NWSEO proudly represents more NOAA employees
than any other Union.

 

 

NWSEO serves bargaining unit employees of the National Weather Service, NESDIS Office of Satellite & Product Operations, Office of General Counsel, Aircraft Operations Center, and the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory.

 

A Union Championing the Rights of NOAA Employees

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(January 24, 2022) NWSEO has received numerous recent reports of job applicants being unexpectedly disqualified or rated ineligible from Merit Assignment Plan (MAP) certificates, often using the same resumes that have successfully been referred onto panels in the past.  Many of these disqualifications appear to be due to non-substantive reasons such as providing a supposedly incorrect format of dates worked for each job in the resume, or not specifying that a full-time job was worked 40 hours per week.

Although NWSEO was not notified nor consulted, our understanding is that the Office of Human Capital Services (OHCS) apparently decided sometime in December to change how resume information is considered or enforced in the MAP certificate process.  This unilateral change is causing great harm to our members who are applying for these jobs, many of whom have waited years for a particular job at a desired location to open, only to be disqualified from consideration through no fault of their own, due to arbitrary actions by OHCS.  We understand that NWS management is engaging with OHCS regarding these recent changes, but OHCS has not agreed to make any changes to their new procedures.

NWSEO is gathering information on this critically important issue.  Any bargaining unit employee who has been disqualified or rated ineligible on an NWS job application since December 1, 2021, is urged to provide the following information to NWSEO at: nwseostrong@nwseo.org as soon as possible:

  • Your name, current job title, series, grade/step and location.
  • Job announcement number, position title, series, grade(s)and position location.
  • OHCS reason for the disqualification or ineligible rating (we need the exact wording. If you have an email, provide that as well.).
  • Appeal action taken (if any), and the response to that appeal.
  • Also provide any supporting documentation to demonstrate what had occurred.

We urge anyone who was disqualified and has not already appealed to do so as soon as possible.  Appeal requests should be sent to csdoperations@noaa.gov.  Please copy NWSEO at nwseostrong@nwseo.org on your appeal request.  State in your email that you are appealing the decision and the reasons why.  It would be beneficial to justify your appeal with the information in your resume that may have been overlooked or misinterpreted.

NWSEO will do everything we can to ensure that our members and all bargaining unit employees receive fair and proper consideration in the job application process.  Providing the information requested above will help us to do so.

January 14, 2022  NWSEO’s Director of Membership Services and Media Engagement, Christy Fox, is departing NWSEO today.  Christy has served as Director of Membership since August of 2015.  During the last six and a half years, she interacted with our members and led recruitment drives.  With Emily Roy, Christy co-chaired the NWSEO Cares program that aims to help our members who are adversely impacted by a local disaster.  Christy was also instrumental in the development of our new NWSEO website.  NWSEO leadership thanks Christy for her dedicated service to our membership and wishes her the best in her future endeavors.

Emily Roy, our NWSEO Chief Financial Officer will assume all Membership Director responsibilities.

Emily earned a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree in Accounting from the University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida.  Emily has worked tirelessly on several NWSEO efforts over the last six and a half years and has a “whatever it takes to get the job done” attitude.  She has a passion for details, data, organization, helping others, and is proud to be a part of the NWSEO organization.

According to Emily: “I cannot begin to describe the tremendous joy I receive from working for such a phenomenal organization.  Our society is unfortunately far from being free of workplace bullying, discrimination, and unfair working conditions, which prior to working for NWSEO I sadly experienced firsthand and know how devastating it can be.  However, to work for an organization that fights with all its might to protect the dignity and well-being of its employees is rewarding beyond words.  I look forward to serving NWSEO and the members for decades to come."

Emily was born in Jackson, Mississippi, then moved to Pensacola, Florida early in her childhood, where she has lived most of her life.  Emily resides in Huntsville, AL with her husband and four children.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family and doing anything outdoors: hiking, biking, playing tennis, and watching sunsets.

Thanks, Emily, for stepping up to fill this critical role!

Please note: there are no changes to the membership email and phone number. The membership email address – membership@nwseo.org, remains unchanged.

(November 17, 2021) Over 100 NWSEO members and guests joined together in-person for the 46th Annual National Convention in Las Vegas, NV led by NWSEO President John Werner and NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker.  Below are some of the highlights.

Guest Speakers

In-person remarks were given by Dr. Rick Spinrad, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator, Mary Erickson, Deputy Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service and Dr. Neil Jacobs, Former Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere & NOAA Administration. Video remarks were provided by U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).

Steward Training Workshops

For the first time, NWSEO offered four different training sessions. The training sessions included: Grievances and Arbitrations, Local Office Teams and Negotiations, Understanding Your Contract and Growing Your Membership.  The training sessions were overwhelmingly successful and will be offered at next year’s convention.

The Kip Robinson Award

Aaron Stevens was named the recipient of the NWSEO 2021 Kip Robinson Award.  This annual NWSEO award is given in recognition of members volunteering their time and talents to make NWSEO a stronger union.

The Kip Robinson Award is named after a late lobbyist who worked diligently for NWSEO.  Past winners include Chris Jacobson, Bill Proenza, Bill Hirt, John Stansfield, Barry Hirshorn, Chris Sisko, DeLyne Kirkham, Steve Pritchett, Shannon White, David Marsalek, Steve Wannebo, Mitch MacDonald, John Werner, Jason B. Wright, JoAnn Becker, Michael Dion, Mark Pellerito and Karleisa Rogacheski.

Special Recognition

Pacific Region Chair Nathan Becker received a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of his tremendous support and contributions to the NWSEO Political Action Committee.

A Gala of Distinguished Service

Lauren Smoker, NOAA Attorneys Guild Vice Chair, is retiring at the end of this year.  NWSEO recognized her for her contributions to the organization.  Lauren was a part of the organizing committee with Beth Mitchell and Marguerite Matera who endorsed formation of the NOAA Attorneys Guild. 

The NWSEO also celebrated the many achievements of David Solano, retired Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern Region Chair, for his 30 plus years of service with the National Weather Service and NWSEO.  “It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege to serve with you over the past decade as we fought for the interests of our NOAA bargaining unit employees.  You have been an awesome colleague, friend, and prime mover within NWSEO and a champion of the members we serve,” stated NWSEO President John Werner. 

Congratulations all!  See you next year in New Orleans!

-NWSEO-

(November 4, 2021) The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee today approved legislation that would exempt Federal wildland firefighting personnel, including NWS Incident Meteorologists, from both the weekly and annual premium pay caps during 2022. The original version of the Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act applied only to employees of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, but Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Alex Padilla
(D-CA) offered an amendment to extend that pay cap waiver to NWS IMETS at the request of NWSEO.

In offering her amendment, Senator Rosen explained why IMETS should be included in the bill:

“These individuals work closely with incident command teams in the field to interpret the weather to help predict fire severity and behavior and provide weather briefings to fire crews. As wildfires continue to worsen and wildfire season gets longer each year, it is more important now than ever to reduce any barriers for our firefighting workforce. . .”

“These meteorologists deserve to be included in the bill. They really work closely with these incident teams.  As we know, wildfires do create their own weather on the ground and this saves lives, not just of the firefighters, people and structures, animals all around there. It helps them fight the fire. It helps them also evacuate if they need to. It’s very important that these meteorologists are with them. So I would urge a yes vote on our amendment.”

The Senate version of the bill also requires the NWS to provide Congress with a report on how it plans to hire and train additional IMETS and to modernize their compensation.

A similar bill that includes IMETS at NWSEO’s request has been introduced in the House by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) but has not yet received committee review.

(August 20, 2021) On August 17, 2021, NWSEO filed a Union grievance on behalf of six forecasters of the Boise WFO over violations of multiple sections of Article 20 of the NWS-NWSEO 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Fixed schedules were unilaterally changed for three of the employees while the other three employees were deprived of the opportunity to work overtime during the same period.

Management needed to backfill several operational shifts on the fixed schedule for a forecaster who was called to be deployed as an IMET.  But rather than offering bargaining unit employees overtime on a voluntary basis in order to cover these vacant operational shifts as required by Article 20, section 9, management changed the fixed work schedule of three other employees.  In total, management violated Article 20, section 3(B)(4), section 6(B), section 7, section 8(A), section 8(G), section 9(A), and section 9(B).

NWSEO demanded back pay for the affected employees and for any other qualified forecaster who was deprived of the opportunity to work overtime covering specific vacant shifts.

NWSEO is committed to fighting for fair opportunities for our employees. We appreciate all of our members who support our organization.

(August 17, 2021) On July 19, 2021, NWSEO filed a Union grievance over violations of two Articles of the NWS-NWSEO 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.  On June 22, 2021, management issued a vacancy announcement through the Merit Assignment Program (MAP) for three GS-1340/1315 Interdisciplinary Meteorologist/Hydrologist (Hydrometeorological Analysis and Support or “HAS” Forecaster) vacancies in three River Forecast Centers in the Western Region.  Additionally, on June 23, 2021, management issued another vacancy announcement through the MAP for eight GS-0856 Electronic Technician vacancies in the Western Region. Both Merit Assignment Program announcements stated that relocation expenses would not be reimbursed.  These actions are violations of Article 1, section 3, which requires that all past practices not in conflict with the Agreement remain in effect, and Article 39, section 1, which guarantees that employees will be reimbursed for relocation expenses if the relocation is in the best interest of the government.

An unknown number of qualified bargaining unit hydrologists, meteorologists and electronic technicians have been harmed by this violation because they have been dissuaded from applying for these positions by the agency’s failure to offer relocation expenses; and the eventual selectee has been harmed by not having his or her relocation expenses reimbursed.  The failure to offer relocation expenses on these Merit Assignment Program vacancies is a violation of past practice and therefore a violation of Article 1, section 3.

NWSEO demanded that these vacancy announcements be reissued noting that the relocation expenses will be authorized.  NWSEO also demanded that the NWS inform all unit employees by email of this reissuance.  If other than local candidates are selected in the interim, they shall be granted reimbursement of his or her relocation expenses, and additional vacancies at these locations should be announced properly.  The selectees from these re-advertisements should be granted back pay retroactive to the date of the initial selections.

NWSEO is committed to fighting for fair opportunities for our employees. We appreciate all of our members who support our organization.

(July 15, 2021) The House Appropriations Committee has released its proposed FY 2022 Department of Commerce Appropriations Act which approves an 11.5% increase in funding for NWS Operations, Research and Facilities.  The bill also increases funding for operations at the Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) by 17% and the Office of Satellite and Product Operations (OSPO) at NESDIS by 8%.  An additional $100 million is also allocated for aircraft procurement at AOC.

The Report accompanying the bill contains the following language of note:

“The Committee is additionally concerned about the need for additional resources to ensure that our Nation’s science agencies are better prepared to help in the prediction and response to wildfires and therefore directs NOAA to conduct a workforce needs assessment on the training and potential need for additional Incident Meteorologists for wildfires and other extreme events.  NOAA shall brief the Committee on the results of this assessment no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.“

“NWS Staffing.—The Committee remains concerned about continuing reports of staffing and management challenges within NWS. NOAA and the Department of Commerce are directed to ensure that NWS fulfills its critical mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, including by filling all vacancies as expeditiously as possible.  In its fiscal year 2022 spend plan, NWS shall follow direction as provided in fiscal year 2021 regarding details of all NWS funded positions.  The Committee further directs NWS to continue the quarterly briefings to the Committee consistent with prior year direction.“

“Dissemination.—The Committee is very troubled by the ongoing issues with NWS’ forecast dissemination systems.  The recommendation therefore includes an increase of $39,284,000 above the fiscal year 2021 enacted level. NWS shall provide monthly up- dates to the Committee on the status of the ongoing problems with its dissemination systems and its progress in carrying out the Integrated Dissemination Program plan.“

“Hurricane Hunters.—The recommendation includes an increase of $100,000,000 above the fiscal year 2021 enacted level for hurricane hunter aircraft.  These funds shall be used to: (1) complete the outfitting with scientific equipment of the recently acquired Gulf- stream 550; (2) perform the service depot level maintenance for the P–3 Orion hurricane hunter aircraft; and (3) exercise the contract option to acquire a second Gulfstream 550 to support hurricane surveillance and other missions.“

 

(July 13, 2021) Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has just introduced H.R. 4274, the "Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act," which would raise the annual Title 5 overtime premium pay cap for employees engaged in wildland fire suppression activities to the Executive Schedule II pay rate (presently $199,300). Unlike the version introduced in the Senate earlier this year which covers only employees of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, as a result of NWSEO's lobbying efforts, this House version includes employees of the Department of Commerce engaged in wildland fire suppression activities. The Senate version is pending consideration by the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.  NWSEO continues to work with members of that Committee and their staff to have an amendment introduced to add Commerce Department employees (i.e. Incident Meteorologists) when the bill is considered and approved by the Committee.

A copy of the House bill is provided at this link: Rep Lofgren H.R. 4274

(June 2, 2021) On May 27, 2021, NWSEO filed a grievance over failure to provide relocation expense reimbursements for Lead Forecaster and IT Specialist vacancies in Alaska.  In late April, management issued a vacancy announcement through the Merit Assignment Program (MAP) for a GS-13 Lead Forecaster position at the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit.  Additionally, a month later, management issued another vacancy announcement through the MAP for a GS-13 IT Specialist position at the Alaska Region Headquarters, Systems Operation Division, IT Branch (ITB) in Anchorage, AK.

Both MAP vacancy announcements stated that relocation expenses would not be reimbursed.  This is a violation of Article 39, section 1 of the NWS-NWSEO Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which states in part that “NWS will reimburse relocation expenses in accordance with 5 USC 5724.”  Such MAP relocations are in the interest of the agency and not primarily for the convenience of the employee.

Additionally, this is a violation 5 U.S.C. § 2301(b)(1) Merit System Principles, and 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4), (5), (6) and (12), Prohibited Personnel Practices. NWSEO was informed that relocation reimbursement was not offered in the announcement because management planned to select local candidates in order to avoid payment of relocation expenses.  Limiting recruitment of candidates in order to avoid paying relocation expenses is a non-merit factor and constitutes a violation of merit system principles which include that recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources, solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, and skills, after fair and open competition.  The violation of this merit system principle is also a prohibited personnel practice.

As a result of Management’s actions, an unknown number of qualified GS-12 bargaining unit meteorologists and IT specialists have been harmed because they have been dissuaded from applying for this promotional opportunity; and the eventual selectee has been harmed by not having his or her relocation expenses reimbursed. 

The Union demanded the vacancy announcements be extended and reissued with relocation expenses authorized, and the NWS will inform all unit employees by email of this re-advertisement.  In addition, if a non-local candidate is selected in the interim, he or she shall be granted reimbursement of his or her relocation expenses and an additional Lead Forecaster vacancy at the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and IT Specialist vacancy in the Alaska Region Headquarters IT branch should be properly announced. The selectees should be granted back pay retroactive to the date of the initial selections.

NWSEO is committed to fighting for fair opportunities for our employees. We appreciate all of our members who support our organization.

-NWSEO-