The shutdown furlough guidance is quite comprehensive so I encourage you to review. A few of the questions that may be of interest are:
Question B5, page 2, addresses employee notification of their status. Since each situation will very, this is left up to agencies.
Question D1, page 6, addresses pay for excepted employees who perform work during a shutdown.
Question D3, page 6, addresses pay for employees for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriations.
Question F1, page 8, addresses paid time off (e.g. annual leave, sick leave, etc.) during a shutdown.
Questions F2, 2a, 2b and 7 may also be instructive.
Question P2 and 2a, page 26, address how employees can receive furlough notices.
Question P9 addresses employees on travel during a lapse in appropriations.
Also, OMB has now posted Memoranda M-18-05 on their website, addressing “Planning for Agency Operations during a Potential Lapse in Appropriations.” This document includes an appendix that covers “Frequently Asked Questions During a Lapse in Appropriations.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/
Forms should be submitted by Wednesday, February 28, 2018
(January 12, 2018) Wednesday, February 28 is the deadline for submitting your forms for the NWSEO negotiated National Weather Service Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program. Through the program, which is open to all NWS employees, you may receive up to $300 per year as a health club membership dues rebate. The rebate also covers certain weight loss and smoking cessation programs. In order to be eligible for the programs, it is important that the correct forms are submitted before the due dates.
Form A must be submitted between January 1, 2018 and February 28, 2018 to receive benefits for 2018. Form B must be submitted between January 1, 2018 and February 28, 2018 for reimbursement for the year 2017.
NWSEO is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to preserve NWS jobs, promote better working conditions and career promotions for NWS, and participate in collective bargaining.
Thank you for your membership and the support it brings to our professional organization.
(November 27, 2017) NWSEO continues to collect nominations for our “NWSEO Member Spotlight,” showcasing the work, dedication and talent of our members, inspiring others and connecting all of our union members.
Meet Jerry Steiger, MOBEU Meteorological Technician for the National Weather Service Alaska Region.
Jerry, tell us about your work.
I accepted this job 2 ½ years ago after the Alaska region eliminated my previous position as the Meteorologist in Charge of the Weather Service Office in Nome, AK. I really like working in rural Alaska, thus the reason to take this position as a MOBEU and fill in for any of the 10 WSO’s throughout Alaska.
Describe the most unusual/interesting experience in your work.
One of the most interesting experiences I have had working for the weather service for over 30 years is that I experienced the all-time record Low of -54 below in Nome, AK on Jan 27, 1989, and then a year and half later I was working in Los Angeles, CA and experienced the all-time record of 112 degrees on June 26, 1990.
Where is your favorite place to be?
I moved to Nome, AK back in 1986 and my favorite place to be is at my family’s cabin at Salmon Lake 35 miles north of Nome. I have spent lots of summer weekends there enjoying the outdoors, canoeing, grilling and spending great times with my family. I have “snow-machined” there in the middle of the winter as well and have enjoyed the winter wonder of being in such a remote area of Alaska.
Where is the best place you've traveled to and why?
I have been traveling in and out of Alaska for nearly 25 years as my wife works for Alaska Airlines and she enjoys traveling. One of the best places I have traveled to, was Norway. I visited there with my wife and was able to meet her extended family over there. I was amazed by the similarity of the region that her parents were from, a half of the world away and Nome where they settled in America. My second favorite place to visit is back in southern Illinois on my parent’s farm and going to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games.
What does true leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is about caring and being supportive for the people that you work with and or supervise. By always remembering why my-self and fellow employees that I have worked with, chose to work for the federal government as public servants. The job in the weather service is about protection of life and property. I have also been involved with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years and worked my way to being the Assistant Chief through dedication and the commitment to my fellow firefighters. Both of these jobs have a real impact on the people you serve, thus the decisions you make as a leader can be life-saving as well as very satisfying by being caring and helpful .
Why did you join NWSEO? Or, what is your experience with NWSEO?
I have been a member of NWSEO for the first 3 years of my career and now for the last 2 years. I believe NWSEO and management have a lot of common areas, to strive to be part of the best federal employees by serving the American public in the commitment to saving lives and property. I have recently worked over 140 days in a row as the Alaska region has had difficult times in filling vacancies. The commitment by field employees is unprecedented as the weather service works through these times of climate change and historical weather hazards. I hope the two sides of the NWS can continue to work together to improve the work environment for the employees while keeping our commitment to the public.
What is the most important technology/innovation you've seen in your lifetime?
I think one of the most important innovations in my lifetime is the “alarm systems” that are so important to life safety. I started working at the weather service while in college, performing radio broadcasts for NOAA weather radios stations in STL. These lifesaving broadcasts that can be” alarmed” during severe weather, as well as life-saving “smoke” alarms that are the equivalent in the fire service are truly a very important part of saving lives. Thus I have been active in promoting the NOAA weather radio systems and installing smoke alarms in the Nome community for the last 20-30 years.
We are so grateful for Jerry’s time and dedication to the work he and the members and employees of Alaska do every day and also, for participating in our NWSEO Member Spotlight!
We hope this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more and, together, support each other in our work and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight, suggestions, and comments to Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(November 20, 2017) According to information provided to NWSEO in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Weather Service failed to spend $57,144,743 of the amount it was appropriated for fiscal year 2017, despite the fact that there were well over 600 vacant positions by the end of the fiscal year. $25 million of this amount remains available for the NWS to spend in the current fiscal year (in addition to the sums appropriated under the current continuing resolution) and $32 million remains available for the NWS to spend until September 30, 2018. The amount of remaining funds appropriated by Congress for various “programs, projects and activities” varies from “PPA” to “PPA.” However, under Section 505 of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act, these amounts can be transferred by the agency from one program to another with 15 days notification to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. At the end of FY 17, $11 million remained in the account “Analyze, Forecast and Support,” and $7 million remained in the account “Observations,” which are the two PPAs from which most employees’ salaries are paid.
The NWS also has ended the previous four fiscal years with substantial unspent carry-over funds despite a growing vacancy rate: FY 2016 -$66.6 million; FY 2015 - $52.5 million; FY 2014 - $125.3 million; FY 2013 - $144.3 million.
NWSEO Member Blitz Days
Membership Rewards for New Members and Current Members
(November 16, 2017) NWSEO is growing even stronger thanks to our dedicated members and the information they share about the work of our professional organization. Across the country, our members are uniting together to write their and NWS Regional Directors, Senators, and Representatives; interviewing with local media, sharing their story of severe staffing shortages with barely enough personnel on station to provide the basic weather services, watches and warnings.
Because of your membership support, earlier this fall, over 120 jobs and the important work of ITO's, Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Tsunami Warning Center employees were saved by the legislative efforts of NWSEO and General Counsel. And, NWSEO is 100 percent committed to developing, negotiating, and eventually ratifying a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which promotes better working conditions, career promotions for NWS employees, and participation in collective bargaining. Our CBA Negotiation Team could not be effective at what they do without your membership support.
Additional NWSEO perks such as the NWSEO negotiated $300 Health and Wellness benefit for all NWS employees and the members’ onlyHotelStorm website offering up to 60 percent off hotel rates are a few of the benefits members recognize as the work of our professional organization.
We are Thankful for You!
With the holidays rapidly approaching, we would like to not only recognize you, but say, “THANKS,” for all you do in your work and on behalf of NWSEO. NWSEO is offering membership rewards during our “Member Blitz Days”November 16th thru December 31st for all members.
For All Members: Any NWSEO member who recruits two or more new members to join NWSEO using the1187 form for payroll deduction (not by credit card) from August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, NWSEO will provide airfare, 3-nights lodging, and group meals for the 2018 NWSEO National Convention at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sunday-Monday, September 30 and October 1, 2018. The name of the recruiter must be on the submitted Form 1187 in order for them to receive recruitment credit. They do not need to include their Social Security Number.
NWSEO Top Recruiters are awarded at the National Convention each year.
This year, we will personally invite our NWSEO Retiree Members to be a part of the National Convention. You’ll receive your invitation late-July with more details. We appreciate you and look forward to seeing you!
For All Members: Is your office 100% NWSEO Membership? Every member of that office receives $20 Gift Card. We encourage you to reach 100% Membership by the end of this year!
For All Members: Similar to our recent “Heat Wave,” if you recruit a new member to join NWSEO by Form 1187 and before December 31, 2017, the new member will receive $100 Rebate PLUS a $50 Gift Card and the Recruiter will receive a $50 gift card. This reward is for NWSEO Stewards, Vice Stewards and Members only!
For NWSEO Members with Over 30 Years of NWSEO Membership: $100 Gift Card of Choice
For Newly Hired Employees: Any newly hired employee (NWS, NESDIS, AOC, AOML, NAG new hires) who joins NWSEO by Form 1187 within three months of their start date, or during an Onboarding course or its equivalent, will receive a $300 rebate, effective beginning September 21, 2017 and continuing through December 31, 2018.
Since the September 2017 Annual NWSEO Convention, NWSEO has welcomed 25 new members! Nationwide we have 1510 members. We also have 24 Associate Members who continue to support the work of NWSEO after their retirement or promotion. We appreciate ALL of our membership support, your work and dedication and, your efforts to build NWSEO and make our organization stronger.
(November 15, 2017) During the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations dealing with hazardous weather conditions, the NWS Chief Negotiator presented to the NWSEO CBA negotiating team a thought provoking and somewhat unnerving counter proposal out of nowhere. "Where determined by management, NWS operations must continue around the clock, seven (7) days a week despite adverse weather conditions.”
What does this term “Where determined by management” mean? Does it mean that under Evolve, NWS is planning to part time Weather Forecast Offices?? Does it mean some offices won't be operating 24x7, under expected or even unexpected hazardous weather?? Is this a primary reason why the NWS is not rushing to fill the nearly 700 vacancies by inserting such language into the CBA?? Or is there some other reason??
This four-word phrase was added to existing contract language which has ensured stable, continuous operations since the CBA was last negotiated in 2001. When the NWSEO team asked why this needs to be changed after the last 16 years, the NWS Chief Negotiator said, “I’m sure this is clear to you.” Is it clear to you, too?? You decide.
The NWSEO negotiating team is 100% Committed to ALL WFOs remaining 365X24X7 and reject any notion of Part-Timing WFOs at the discretion of Management.
(October 31, 2017) In a recent Washington Post article, "Down hundreds of staff, ‘Weather Service teetering on the brink of failure,’ labor union says" (October 26, 2017), the NWS claimed that there were only 226 vacancies and that Congress had appropriated funds for only 4453 positions.
On November 14, 2016 NWSEO filed a Freedom of Information Act request with NOAA which asked for "the total number of vacancies; the number of employees on board; and the FY 16 authorized and appropriated levels" for each NOAA line office. Attached is a copy of NOAA's February 28, 2017 official response. According to the chart provided, as of November 1, 2016 there were 5048 total authorized and appropriated positions in the NWS (including 174 reimbursable from other agencies, like the FAA). Out of that number, there were 643 total vacancies. Other documents received by the NWSEO show there has been approximately another 60 vacancies in bargaining unit positions alone since November 2016.
The FOIA response is attached within this Four Winds member newsletter.
NWS Adopts Policy of Degradation of Services
for the First Time Since Before the Modernization
ERH Announces Elimination of Forecast and Public Service Shifts
Due to Escalating Vacancy Rates
(October 23, 2017). The National Weather Service, an agency that has faithfully served the Nation and Public for nearly 150 years,
for the first time in its history is close to teetering on the brink of failure. For the past several years, the NWS Leadership has been incapable of placing their budget priorities correctly, spending money on Management conferences and blended models rather than on filling the nearly 700 vacant forecast positions. In fact, the NWS Nationwide has not had full staffing levels for at least seven years. As vacancies continued to increase, the NWS Director in Eastern Region Headquarters (ERH) announced that at three (3) Weather Forecast Offices (Raleigh, NC, Burlington, VT, and Binghamton NY) he is ordering his managers to reduce the number of forecast shifts due to the large number of vacancies. Also, there have been reports that some local managers across the country have proposed the elimination of the Public Service Forecast desk and other shifts again, due to vacancies. The NWS Roadmap to
expand and provide Impact Decision Support Services to CORE CUSTOMERS, like Emergency Managers, State and Local Governments has been effectively torn up with no chance of success.
Meanwhile, employees have been working almost daily, with longer shifts and a greater number of overtime hours, which has
brought on unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. If a health emergency arrives at an office, long term leave needed, a family emergency, or injury or whatever life throws at each of us every single day, Weather Forecast Offices and elsewhere do not have the bodies to continue working at safe, healthy level. The stressful and tiring workload has many members sleep deprived and extremely frustrated with the lack of help from management. The message sent has been loud and clear – management places more concern on their priorities than the health and safety of their employees who are sacrificing their health and welfare. What is even more frustrating to observe is the plain and obvious inequality from NWS Management when it comes to hiring management positions versus operational staff. For example, a WCM position at NWS Buffalo has received higher priority (no other staffing shortages at
that office) than the dire need to help an office that has seen a staffing shortage of 4 to 7 people for years!
“NWSEO stewards and members across the country are screaming enough is enough!” stated NWSEO National President Dan Sobien. Members are writing letters and reaching out to their NWS Regional Directors, Senators, and Representatives interviewing with local media, sharing their story of severe staffing shortages with barely enough personnel on station to provide the basic
weather services, watches and warnings.
The NWS is now degrading services as management has proposed dropping forecast shifts in understaffing offices hampering
the ability to serve the public. Employees in the field are experiencing first-hand the degradation of NWS services and have also shouldered the burden of increase stress, increased workload, sleep deprivation, low morale and extremely frustrated with the lack
of help from management.
In Binghamton, New York, new DSS initiatives have been scaled back; storm surveys have been at times forgone; research and training opportunities lost; program development slowed or halted. And Raleigh, NC has several forecasters uncharacteristically becoming short tempered. One forecaster stated: “Recently I have been experiencing both physical and mental symptoms relating
to unrelenting stress. 95% of this is work related. Periods of depression, more easily angered, high blood pressure, muscle tension.”
Here is a list of reported impacts:
• Operational vacancies up to 50% (5 forecaster Vacancies), a State liaison WFO serving a population of several million;
• A stressful, tiring, and unhealthy work environment with plummeting low employee morale;
• Employees are sleep deprived, out with sicknesses, extremely frustrated and irritable;
• Some WFOs no longer have the staffing resources in place, during all hazard events, to provide all necessary weather support to key stakeholder like (EMA’s, State/Local Governments, FEMA, Members of the Media, School Districts, FAA, Water Resource Managers, Public and many others). In a direct quote from a MIC at an impacted WFO: “I cannot afford to lose another person for an extended length of time. Regretfully, your request to voluntarily help FEMA is not approved.”
• Forecasters reporting headaches and vertigo that wouldn't go away for a month or more at a time, from sleep deprivation and stress.
• Forecasters working hundreds and thousands of hours of overtime to meet regular operations, not including overtime hours for severe weather coverage;
• No Work-life balance. Constant overtime and double shifts with limited days off are affecting employee’s health both physically and mentally;
• Round the clock stresses are affecting families, personal life, children (asking - why do you work so much?), and relationships;
• Employees canceling important medical appointments, cancelling or being DENIED their own annual leave;
• Ended the ability to maintain specialized training, certifications, and career development
• Places the NWS’s vision of a Science-Based Service Organization and Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) in serious jeopardy as WFOs are enthusiastic to expand their reach and provide more customized Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) to end users/customers but cannot do so with the current staffing limitations. There are not enough forecasters to fill basic operational shifts.
• For big storms the understaffed office will be unable to fully sustain even legacy operations, let alone expand into IDSS.
For several years the NWS upper management has been quoted saying, “Vacancies are my number 1 priority” and “we’re on top of this” when speaking of filling positions. Management has blamed “the system” like WFMO, or Accenture or YRCI or politics like hiring freezes and budget cuts when the agency itself doesn’t even submit the vacancies in the pipeline? In fact, there are hundreds of vacant positions across the NWS in which hiring actions haven’t even been submitted. “Folks, it’s a lie and a shell game that has been going on under the tenure of the NWS upper management the past several years with one excuse after another,” stated
NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer, Eastern Region Chair, David Solano.
The staffing shortage issues are nationwide. An NWSEO Steward who works in the National Centers for Environmental Predication
at the Storm Prediction Center, is also feeling the impacts of reduced staffing over the past two years. He shared his story with
FOX25 KOKH-TV, Oklahoma City. “The unfilled vacancies at the NWS are reducing the quality of warnings and forecasts because
of strained resources, etc.”
NWS defines Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) as: “Provision of relevant information and interpretative services to enable Core Partners Decisions when weather, water, or climate has a direct impact on the protection of lives and livelihood.”
Instead of the agency moving forward by providing IDSS and having a Weather Ready Nation, we have an agency that now has
nearly 700 vacant positions across the country, offices dangerously short staffed, employees becoming ill, sleep deprived and overworked and no longer having the capability of providing these enhanced products and services. Instead of ramping up to provide new forecasts and services, forecast shifts are being eliminated, public service forecast desks are being dropped, and products
and services are degrading. This means less commitment to, and support for Emergency Management Agencies, state and local governments and the public. “It’s just a matter of time before someone dies from these poor management decisions.” stated Sobien.
For years NWS senior management has been telling their employees they must evolve the agency to meet needs for the future. However, the NWS is evolving into something that’s almost unrecognizable to all of us - the dedicated staff that has unselfishly
served and sacrificed so much over the years to meet every demand and forecasting challenge that came our way.
(October 11, 2017) “Slicing through the eyewall of a hurricane, buffeted by howling winds, blinding rain and violent updrafts and downdrafts before entering the relative calm of the storm’s eye, repeating the often grueling experience again and again during the course of an 8 -10 hour mission.” I first read this online (www.omao.noaa.gov) before touring with NWSEO AOC Steward at their new, spacious location in Lakeland, FL. This is the world of Todd Richards, and Aircraft Operations Center employees, Captain Hann and so many we had the opportunity to meet. We thought this was great timing to write NWSEO’s first “Member Spotlight,” showcasing the work, dedication and talent of a member, inspiring others and connecting all of our union members.
Briefly tell us how you became a Hurricane Hunter with the Aircraft Operations Center? I knew a couple of the guys that were already
with the AOC from my time in the Navy. They told me when the job openings became available and I applied through the USA Jobs announcements. Definitely helped to have a couple friends already on the inside.
Describe the most unusual/interesting experience in your work. I have had several interesting and/or unusual experiences here at
the AOC, so picking the most unusual/interesting is tough. Our job
as “Hurricane Hunters” is in itself unusual and interesting. But there are many other projects we do/have done that are just as unusual/interesting, such as:
DYNAMO (Dynamic of the Madden-Julian Oscillation) – A month long deployment to Diego Garcia researching the Madden-Julian Oscillation
VORTEX (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast) - Looking for tornado activity in storm fronts using our Tail Doppler RADAR.
PECAN (Plains Elevated Convection at Night) - focused on nocturnal convection in conditions over the Southern Great Plains with a stable boundary layer (SBL), a nocturnal low-level jet (NLLJ) and the largest CAPE (Convectively Available Potential Energy) located above the SBL
Air Chemistry projects like SONEX, SENEX and CALNEX - where we remove all the weather instrumentation and equipment from aircraft and install air chemistry equipment turning our weather aircraft in to a flying air chemistry laboratory. These projects are conducted at low levels (about 1500’) over areas of interest producing methane and ethane gases, CO, CO2, and other gases either natural or man-made.
Where is your favorite place to be? All though I do like the travel that this job requires, my favorite place is at home with my family, visiting one of the numerous theme parks in our area.
Where is the best place you've traveled to and why? I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, going to the beach, offshore fishing and all the other water sports you can think of, so for me the best place I have travel to with AOC was Boulder, CO. I really enjoyed the mountain scenery, something I was not very used to seeing. This was during one of the Air Chemistry projects that had us flying out of Boulder for almost 6 weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor activities that are available there, and most especially the lower humidity.
As an NWSEO Steward, what does true leadership mean to you? Leadership is not something bestowed upon you or granted to you by virtue of your title or set of responsibilities. True leadership is invited and can only be given willingly by others based on who you are, what you do and how you do it. Leadership is revealed by what you inspire and what you enable; that is, by your success in eliciting positive actions, emotions and behaviors in others without the promise of reward or threat of punishment, and in producing positive tangible results through others.
Why did you join NWSEO? I joined because I understand the value of a Union. AOC at the time did not have a Vice-Steward, so I volunteered/was nominated. I wanted to help insure that our members were getting what they needed and deserved. I have seen management at my previous jobs abuse or ignore the rights of employees, so I wanted to make sure that wasn’t going to happen here.
What is the most important technology/innovation you've seen in your lifetime? I believe the emergence and evolution of the internet would be the most substantially important technology/innovation I have seen in my lifetime. The internet is good and bad. Good in the sense that we have great access to vast amounts of information. Bad in that that same information can now be used in ways we had not imagined before. The internet has helped drive technology to reach great achievements with its ability to share information and ideas globally. That ability has united us and also divided us. The internet has made us smarter allowing us to know more information about things we once may not have cared to know, and it has also allowed us to become too dependent on it for this information so we no longer seek greater knowledge in books from the library or by listening to someone with that knowledge to give. Imagine what would happen if the internet stopped, just was no longer accessible. There are generations that would not know what to do. I am not bad mouthing the internet, but it is just a tool that needs to used properly.
We are so grateful for Todd’s time and dedication to the work he and the AOC members and employees do every day and also, for kicking off our NWSEO Member Spotlight for us! We hope this will be a positive communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more and, together, support each other in our work and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight, suggestions and comments to Christy Fox at email@example.com.
(September 23, 2017) A proposal for a new membership recruitment incentive was passed at the National Council Meeting held on September 20, 2017. Any newly hired employee (NWS, NESDIS, AOC, AOML, NAG new hires) who joins NWSEO by Form 1187 within three months of their start date, or during an Onboarding course or its equivalent, will receive a $300 rebate, effective beginning September 21, 2017 and continuing through December 31, 2018.
“Our membership continues to grow and we want to encourage our new hires and provide assistance to them as they are just starting out in their career,” stated NWSEO Central Regional Chair Jim Lee in his proposal and discussion of his experience with onboarding courses and recruitment work.
Membership is the lifeblood of our organization. Membership supports the work of NWSEO providing great strength to our cause. NWSEO is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to preserve NWS jobs, promote better working conditions and career promotions for NWS, and participate in collective bargaining.
Congress approves Restoration of Funding for ITOs and
NCEP Climate Prediction Center
120 or more jobs saved by NWSEO legislative efforts
(September 14, 2017) On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved two amendments to the Commerce section of the Omnibus Appropriations Act which restored funding for the Information Technology Officers and the Climate Prediction Center, which had earlier been eliminated by the House Appropriations Committee as part of the President’s budget. The amendments were offered by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) at NWSEO’s request. The first amendment restored funding for the Information Technology Officers at each WFO. These positions have been the subject of annual proposed reductions, but this year is the first time the House Appropriations Committee approved elimination of the ITOs. The second amendment restored funding for the NWS’s Climate Prediction Center. Earlier this summer, the Appropriations Committee approved the President’s proposal to reduce funding and staff at the CPC, to eliminate the international seasonal forecasting that aids DOD and USAID in famine relief and food security, and to a consolidate of the residual staff with the Weather Prediction Center at NCEP.
Over 1,000 amendments to the “Make American Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act,” which will fund the Department of Commerce and many other agencies in FY 2018, were introduced. Of those, only 224 amendments were approved by the House Rules Committee as “in order” and appropriate for floor consideration by the full House. Only a small number of those amendments were eventually approved by the House this week. The NWSEO amendments were approved as part of an “en bloc” package because NWSEO’s lobbyist was able to obtain bi-partisan co-sponsorship of the amendments.
The Senate Appropriations Committee rejected these cuts earlier this year, so although a final Commerce Appropriations Act has not yet been approved by both Houses of Congress, the ITOs and the CPC positions appear safe for another year.
Here is the text of Representative Lipinski’s remarks introducing his amendments on the floor: Mr. Lipinski: Mr. Chair, I rise in support of my two amendments included in the en bloc package being considered for Division C of H.R. 3354. I want to thank Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano for their leadership on this division, and for including these amendments in the en bloc package. These bipartisan amendments, cosponsored by me and my friend Mr. LoBiondo of New Jersey, protect critical functions at the National Weather Service. The Weather Service is essential to so much of what we do. From its critical functions like helping us predict, prepare for, and ride out extreme weather events to its everyday functions like telling us whether or not to carry an umbrella, life without up-to-date weather information is hard to imagine. My first amendment (No. 89) directs the National Weather Service not to cut $1.2 million from the Climate Prediction Center, one of its National Centers for Environmental Protection. The Service is further directed not to consolidate the functions of the Climate Prediction Center into the Weather Prediction Center. Keeping these two centers separate recognizes the essential and very different services each one provides. The medium and long-term predictions offered by the Climate Prediction Center are used for planning by diverse industries including transportation, agriculture, energy, and public health. Its global datasets are used by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development to understand international phenomena like flood and drought that could impact food supplies and regional stability. My second amendment (No. 88) directs the National Weather Service not to cut $10.1 million from its budget for Information Technology Officers, and to maintain an on-site IT Officer at each Weather Forecast Office. These officers do software maintenance, technical systems upgrades, and develop software and data products to meet local office needs. According to the Weather Service’s assessment of its performance during Hurricane Matthew (2016), ‘‘[Weather Forecast Offices] were unanimous in their support of having a local [IT Officer] present to address issues before, during, and after hurricane season.’’ In addition, a significant number of IT Officers are also trained, experienced meteorologists who can augment the forecasting staff during extreme weather.
I think all of my colleagues can agree that supporting the National Weather Service is more important now than ever and I urge support for these amendments and for the en bloc package.
Your Membership Making a Difference
NWSEO Lobbying saves ITO's and CPC and Tsunami Warning Centers Senate Committee Slams the NWS Concerning the High Number of Vacancies
(July 27, 2017) The Senate Appropriations Committee today rejected the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the ITOs and to cut the staffs of the Climate Prediction Center and Tsunami Warning Centers. The Committee approved funding NWS operations in FY 18 at 1% above this year’s level and at 5% above the level requested by the Administration, rejecting each and every proposed cut to NWS operations.
The Committee also blasted the NWS for failing to fill NWS vacancies, writing:
“The Committee is very concerned with the continued number of NWS employee vacancies. Given the importance of the NWS mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, extended vacancies are unacceptable – particularly when the Committee has provided more than adequate resources and direction to fill vacancies expeditiously for the past several years. Because NWS has failed to respond to the Committee’s concerns regarding these vacancies, NOAA is directed to present a separate accounting of all NWS filled and open positions, including the length of time the positions have been unfilled, in its fiscal year 2018 spend plan. The spend plan shall also include the specific funding proposed for all NWS employees and associated expenses that are separate from other program costs.
“The Committee also recognizes that some vacant NWS positions may be redundant and invites the Department to submit a justification for eliminating redundant unfunded vacancies in its fiscal year 2019 budget request, to include a full list of positions proposed for elimination, including reasoning for each elimination. Until such time as a plan to eliminate those vacancies is approved, NWS is directed to continue efforts to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible.”
The Committee also demanded that the NWS act more expeditiously to address the critical staffing shortfall in the Alaska Region:
“Within 60 days of enactment of this act, the Committee directs NWS to provide a report on staffing cuts in the State of Alaska and how the NWS plans to maintain or improve forecasting and communication around the State, especially in the most remote areas.”
NWS Violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement in an Attempt to Terminate It
(July 26, 2017) NWSEO filed a union grievance in response to the improper termination of the 2001 Collective Bargaining Agreement by the National Weather Service. The NWS willfully chose to ignore Article 29 Section 3 of the CBA, which states in part: “If at the end of the 90-calendar day period an agreement has not been reached and the services of neither FMCS nor FSIP have been invoked, either party may, upon written notification to the other, terminate any or all sections of the Agreement.” The NWS cited this section in their attempted CBA termination. Recent attempts by the NWSEO to involve the FMCS in the stalled negotiations have failed because the NWS refused the services stating that "the parties are making progress in negotiations on their own." “The NWS all-hands email states, you should continue business as usual,” stated Dan Sobien, NWSEO President.
Sobien notes: “We find it very disturbing that even allowing for their misreading of our CBA, that the NWS would send out a press release, contact Congress, send an all hands email and involve the Secretary of Commerce in something that is old news since the CBA was actually re-opened two years ago and we contacted FMCS during the timeframe specified in the CBA.”
A recent email to NWS employees state, “Renegotiating the agreement with NWSEO is about enhancing the rights and opportunities that all of you deserve… Our proposals for the new contract do not propose a decrease in the number of forecast offices or that any employees lose their job.” While no CBA proposals addresses specifics as in the exact number of offices or that any employees will lose their jobs, these agreements cover issues such as scheduling which directly impact employee conditions of employment. “As for enhancing your rights and opportunities, none of their proposals presented us to do that, and many of their proposals take away the rights you now have. For instance, the NWS's home leave proposal would remove the rights for home leave from employees in Puerto Rico, while keeping it for Pacific Islanders. It also made home leave subject to termination completely at management's discretion. We have made proposals that will enhance your working conditions and so far, at the bargaining table they have pushed back very hard against our proposals.” says Sobien.
The NWSEO Negotiation team is contributing not only hours, days, but months and years of their personal life to make this a better CBA for all employees. They spend half of their lives in hotels in addition to absorbing a financial toll such as losing shift differential, awards, etc. Sobien notes: “Should any of you know a CBA bargaining team member, please thank them. The group comes to the table as a team with case law and examples of articles from other federal contracts. They care about our members and your working conditions for the years to come.”
In July 2015, the NWS sent NWSEO notification to open and renegotiate the CBA. At that time, the union put together a diverse team with skill sets needed for these negotiations and forwarded the team list to NWS. They objected, and declared impasse which caused a delay of four months. Ground rule negotiations began in November 2015 where NWS demanded that NWSEO agree to their ground rules and refused to negotiate with the union. NWS declared impasse with FSIP and filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge. NWSEO filed a ULP charge against the NWS. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) sustained the NWSEO ULP complaint and filed a charge against the agency, and dismissed the NWS complaint. The FSIP agreed with NWSEO and ruled the parties were not at impasse, and ordered all back to the table. Four months later in March 2016, the negotiations resumed. In May 2016 ground rule negotiations concluded for all but one section. NWS again declared impasse, which was resolved in December of 2016, a seven-month delay.
Contract negotiations have occurred for three months. NWSEO has delivered all proposals according to the schedule agreed to by NWS. The ground rules schedule specifies that NWSEO will submit five proposals per month for a maximum of 45 proposals. “We are not going to apologize for it. At one point during ground rule negotiations we sat across the table from four attorneys. Not just any attorneys, but specialists in the field including one attorney who at one point was the General Counsel for the FLRA. We are not going to apologize for any advantages we may have gained during those ground rules negotiations and we are certainly not going to give away these advantages just because NWS is trying to pressure us through all hands emails.” stated Sobien.
At the end of each negotiation session, we compile the Contract Connect for our employees. Contract Connect is your best source of timely information about what is happening at the bargaining table and its impact on your work life.
Department of Commerce List of All NWS Vacancies
Confirms NWSEO statements: 668 Vacant Positions
(July 12, 2017) The National Weather Service has 668 vacant positions and these numbers continue to grow. The information, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from NWSEO General Counsel Richard Hirn, confirms what NWSEO has been stating all along: Many forecast offices are struggling to fill emergency essential shifts with the burden placed on the backs of dedicated employees. Overtime work is routine in many offices as emergency essential positions go unfilled for months and sometimes years. The long-term vacancy crisis is degrading service to the American public and jeopardizing the NWS mission of saving lives and protecting property. NWSEO hears from members who struggle with health problems and work-life issues due to the overtime work created by these vacancies. NWSEO continues to work on your behalf to get offices fully staffed and to create work-life conditions of employment.
The Department of Commerce Workforce Management Office response to NWSEO’s FOIA request includes the following documents, with information as recent as April 12, 2017, confirming a total of 668 vacant NWS positions. This response provides an identification of every vacant position in the NWS by location and job title/position/occupational series.
Number of all positions filled as of April 12, 2017: 4345
Number of all positions vacant as of April 12, 2017: 668
In October 2015, Dr. Uccellini promised members at NWSEO’s National Convention that filling positions was his top concern and expressed optimism in the newly hired WFMO Director. In February 2016, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, host of The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks show, asked NWS Director Dr. Uccellini about the high number of NWS vacancies during one of his broadcasts. Dr. Uccellini replied, “We’re on top of this… We want to staff up. We want to staff up to have the Weather Service fully staffed as it should be.” In the time since Dr. Uccellini’s comments at the NWSEO National Convention in October 2015, through May 2017 the NWS lost an additional 74 non-managerial positions. Is the NWS Director really “on top of this?” Shouldn’t the NWS Director be accountable like you? Under his leadership, NWS vacancies continue to increase month after month, year after year.
NWSEO has been tracking the NWS vacancies since 2010. The graph below shows the steady decline in the number of non-managerial/non-supervisory NWS employees from 2010 - May 2017.
NWSEO continues its efforts to fully staff NWS offices. NWSEO is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to preserve NWS jobs, promote better working conditions and career promotions for NWS. Your membership support is greatly appreciated.
Member News Archives
Four Winds Archives
July 31, 2017
NWSEO Membership Continues Recruitment with a HEAT WAVE. There is STRENGTH in our Membership.
National Weather Service Managers received Hiring Exemption Guidelines on March 30, the day after the Department of Commerce’s approval of a NWS/NESDIS group exemption request that allows NWS to fill positions essential to public safety. Managers are told they may only distribute the guidelinesverbally. They include the following positions the NWS is approved to recruit and hire.
View the List of NWS Positions Exempt from the Hiring Freeze
And Hiring Freeze Final Guidance distributed to NWS Managers
NWSEO Negotiated Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program
Forms should be submitted by Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Form A must be submitted between January 1, 2017 and February 28, 2017 to receive benefits for 2017. Form B must be submitted between January 1, 2017 and February 28, 2017 for reimbursement for the year 2016.
National Weather Service Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program - Stay Healthy and Receive a $300 Rebate
Form A must be submitted between January 1, 2017 and February 28, 2017 to receive benefits for 2017. Form B must be submitted between January 1, 2017 and February 28, 2017 for reimbursement for the year 2016.
(June 19, 2015) OPM’s web page on “Information About the Recent Cybersecurity Incident” and “Frequently Asked Questions” updated on June 18, 2015. Here are the links to the updated pages. A printable copy is also available. Please post this in your office.
NWSEO represented employees received an additional $23.85 million dollars as a result of NWSEO actions to mitigate the impact of sequestration during the 2013 furlough. NWSEO lobbying preserved more than $6.85 million in Awards for NWSEO represented employees (1.5% of payroll) during 2013-2015 when other government agencies were either canceled.
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