Contract Negotiations: bargaining for a new CBA
From left to right: Union Negotiators Mike Garofano, Rob Arnold, Colin Walle, Karen Proctor-Adams, and Steve Flory.
Representational training on September 14, 2007 (travel day). Pictured (L to R): PPT/WN Steward Melissa Toby, NFFE Business Rep Steve Flory, PPT/TO Senior Steward Paulette Brent, Local 1998 President Colin Walle (kneeling), Chief Steward Karen Proctor-Adams, PPT/TO Steward Kamaria Blandford.      

NFFE Local 1998 & Passport Services engage in collective bargaining
(updated February 17, 2008)

2008 Update: The Union and Management are waiting to complete discussions and bargaining over changes to the performance appraisal system proposed by the Department of State's Human Resources office prior to resuming contract negotiations.  The changes being developed in the performance appraisal system will likely impact the contract negotiations.   

The Union and Management jointly decided in 2005 to open the contract for bargaining.  The current contract went into effect on July 3, 2001, after almost 18 months of bargaining (including 7 weeks of face-to-face bargaining in Washington, DC).  After negotiating over ground rules in the Fall of 2005, the parties commenced trading proposals via email on January 24, 2006.  

The Union is represented by NFFE Business Representative Steve Flory, who is serving as the Union Chief Negotiator.  Other members of bargaining team (with location in parenthesis) are: Rob Arnold - Secretary-Treasurer (Seattle), Mike Garofano - Vice President (National Passport Center), Karen Proctor-Adams - Chief Steward (Washington), and Colin Patrick Walle - Union President (Seattle).  

The first face-to-face bargaining session occurred during the last week of April and the first week of May, 2006, in Washington, DC.  Washington Passport Agency Senior Steward Keacha Medley filled in for Colin Walle during the first week.  The team is being assisted by bargaining committee members Mirna Lopez (New Orleans), Cheryl Murray (Boston), and Daryl Two Feathers Neal (New York).  Cathy Prince (Los Angeles) was also on the bargaining committee, but was subsequently promoted.  

The Union and Management negotiators met again in Washington, DC from August 14 to 25, 2006, and again in Washington, DC from September 25 to October 5, 2006.   The parties then worked separately for the next few months and returned to the table on February 5, 2007 for a two-week bargaining session generously hosted by the San Francisco Passport Agency.  Amha Gezahegn (San Francisco) replaced Chief Steward Karen Proctor-Adams for the bargaining in San Francisco.  Due to massive workload and backlogs, Management proposed - and the Union accepted - a postponement of the scheduled April and May bargaining sessions until the Fall of 2007. 

The parties met again from September 10-14, 2007 for another week of bargaining.  The parties met from November 5-9, 2007 for an additional week of bargaining facilities by a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.  Washington Passport Agency Union Steward Lisa Anderson served on the Union negotiation team during this period.  Per the parties' ground rules, while the parties did have help from a mediator, that meeting did not constitute formal mediation as the parties had not yet finished discussing each article twice.  

 Survey Results

In order to gather input from employees so that the Union could diligently fulfill its obligation to bargain on their behalf, the Union conducted a survey of all bargaining unit employees nationwide between January 9 - 13, 2006.  Out of approximately 650 employees on board as of that date, there were 499 responses - a very, very high response rate, especially considering that some employees were on leave or in training.  

Priority of the Bargaining Unit Employees 

One significant result of that survey was that the NUMBER 1 issue that employees would like the Union to address is the "integrity of the passport issuance process".  This beat out other traditional concerns such as promotions, work schedules, evaluations, safety and health, and other issues.  

Passport Specialists: We need more time for dilligent adjudication

Passport Specialists overwhelmingly indicated that there were significant and worrisome problems with the current numerical adjudication standards.  

424 Passport Specialists responded to the survey question which asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the 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.” Of the 368 who indicated a firm response (meaning that 58 - mostly new employees - who left the response blank or checked the "Neutral" box), 248 said they "strongly agreed" and 98 said they "agreed" with that statement.  

 News Articles







The current collective bargaining agreement between NFFE Local 1998 & Passport Services. 

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.  

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.  

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.  

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.  

Contract Negotiations in 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. 

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.  

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.