Grievance Between the Parties with HQ challenging HQ's refusal to allow employees to be excused from mandatory overtime if qualified employees volunteered for the work.  The Union cited Article 28, Section 2 of the contract, which states "In the event an employee does not desire to work overtime, the Employer shall make an effort to accommodate the employee's request to be excused from overtime work, provided that another qualified employee, who normally performs the work, is available for the overtime." 

327 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.  

Union grieves unfair overtime adjudication performance measuring system 
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.  

Grievances filed re: 2006 Appraisals 
March 23, 2007: The Union filed five grievances at the San Francisco Passport Agency and one grievance at the Seattle Passport Agencies regarding the appraisals given to six employees for 2006.  

Union Accepts Management Decision on CWS/MIS Grievance
March 16, 2007: Passport Services HQ granted in part, and denied in part, the Union's requested relief in a grievance filed at NPC regarding the removal of an employee from the Compressed Work Schedule and whether 3 days when he adjudicated with an injured hand should be marked as measured or non-measured in MIS.  Management stated that the removal from the CWS was intended to be within the spirit of the contract, while acknowledging that there may have been a technical violation, and therefore agreed to grant 16 hours of administrative leave to the employee for annual leave lost as a result of the removal.  Management did not agree to mark the 3 days in MIS as non-measurable.  After consulting with the grievant, the Union accepted this resolution of the dispute.  

Union Opposes So-Called "Enhanced Border Crossing Driver's License" 
March 15, 2007: Three NFFE Local 1998 Union representatives, accompanied by the National Federation of Federal Employees' Legislative Director and the head of the IAMAW's federal employees department, met with Congressional staff members to express opposition to the use of a so-called "Enhanced Border Crossing Driver's License" in place of a U.S. passport for travel to and from Canada. The Union expressed vehement opposition to the notion that citizenship could be determined based on viewing scanned images of birth certificates and other documents electronically transmitted to the Department of State.  

Passport Services: Mandatory Overtime
March 9, 2007: Passport Services HQ instituted nationwide mandatory overtime for all employees, supervisors, and managers to deal with an unprecedented backlog brought on by the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  The Union has received many communications from bargaining unit employees on this and has contacted HQ to express concerns with this decision.  

Union Helps Employee Receive Back Pay for Delayed GS-7 to GS-9 Promotion
March 1, 2007 CPC Union Steward Boyd Hinton assisted an employee in receiving back pay after the career ladder promotion was delayed due to missing paperwork.  The Union and Management worked cooperatively to solve this problem and make the employee whole.  

Grievant Promoted from GS-9 to GS-11
February 28, 2007: A GS-9 Passport Specialist was promoted to GS-11 after the successful completion of a training program that was agreed to during mediation after the Union filed a grievance regarding his career ladder promotion.  

Contract Negotiations Continue 
February 16, 2007: NFFE Local 1998 and Passport Services Management concluded two weeks of face-to-face negotiations for the parties' collective bargaining agreement.  Much progress was made, though many issues remain outstanding.  The Management and employees of the San Francisco Passport Agency were wonderful hosts in what appears to have been the parties' first contract negotiation session ever held outside of Washington, DC.  

GAO Investigates Passport Integrity 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).  

CWS Continues During Holidays 
December 22, 2006: Management at PPT/LA granted the Union's requested relief in a Step 1 Formal Grievance filed the day before and did not suspend the compressed work schedule for the holidays. 

Union Challenges CWS Removal 
December 22, 2006: The Union filed a Step 2 Formal Grievance for an employee who had been removed from the Compressed Work Schedule for 2 pay periods, and who had to use 16 hours of annual leave as a result. The grievance also addressed recording 3 adjudication days as non-measurable. 

HQ Upholds 10-day Suspension 
December 21, 2006: HQ denied the Union's Informal Grievance regarding a 10-day suspension given to an employee who allegedly attempted to accept a passport application from a friend. HQ claims the employee's actions were against Passport Services policy.  HQ originally proposed a 14-day suspension for the employee but reduced it to 10 days after considering the Union's response to the proposal.  

Arbitration Cancelled; Grievance Settled; GS-5 Employee Promoted Retroactively to GS-6
December 15, 2006: The Union and Management amicably settled the dispute over the career ladder promotion of a GS-5 employee to GS-6. The Employee received her promotion, and that promotion was made retroactive by two pay periods, with back pay. The settlement terminated the grievance and cancelled the arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for January. 

Positive Result to Internal Controls Problem 
December 1, 2006: A Seattle adjudicator received an internal controls violation for the Security Awareness Element for not securing sensitive items at the end of a work day. Seattle Senior Steward Jennifer Gile and Steward Barb London met with Seattle managers to request that the violation be removed because the policy was never communicated to the adjudicator, orally or in writing, that he was responsible for securing the items. Management agreed to drop the violation and also agreed to ensure that written instructions be made available so as to avoid future violations. Management expressed appreciation for resolving this situation in an informal setting. 

Emphasizing Quality Adjudication 
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. 

Union Responds to Management's Denial of Request For More Time For Diligent Passport Adjudication 
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. 

Grievance Re: Past Practice Resolved 
November 22, 2006: Management and the Union at PPT/CPC resolved the Union's grievance filed over a change in past practice regarding the granting of administrative leave to attend the Combined Federal Campaign's Day of Caring. Almost 20 employees each had 4 to 6 hours of annual leave restored as a result of the amicable settlement.

Grievance Filed over Removal from CWS
October 30, 2006: The Union filed a grievance after Management removed an employee from his compressed work schedule (CWS) for allegedly not demonstrating consistent performance at the fully successful numerical adjudication standards.  


Union Celebrates 25 Year Anniversary
October 19, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 marked its 25th anniversary as the exclusive representative of Passport Services bargaining unit employees.  Various offices marked the anniversary on the 19th and on other dates, up until November 3.  Union members received NFFE-IAM lapel pins and lanyards and, as desired, Union polo shirts.  All bargaining unit employees received an invitation to join the Union and also were given wallet-sized magnifiers.  Combined with mini-membership drives ran by NFFE Business Rep Jim Davis in September and the 25 Year Anniversary events in October and the first days of November, over 25 employees nationwide joined the Union.   

Another Unilateral Change; Another Grievance
October 12, 2006: Following on the heals of the successful and amicable resolution earlier this year (March 13th) of the grievance regarding changes in past practice for administrative leave during the Christmas 2004 holiday, the Union has had to file another grievance on virtually the same subject when managers at one Passport Office changed the past practice of granting a full day of administrative leave to the participants in the CFC's Day of Caring.  

Contract Negotiations Making (Some) Progress
September 25 - October 6, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 and Management negotiators met for 2 weeks in Washington, DC, to continue bargaining over a new contract.  While the parties did not resolve all differences, good progress was made.  The Union and Management agreed to work separately for the next few months, putting off the meetings scheduled for November, December, and January until February of 2007.  Another change: the next session will be held in San Francisco, which, as far as can be determined, marks the first time that contract negotiations have been held outside of Washington, DC.  

Management: Union's Request for More Time to Diligently Adjudicate Applications DENIED
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.  

Union to Management: We Need More Time to do the Job Right 
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.  

Union Invokes Arbitration for GS-5 Employee
August 1, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 President Colin Walle, with the approval of NFFE National and the Local 1998 Executive Board, invoked arbitration in the grievance filed for a GS-5 employee seeking her career ladder promotion to GS-6. The Union seeks a retroactive promotion for the employee, with back pay plus interest. Management responded to the Step 3 grievance by adjusting the employee's 2005 rating for the Security Awareness Element to Outstanding (from Excellent) and placing the employee on a 90-day training program.  The panel of arbitrators has been requested and forwarded by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the IAMAW's experts are reviewing the list.  

Union Responds to Proposed 14-Day Suspension
July 31, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 President Colin Walle submitted a response to the Executive Director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs regarding a 14-day suspension proposed by the Human Resources Division for a Passport Services employee for allegedly failing to follow instructions and failing to follow internal controls procedures.  

GS-9 to GS-11 Career Ladder Promotion Sought
July 28, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold filed a Step 3 Formal Grievance with HQ regarding the career ladder promotion for a GS-9 employee.  The Union has requested that the employee be promoted retroactively, with back pay plus interest.  In addition, during the review of the employee's file it came to light that in 2005 the employee had averaged 33 applications per hour at desk adjudication and 12 applications per hour at counter adjudication, while keeping an error rate within the allowable limits, yet was somehow rated only Fully Successful on that element instead of Outstanding.  The Union has requested that the employee's 2005 rating be corrected, consistent with the policy previously enunciated by Management and the reasons for denying the 2004 and 2005 grievances for a GS-11 employee in another office.  

Positive ADR Experience in Seattle
July 21, 2006: Seattle Senior Steward Nathaniel Miller, Seattle Steward Jennifer Gile, and Local 1998 President Colin Walle attended an Alternate Dispute Resolution with Seattle Management regarding the career ladder promotion of a Passport Specialist.  This was the second of two planned sessions, and the proceedings were amicable and productive.  The parties hope to solve the dispute to the satisfaction of both sides.  

Union Contests Unfair 2005 Appraisal
July 21, 2006: The Union filed a Step 3 Formal Grievance with Passport Services HQ regarding the 2005 evaluation for a GS-11 employee who worked at the Boston Passport Agency after Management rejected the Union's Step 2 grievance on June 30th.  

NSPS Defund Amendment Passes
June 26, 2006: The so-called "National Security Personnel System" at the Department of Defense was dealt a huge setback when, on a voice vote, the House of Representatives passed the Inslee, Van Hollen, and Jones amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill (HR 5631).  IAMAW and NFFE members - including members of Local 1998 - emailed, called, wrote, and visited their Congresspersons in an urgent effort to defund this controversial new personnel system that had already suffered major setbacks in the courts.  This marks an important first step (the Senate is next) in preserving federal workers collective bargaining rights at DoD.  

Promotion Grievances elevated to next level
June 2, 2006: Union Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold filed a Step 2 Formal Grievance with the New York Passport Agency after an Alternate Dispute Resolution session failed to result in the career ladder promotion of a GS-9 Passport Specialist to GS-11.  Union President Colin Walle filed a Step 3 Formal Grievance with HQ regarding the career ladder promotion of a GS-5 employee to GS-6.  Both employees have received numerous awards and have many years of experience, and the Union is hopeful that these disputes will be settled soon.  

New Union Reps Announced
June 2, 2006: Local 1998 is pleased to announce that Pat Caron was confirmed as the acting Recording Secretary.  She will work closely with Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold on membership and dues lists, while also providing representational services to employees.  In Seattle, Jennifer Gile was confirmed as the new Union Steward while Nathaniel Miller was elevated to the Senior Steward position.  Ms. Gile will also be serving as the Ergonomics Officer for Local 1998.  

Information sought for contract negotiations
June 2, 2006: Between April and June, the Union has submitted 5 official Information Requests under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 7114b in order to gather information and evidence to bolster the arguments for the merits of the Union's proposals.  These include requests on promotions, evaluations, frauds issued in error, travel budgets, workload transfers, and other issues.  In addition, the Union submitted a sixth Information Request regarding the implementation of the Security Awareness Element.  

Grievances filed challenging contract violations
May 15, 2006: The Union filed a number of grievances in April and May.  The Union filed a Step 2 grievance regarding a Boston employee's 2005 evaluation, arguing that the employee should be rated Outstanding.  The Union filed 2 grievances in New York on promotions for employees who should be promoted to the next grade in their career ladders.  The Union also filed a grievance contesting the removal of the office space for the Union President.  A grievance filed at PPT/IML in April resulted in the correction of an employee's 2005 appraisal from Unsuccessful to Fully Successful. 
 

New Union Rep for Colorado Passport Agency

May 11, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 is pleased to announce that the new Colorado Passport Agency has its first Union representative, Passport Specialist Danielle Harnik.  She will also be working on the development of the next edition of the Local 1998 News, the newsletter for the local.

Contract Negotiations in Washington, DC
April 25 - May 4, 2006: Union and Management negotiators met for two weeks in Washington, DC to bargain over a new contract.  The Union negotiators were: Chief Negotiator Steve Flory (NFFE Business Representative), Rob Arnold (Secretary-Treasurer), Karen Proctor-Adams (Chief Steward), Mike Garofano (Vice President), Keacha Medley (PPT/WN Senior Steward - present for the first week), and Colin Walle (Local President - present for the second week).  The tone of the negotiations was positive and the parties made some progress.  The parties will meet again for two weeks in August.  

Local 1998 says "Thank You" to NFFE National
May 3, 2006: Local 1999 Vice President Mike Garofano - along with Union President Colin Walle, Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold, and Chief Steward Karen Proctor-Adams - presented a plaque to NFFE National President Rick Brown as a token of thanks for all of the hard work that NFFE National has done on behalf of Passport Services employees, and federal employees in general. The plaque is a bona fide New Hampshire License Plate reading "NFFE". 

Settlement Reached re: Admin Leave Grievance
March 21, 2006: Almost sixteen months after the event that caused the grievance, the Union and Management finally settled the dispute over the manner in which administrative leave was granted on December 23, 2004. The Union had filed the grievance on January 20, 2005, arguing that Management had retaliated against the Union and specifically for the FLSA Overtime grievance by unilaterally changing the past practice on how administrative leave was granted.  As part of the settlement, Management affirmed that there was no connection between the Union's grievance and the actions that Management took prior to the Christmas 2004 holiday, and that neither the Union nor the grievance are to blame for what happened.  Management committed to abiding by past practices and to only seeking changes via applicable legal authorities.  Employees who served on the "skeleton crew" in Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, and Houston on December 23, 2004 will now receive administrative leave in the same amounts as those who were granted early dismissal, in accordance with the past practice on this subject.  In addition, in a gesture of goodwill that is much appreciated by the Union and the employees, Management is granting 3 hours of administrative leave to over 20 employees in Miami.  Union President Colin Walle expressed his thanks to HQ Management officials for the amicable manner in which they processed the grievance, and their willingness to take a fresh look at the issue, which resulted in the settlement.  

9 Reps attend Federal Employees Seminar
March 20, 2006: An unprecedented nine Union Representatives from Local 1998 attended the weeklong Federal Employees Seminar together at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center in Placid Harbor, Maryland. Leah Anderson, Rob Arnold, Mike Garofano, Eric Handy, Mirna Lopez, Elisabeth Lucchese, Two Feathers Neal, Debra Reese-Jolly, and Colin Walle traveled from Seattle, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portsmouth (NH) to learn about grievances, arbitration, ULP's, prohibited personnel practices, Hatch Act rules, A-76 contracting out, and other representational issues. In addition to the regular coursework, the
Local 1998 reps met for four evening sessions to discuss problems affecting Passport Services employees in their respective offices. The group also developed a Strategic Plan for Local 1998. 

Multiple Grievances Filed in March
March 2006: A number of grievances were filed by NFFE Local 1998 representatives this month.  Senior Steward Amha Gezahegn (San Francisco) filed a Step 3 Formal Grievance with HQ regarding unsafe working conditions in the office.  Secretary-Treasurer Rob Arnold filed a Step 1 Formal Grievance over an Information Management and Liaison employee’s 2005 annual appraisal.  Chief Steward Karen Proctor-Adams and Senior Steward Keacha Medley (Washington DC) filed an Informal Grievance contesting a Letter of Warning given to an employee and another Informal Grievance requesting that a GS-3 employee be promoted to GS-4.  Senior Steward Yvonne Smith (New Orleans) filed a Step 1 Formal Grievance with HQ about an abrupt change in desk assignments for employees recently returned after the hurricane.  Senior Steward Cheryl Murray (Boston) filed an Informal Grievance arguing that an employee's 2005 appraisal was not done correctly.  Senior Steward Paulette Brent filed an Informal Grievance for 6 Information Management and Liaison employees regarding their performance standards. 
 

Management Rejects Union's Request for More Reasonable Adjudication Performance Standards

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.  

Passport Specialists: We don't have enough time for diligent adjudication and fraud detection, Survey says
January 30, 2006: The Union compiled some of the results of the first comprehensive survey of bargaining unit employees 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. 

Contract Negotiations Begin
January 24, 2006: Management and the Union traded proposals via email for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  If future rounds of e-bargaining do not successfully produce a new CBA, then the parties have agree to meet in Washington, DC in late April for face-to-face negotiations.  The Union's Chief Negotiator is NFFE Business Representative Steve Flory, and the four Local 1998 negotiators are Karen Proctor-Adams, Rob Arnold, Mike Garofano, and Colin Walle.  

IAMAW Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
January 17, 2006: Americans and Union Members nationwide celebrate the birthday of Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The IAMAW website has a tribute at this link: Tribute to Dr. King.  A supporter of the labor movement, Dr. King declared in 1962 that "The labor
movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.  Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief to the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life."  Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was visiting in support of striking AFSCME sanitation workers.

Union Surveys all Passport Services Employees
January 9 - 13, 2006: NFFE Local 1998 conducted a nationwide survey of all 650+ bargaining unit employees in all 18 Passport Services offices.  As of the 13th, at least 450 employees had completed and returned a survey to the Union.  The survey is being conducted in advance of contract negotiations, in order for the Union to gather the views and input of the employees so that the Union can represent their needs during bargaining.  

OPM Releases 2006 Pay Scales 
December 28, 2005: (From the December 1, 2005 NFFE Legislative Update)
Federal employees will receive a 3.1% average pay increase for fiscal year 2006.... Federal workers ... encountered opposition from President Bush, who proposed just a 2.3% average raise for civil service employees in his budget originally sent to Congress. Going to bat for federal employees during Congressional budget wars were a bi-partisan group of Washington, DC-area lawmakers, most of whom have considerably high levels of federal employment among their constituencies. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who pushed for the parity approach, said many civil service employees work along side the military on an everyday basis to protect the nation. "With security threats at home and abroad, it is important that federal employees, nearly 700,000 of whom work at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, receive a fair pay adjustment," Hoyer said. "We are pleased that lawmakers once again broke with the Bush Administration and recognized federal employees for the valuable work they do each day," said NFFE National President/DBR Richard N. Brown. To see the rate of pay in your area, click on this link: 2006 OPM Pay Scales

IAMAW Helps Local 1998 Members Affected by Hurricane Katrina 
December 22, 2005: The IAMAW distributed over $6000 among the 14 Union Members who work at the New Orleans Passport Agency.  The funds for thousands of IAMAW members affected by Hurricane Katrina came from donations from Union brothers and sisters around the country.  

Sick Leave Grievance Resolved at Connecticut Passport Agency
November 30, 2005: Management at the Connecticut Passport Agency amicably and swiftly responded to an Informal Grievance filed by Union Steward Wanda Murillo regarding sick leave policy during the holiday season. Management agreed to abide by the sick leave provisions in the contract and to issue a clarifying email.  

Three Grievances at Boston Passport Agency Pending 
November 25, 2005: The Union filed a Step 3 Formal Grievance with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State alleging hostile treatment shown to an employee at the Boston Passport Agency and the failure to notify the Union of a formal meeting.  The Union also filed a Step 1 Formal Grievance with HQ alleging retaliation for the hostile treatment grievance, including the unilateral change in lunchroom policy.  In addition to the two grievances filed on November 25th, there is a third grievance (at the Step 2 Formal level) pending at HQ, alleging that an employee received an unfair 2004 performance appraisal.  
 

Local 1998 President & Vice President Meet with DC Reps
October 16, 2005: NFFE Local 1998 President Colin Walle and Vice President Mike Garofano visited Washington, DC on October 13th and 14th.  They met with Recording Secrectary (and PPT/WN Senior Steward) Karen Proctor-Adams on the 13th to prepare for contract negotiations.  They also met with PPT/IML Senior Steward Paulette Brent, PPT/SIA Senior Steward Renee Wynn, PPT/SIA Steward Mamie Minor, and PPT/WN Steward Keacha Medley on the 14th to provide informal representational training and answer questions of concern. 


Picture of Union member Alex Allen's home

Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts Continue
September 16, 2005: According to HQ, there are still 2 New Orleans Passport Agency government employees who have not yet reported in. According to the Department of State website, if you are a PPT/NO employee who has not yet called in then please call 202-663-2451 so that we can all know that you are safe and HQ can give you guidance on our next steps (click here to read notice). The Department of State has set up a relief fund for DOS employees - for more information, go to the Department Notices.


Contract Negotiations Delayed to 2006
September 13, 2005: Due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on staff and operations, the Union proposed and Management agreed to postpone contract negotiations from the fall of 2005 to someone - to be determined - in 2006.


Membership Drive in Seattle: 3 New Members!
September 13, 2005: Local 1998 held a membership drive at the Seattle Passport Agency. The drive was coordinated by Local 1998 Senior Steward Elisabeth Lucchese with the help of Steward Nathaniel Miller. NFFE Business Representative Steve Flory and NFFE-Dental Plan Coordinator Chuck Sessions visited and assisted with the drive. Three employees joined the Union as a result of the drive.


Official Time Grievance Resolved
September 8, 2005: The Union and Management agreed to settle the grievance regarding the use of official time at the Boston Passport Agency that was filed on April 22, 2005.


Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief
September 1, 2005: NFFE Local 1998 encourages all bargaining unit employees to help with relief efforts. Employees can donate to a Department of State effort that will be announced soon or to the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW or clicking on this link: http://www.redcross.org/). NFFE National sent out a message this same day encouraging donations to the Federal Employee and Education Assistance (FEEA) Fund by going to the FEEA website - www.feea.org or by writing a check made out to FEEA HURRICANE FUND and mailed to:

FEEA Hurricane Fund
8441 W. Bowles Avenue, Suite 200
Littleton, CO 80123-9501

The IAMAW has set up disaster relief fund that will disperse donations directly to IAM families on a need basis. Checks for this fund should be made out to IAM DISASTER RELIEF FUND and mailed to:

IAM Community Services Department
9000 Machinists Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687


Membership Drive in DC Offices: 6 New Members!
August 16-18, 2005: Local 1998 held a membership drive at SA-17 for all DC-area Passport Services bargaining unit employees (including employees at PPT/WN, PPT/SIA, and PPT/IML). The drive was coordinated by NFFE Business Representative Jim Davis and Local 1998 Senior Steward Sharlene Dandridge with the assistance of Local 1998 reps Karen Proctor-Adams, Keacha Medley, Paulette Brent, and Renee Wynn. Chuck Sessions, the NFFE-Dental Plan Coordinator, presented information on dental and other benefits. Six employees joined the Union as a result of the drive.


Newsletter # 10 Published
August 15, 2005: The 10th edition of Local 1998 News was published. Click here for newsletter.

Grievance Results in End of Unfair OT Policy
June 16, 2005: Passport Services HQ granted the Union's requested relief in the grievance filed by Senior Steward Karen Proctor-Adams against the unfair overtime policy at the Washington (DC) Passport Agency. Management's response stated that, "Effective immediately, management at the Washington Passport Agency will discontinue the practice of requiring that employees meet their daily or cumulative desk or counter adjudication standards to work overtime".

Grievance Re: Official Time at Boston Passport Agency (Almost) Concluded
June 16, 2005: The Union responded to Management's decision to grant in part, and to deny in part, the Union's requested relief in the Informal Grievance filed on March 24, 2005 in response to the denial of official time to Boston Passport Agency Senior Steward Cheryl Murray. Pending clarification from HQ on two issues, the matter appears to be resolved.


Local 1998's FLSA Settlement was featured in the Summer 2005 issue of NFFE's "The Federal Employee" newsletter

FLSA Settlement Total: $306,401.09
May 26, 2005: The Grievance filed by the Union and Attorney Michael Snider on April 20, 2004 has resulted in payments totaling $306,401.09 to employees. This amount includes the payments for underpaid overtime, liquidated damages, interest, suffered and permitted overtime, and compensatory time. This greatly exceeds any previous financial benefit achieved by Local 1998 on behalf of Passport Services bargaining unit employees. In the long run, the amount of money paid to employees for true time and one-half for overtime work, due to the correction of their FLSA classifications from Exempt to Non-Exempt, will far exceed this settlement amount.

Union asks for Ergonomic Enhancements
May 23, 2005: The Union sends an email Memo to HQ Management asking that equipment, policies, and information be obtained and implemented to reduce repetitive motion and other workplace injuries and to enhance the ergonomic conditions of employees. The Union requests that employees be provided with electric staplers, self-inking stamps, higher quality pens, and other devices in a follow-up to the February 8, 2005 National Union-Management Council meeting.

Grievance Filed Against OT Policy
May 19, 2005: Washington Passport Agency Senior Steward Karen Proctor-Adams filed a Step 1 Formal Grievance challenging the restrictive overtime policy in her office. An employee who allegedly was not making the quota while performing counter adjudication was denied overtime to perform desk adjudication, contrary to the policy outlined in the contract.

Grievance Challenges 2004 Appraisal
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.

Another Official Time Grievance
April 22, 2005: Local 1998 President Colin Walle filed a Grievance challenging the denial of official time to Boston Passport Agency Senior Steward Cheryl Murray.


Local 1998 representatives with John Paolino

DC-Area Reps Receive Training
April 6, 2005: NFFE National Secretary-Treasurer John Paolino provided day-long course on representational issues. The class was attended by Recording Secretary Paula Carter, PPT/SIA Steward Renee Wynn, PPT/WN Senior Steward Karen Proctor-Adams, PPT/IML Senior Steward Mamie Minor, and PPT/IML Steward Paulette Brent.

VP Garofano: On the Road Again
March 23 - 25, 2005: VP Mike Garofano, filling in as Acting President, visited the New York Passport Agency, the Connecticut Passport Agency, and the Boston Passport Agency. He provided representational training and guidance to the Union reps in each location, and also listened to employees' concerns.

First Newsletter In Over Two Years
March 16, 2005: The latest edition of Local 1998 News was distributed to all bargaining units in each of our 17 locations. Topics included the FLSA grievance, the official time grievance, work schedules disputes, and why employees should consider joining the Union.
Click here for newsletter

Grievance Corrects 19 Employees' Ratings
March 11, 2005: The Union filed a grievance regarding the application of the Security Awareness Element at PPT/IML. Employees who had not made any errors in this element were being incorrectly rated Fully Successful, instead of Outstanding. The grievance was successful, and as a result 19 employees had their ratings of record corrected.

Grievance Results in Excellent Appraisal
March 4, 2005: PPT/WN Senior Steward Karen Proctor-Adams files a grievance on behalf of a PPT/IML employee regarding her Appraisal for 2004. The grievance was successful, and the employee's rating is adjusted from Fully Successful to Excellent.

Official Time Grievance Settled Amicably Via ADR
February 10, 2005: The Union and Management participated in a mediation session in order to resolve the Official Time Grievance filed on 5/13/2004. A mediator from FMCS facilitated the ADR, which was conducted pursuant to Article 21 of the Agreement. The Union and Management have amicably agreed to the settlement.

National Union-Management Council Meeting
February 8 - 9, 2005: The Union and Management held their annual partnership meeting in Washington, DC. Topics included: contract negotiations, amendments to the contract, notification to Union Reps of changes in working conditions, computer privacy, emergency supplies and plans, award delays, ergonomic issues, and rotations through details. NFFE Local 1998 was represented by NFFE National Secretary-Treasurer John Paolino as well as Local President Colin Walle, Vice President Mike Garofano, Secretary-Treasurer Carol Aguilar, Recording Secretary Paula Carter.

Union Files Grievance Over Holiday Admin Leave Debacle
January 20, 2005: The Union filed a Grievance Between the Parties concerning the changes from past practice, inequitable treatment, and retaliation for the FLSA grievance, that occurred with Administrative leave on December 23, 2004.

Click here for Grievance


Vice President Michael Garofano swears in new stewards
Jerry Ross, Bill McDermod, and Rich Blaisdell at PPT/NPC

Election Results
January 3, 2005: The NFFE Local 1998 Election Committee - Tom Grasso, Beth Pompano, and Alice Freeman - announced the results of the recent election of Union Officers.  Colin Walle was elected President, Mike Garofano was elected Vice President, Carol Aguilar was elected Secretary-Treasurer, and Paula Carter was elected Recording Secretary.  The three members elected to the new position of Trustee are: Rob Arnold, Bill Beardall, and Mike Darcy.  The proposed revisions to the Bylaws, which were mandated by the affiliation with the IAMAW, were approved.  All of the officers will serve for a three-year term that ends on December 31, 2007. 


2004 NFFE National Convention
In October, Local 1998 Vice President Michael Garofano attended the 47th NFFE National Convention in Las Vegas. President Richard Brown and Secretary/Treasurer John Paolino were both reelected. Additional business was conducted.  Click here for Brother Garofano's report

Web Stewards Attend Advanced Training
October 18, 2004: Local 1998 webmasters Bill Beardall and Mike Garofano attend a week-long training course at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center in Placid Harbor, Maryland. The course, IAM Advanced Website Development, is designed to assist web stewards fully develop local websites for the benefit of the membership.

VP Rob Arnold Attends Leadership Training
October 4, 2004: Seattle VP Rob Arnold attends a week-long Leadership II training course at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center in Placid Harbor, Maryland.

NFFE Legal Update Re: Local 1998 FLRA Ruling
September 8, 2004: NFFE National General Counsel included the decision by the FLRA in favor of Local 1998 in the Legal Update e-mailed to all NFFE locals.
Click here for Legal Update

FLRA Rules For Union in Negotiability Appeal
August 23, 2004: The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled on August 17
th that the Union's proposals, including the proposal to "maintain the status quo", are negotiable and that Management is obligated to bargain with the Union.  The Union's proposals were submitted in response to Management's plan to terminate three of eight compressed work schedule options at the Seattle Passport Agency.
Click here for more on work schedules
Click here for Decision & Order

FLRA Rules Against Union in ULP
August 23, 2004: The Federal Labor Relations Authority informed the Union that it is going to dismiss the ULP charge filed against the Philadelphia Passport Agency.  The Union had filed the ULP on the basis that formal, written notification of the change was not provided, but the FLRA found that the Management had provided sufficient verbal notification to the Union representatives in advance of the change.  The Union is considering other options to attempt to help the employees return to their original schedules.
Click here for Decision

FLRA Interviews Union Rep Re: ULP at PPT/PA
July 16, 2004: An FLRA investigator interviewed Philadelphia Passport Agency Union VP Sharlene Dandridge regarding the Unfair Labor Practice charge that the Union filed after Management unilaterally changed the arrival times of 15 employees. 

Representatives In All 17 Offices - Possibly For The First Time
June 25, 2004: The Local 1998 Executive Board confirmed Paula Carter as the Union Vice President at the Special Issuance Agency in Washington, DC. This is a major milestone as it appears that this is the first time Local 1998 has had representation in each of the seventeen Passport agencies.

2004 Pay Scale & Locality Tables
President Bush issued an executive order Wednesday, March 3, that will grant an average 4.1 percent pay raise for 2004, to be paid retroactive to January.
New Pay Schedule with Locality Scales

Garofano Attends Training at Winpisinger Center (Again)
May 16, 2004: NFFE VP Michael Garofano (NPC) is attending a week-long Advanced Leadership course at the IAMAW's Winpisinger Center to better prepare himself to represent the needs of the bargaining unit employees.

Election Results
April 29, 2004:
Out of the fourteen members nominated for the position of Union President to complete Alex Allen's term ending on December 31, 2004, only one - Colin Walle - accepted.  The election committee checked with NFFE National and determined that we don't need to hold an election since there was only one nominee who accepted.  We will be having another election in October or November for the President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Vice-President (one in each office) positions, and possibly for a couple of other positions mandated by the upcoming change in our Bylaws.  The term of office for those positions will be January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2007.

Federal Employees Seminar
March 1, 2004: Five representatives from Local 1998 attended the Federal Employees Seminar at the Winpisinger Education and Technology Center (IAMAW) in Placid Harbor, Maryland.  Representatives include: Mike Garofano (NPC), Cathy Prince (LA), Nathaniel Miller (SE), Claude Scott (CG), and Lisa Savoy (HN).

Annual Union/Management Meeting
December 1-2, 2003: Passport Management and the Union had their annual UMC meeting in DC. The Union expressed its appreciation for all of the technological improvements and tools added over the years, but explained again that Passport Specialists do not have enough time to adequately do their jobs, and that the employees are worried about
issuing a passport in error to a fraud or even a terrorist. Management formally and finally turned down the Union's request to allow additional time to adjudicate passport applications. The Union informed Management that we cannot drop this issue, since it is a serious concern and it impacts on national security. For more on the Union's efforts, visit the Passport Integrity page.

VP Garofano Wins Honorable Mention In IAMAW Photo Contest
Michael Garofano, Local 1998 Vice President at the National Passport Center, won Honorable Mention in the 2003 IAMAW Photo Contest.  His photo will be included in the 2004 IAMAW calendar.
2003 IAMAW Photo Contest Winners


Passport Integrity Concern
Adjudication Performance Standards

 
This section contains some of the stories on this topic.  For more information, click here.

Union Requests More Time for Diligent Passport Adjudication
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.  

OIG Criticizes Elimination of Assistant
Fraud Program Manager Position

August 4, 2005: 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.


Union asks Management to Work Together on Passport Integrity Issue
July 18, 2005: 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.


Survey by Union Confirms Concerns About the Integrity of the Passport Issuance Process
July 15, 2005: 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"

Newsletter # 9 Published
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.



GAO Report # 05-477


GAO Issues Critical Report: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Vulnerabilities in the Passport Issuance Process
June 29, 2005: 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" (click here for more information), 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 

New York Times Front Page Story: Passport Issuance Process Vulnerabilities & GAO Report
June 29, 2005: 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.

NBC Nightly News Report: Passport Applications Not Checked Against Fugitive/Terrorist Watchlists
June 28, 2005: 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.

Congress Schedules Hearing on Passport Integrity Concern: GAO Report to be Released
June 24, 2005: 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

News Report: Passport Applications to be Checked Against Terrorist/Fugitive Watch Lists
June 22, 2005: 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. For more information, click on the top link in the "Hot Topics" box.

Local 1998 Highlighted in NFFE Newsletter
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.
Federal Employee (large file)

Passport Integrity Concern: Efforts Continue
May 3, 2004: Local President Colin Walle meets with a
United States Senator's staff member to discuss efforts to improve the integrity of the passport issuance process.
Passport Integrity Page

Grievance Filed Over AFPM/ACSM Elimination
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

IAMAW: Passport Screening Speedup Unfair and Unsafe
In the January 22nd iMail (Internet newsletter made available to over 500,000 members), President Buffenbarger blasts Passport management over the new quotas established for passport examiners.
January 22nd iMail

NFFE President Contacts Congress
January 12, 2004: National President Rick Brown sent letters today to members of Congress on behalf of Local 1998.  He conveyed our concern about the integrity of the passport issuance process and called for Congress to look into this matter. 

President Brown’s Letter | Press Release

Local 1998 Concerns Reported In NFFE News
January 9, 2004: NFFE News reports on Local 1998's efforts to obtain a reasonable adjudication standard.
Click here for January 9th NFFE News

Passport Employees Contact Congress
December 2003: Union officers and members, Passport Specialists, and friends, family, and Union brothers and sisters contact their Congressional Representatives to express their concerns over the integrity of the passport issuance process, and ask them to contact the
Department of State to request that Passport Specialist be given adequate time to adjudicate passport applications. For more information on this endeavor, see the "Hot Topics" section to the right.

National Standards Proposed
August 6, 2003: Four Local 1998 officers, including President Alex Allen, met with national management officials on August 6 to view a presentation on national standards. The process of creating national standards began back in 2001. Local 1998 requested at the national union/management meeting in September 2001 to be included in design process of national standards. As the process has continued
management has proceeded with it's own plan, though management has agreed to provide us with the raw data that was used in the survey and they have agreed to consider some of our ideas.
Proposed Standards - 08/01/03
Overall Performance Concepts - 08/06/03
Standardization of Processes and Procedures - 08/06/03