NWSEO Logo with text that reads Championing the Rights of NOAA Employees

 

 

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.

PREVAILING CONDITIONS

Top Stories

(August 24, 2022) — In light of the updated COVID-19 guidelines put forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force recently met to discuss a number of adjusted workplace protocols, particularly pertaining to vaccination status, masking, distancing, and COVID-19 testing. While these protocols are generally expected to go into effect immediately, the task force asserts that some guidelines are still in flux and will be solidified more in the coming weeks.

Updated COVID-19 Workplace Safety Protocols

  • Vaccination Status
      • For most agencies, COVID-19 workplace safety protocols will not vary on the basis of one's vaccination status.
      • Some agencies may still have their own agency specific vaccination requirements, and those agencies will still collect vaccination documentation information.
      • Attendees at federally-hosted meetings, events, and conferences will no longer be asked about their vaccination status, unless attendees are accessing a facility that still requires vaccination information.
    •  Masking
      • If COVID-19 community levels are high where a federal facility is located, masking is required.
      • CDC guidance now emphasizes the importance of wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (N95 or KN95 equivalent, or disposable surgical mask).
  • Screening Testing
    • Most federal agencies will no longer require screening testing.
    • For those agencies that do require screening testing, it will not vary on the basis of vaccination status.
    • Screening testing focus will be on high risk communities and settings:
      • Facilities where COVID-19 transmission has proven to be high
      • Communities with a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 (ex. nursing homes, firefighter camps, etc.)
      • In these environments, serial screening testing, or the periodic testing of all individual employees in that setting, may be implemented. More information about serial screening testing will be forthcoming in the following weeks.

Exposure, Quarantine, & Isolation

  • All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, now follow the same protocol after exposure to a positive COVID-19 case.
  • CDC no longer recommends quarantine for individuals not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • An exposed individual must:
    1.  immediately wear a high-quality mask or respirator while working indoors for 10 full days from the date they were exposed;
    2. take precautions, such as physically distancing themselves from others;
    3. watch for COVID-19 for symptoms for 10 full days from the date they were exposed;
    4. test on or after day six past their exposure (test will be provided by agency).
  • If an employee tests positive, isolation is required for five full days following the positive test.
    • Employees may return to work if, after day five, they present no fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.
  • Upon returning to work, employees must wear a high-quality mask for 10 full days after their first day of symptoms, or, if asymptomatic, 10 full days from their positive test.
    • Employees may unmask if they take two antigen tests, 48 hours apart, beginning on or after day six post-exposure, and each antigen test produces a negative result.

NWSEO members with questions about these updated protocols as they relate to their own positions in their line office may email membership@nwseo.org. Please understand that there may be questions for which NWSEO leadership may not have answers, as much of the information provided by the task force may be transient or nonspecific. 

Updated Documents:

(August 18, 2022) The Department of Education encourages qualifying employees, including all federal employees, to consider applying for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that is already in place. Now, for a limited time, it is easier than ever to receive that forgiveness, or get credit toward forgiveness, if you have not yet served 10 years.

Not sure if you qualify? Here's a good place to start:

PSLF Chart nwseo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about PSLF, the application process, and rules for eligibility here.

(August 17, 2022) — The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden yesterday, contains over $600 million in new funding for the National Weather Service and other units represented by NWSEO. This is “new money” appropriated above and beyond annual appropriations. Funds have been designated to improve NOAA facilities, hiring processes, weather research, observations, forecasting, and dissemination, as well as for new hurricane hunter aircraft crewed by NWSEO members.

The following sections include language pertinent to NWSEO members:

Sec. 40002. Facilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Sanctuaries.

(a) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Facilities.— In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $150,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2026, for the construction of new facilities, facilities in need of replacement, piers, marine operations facilities, and fisheries laboratories.

Sec. 40003. NOAA Efficient and Effective Reviews.

In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $20,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2026, to conduct more efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for planning, permitting and approval processes through the hiring and training of personnel, and the purchase of technical and scientific services and new equipment, and to improve agency transparency, accountability, and public engagement.

Sec. 40004. Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and Forecasting for Weather and Climate.

(a) Forecasting and Research.—In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $150,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2026, to accelerate advances and improvements in research, observation systems, modeling, forecasting, assessments, and dissemination of information to the public as it pertains to ocean and atmospheric processes related to weather, coasts, oceans, and climate, and to carry out section 102(a) of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (15 U.S.C. 8512(a)), and for related administrative expenses.

Sec. 40005. Computing Capacity and Research for Weather, Oceans, and Climate.

In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $190,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2026, for the procurement of additional high-performance computing, data processing capacity, data management, and storage assets, to carry out section 204(a)(2) of the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (15 U.S.C. 5524(a)(2)), and for transaction agree- ments authorized under section 301(d)(1)(A) of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (15 U.S.C. 8531(d)(1)(A)), and for related administrative expenses.

Sec. 40006. Acquisition of Hurricane Forecasting Aircraft.

In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $100,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2026, for the acquisition of hurricane hunter aircraft under section 413(a) of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (15 U.S.C. 8549(a)).

Learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act here.

(August 13, 2022) - NOAA announced on Friday, August 12, 2022, the agency is halting the COVID-19 Screening Program effective immediately.   Employees will no longer attest their COVID status on a weekly basis nor will employees be required to furnish test results in offices in a COVID-19 MEDIUM or HIGH community level.

This announcement to stop testing was at the direction of the Office of Management and Budget in response to the new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on Thursday, August 11, 2022.

NOAA employees who were required to participate in this program were informed on Friday, August 12, 2022.

This change, however, does not impact COVID-19 screening testing for operational settings that are not based upon vaccination status, such as testing required by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) related to Ship or Aircraft operations.

(July 26, 2022) — As the Biden Administration seeks public comment on a new set of proposals pertaining to student loan forgiveness, the Department of Education is encouraging qualifying employees, including all federal employees, to consider applying for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that is already in place.

According to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the PSLF waiver has “simplified the process of getting loan forgiveness.” However, Cardona asserts, “you have to be signed up by October. I encourage everyone – even if you have been denied before or used other benefits – to apply.”

In October 2021, the Department of Education announced a temporary period during which borrowers, who in the past did not qualify for PSLF, could now receive credit for payments. This limited-time waiver expires on October 31, 2022 — and those who do not consolidate their loans and apply by that date may not be eligible afterward.

What is PSLF?

PSLF is a federal program that offers tax-free student loan forgiveness for government and nonprofit employees after ten years’ worth of payments (for a total of 120 payments).

What temporary changes were made to PSLF?

The temporary waiver enacted in October 2021 revised previous rules, now stating any payments made toward federal loans will count toward PSLF, regardless of the borrower’s payment plan. Previously, only payments made on certain repayment plans would qualify. Additionally, payments in the past that were rejected because they were not considered on time now count toward PSLF. Previously declined applications will also be reviewed again by the Education Department in light of these temporary changes.

What kinds of loans qualify for PSLF?

The limited PSLF waiver applies to borrowers with direct loans, those who have already consolidated into a direct loan, and those who consolidate into a direct loan by Oct. 31, 2022.

Learn more about PSLF, the application process, and rules for eligibility here.

(July 20, 2022): Believe it or not, fall is just around the corner — and so is NWSEO’s 47th Annual National Convention! Join us November 7-8 in New Orleans for learning opportunities, engaging workshops, and the chance to connect with colleagues from across the country.

If you plan to attend, we can’t wait to see you! Here are a few reminders about travel arrangements:

Hotel Reservations

You are responsible for making your own hotel reservations. NWSEO has negotiated a room rate of $157/night at Harrah’s New Orleans. All reservations must be guaranteed with a deposit for the first night’s room and tax charge. In addition to the daily cost of each room, there is a daily resort fee of $19.99 per night, which includes unlimited local phone calls, two guest admissions per day to the Fitness Center, and in-room internet access for two devices.  

Room reservations must be made by Friday, October 7, 2022.  Make your reservations here. If you prefer to make your reservations by phone, call (877) 466-7847, and secure a reservation under group code S11NWS2.

Remember, if you haven’t already, please let either Emily Roy or Samm Smith know whether or not you can make this year’s convention. RVSPs greatly help us as we solidify our plans and logistics.

Thanks so much, and hope to see you there!

(July 9, 2022) — The 2022 National Weather Service Employees Organization National Convention promises to be full of learning and networking opportunities for NWSEO members.  This year’s convention, taking place November 7-8 in New Orleans, LA, offers several workshops with aims to inform, inspire, and engage attendees, as well as provide space for lively discussion among members and NWSEO leadership. 

Registration for the convention workshops will be live in September; in the meantime, we invite you to read more about each workshop to help you determine which sessions you’d like to attend:

Basic Training for Stewards — New!

Designed for all stewards, this workshop will provide an overview of the national, regional, and local roles and responsibilities within NWSEO.  Discussion will include a look into NWSEO history and organizational structure, including the union’s five bargaining units, collective bargaining agreements, and constitution. Participants will also gain an understanding of their duties as stewards, as well as insight on recruitment and communications strategies.

National Weather Service Grievances and Arbitrations

Designed for all stewards, this workshop provides an overview of the Grievance and Arbitration process within the National Weather Service (NWS). Attendees will gain a better understanding of when and how to file a grievance, differences between employee and union grievances, conflict mitigation techniques, arbitration, and much more.

NWS Local Office Teams & Negotiations

Designed for all stewards, this workshop takes a deeper dive into Local Office Teams (LOT). Attendees will learn techniques for holding effective LOT meetings, as well as the negotiation process at the local level. Additionally, this workshop will provide an overview of substantively negotiable issues vs. permissive areas, negotiations over appropriate arrangements, tactical empathy, and more.

Understanding the NWS Collective Bargaining Agreement

Designed for stewards and bargaining unit employees, this informative workshop will walk participants through our latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Topics will include the definition and purpose of a CBA, key takeaways from the current NWSEO-NWS CBA articles, significant changes from the previous CBA, and more.

Don’t forget: NWSEO Convention Recruitment Incentive

To assist members with convention transportation and lodging expenses, our Recruitment Incentive is still available! Any NWSEO member who recruits two (2) or more new members to join NWSEO using the Form 1187 for payroll deduction (not by credit card) from August 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022, is eligible for reasonable airfare, three (3) nights’ lodging, and approved group meals for the 2022 National Convention. Learn more.

We can’t wait to see you all in November! Learn more about the 2022 National Convention and keep an eye out for updates in the coming weeks.

(July 5, 2022): John Quadros, the second President of the National Weather Service Employees Organization and Lead Forecaster at the Redwood City Forecast Office, died in Fremont, California on June 29. He is survived by his wife Kathy.

Quadros guided NWSEO through troubled times for the agency and the union during the Reagan Administration. He assumed the union’s presidency when its first president was removed by the National Council for malfeasance at the union’s convention in Quincy, Massachusetts. He then fought off aggressive efforts from the Administration to substantially reduce funding for the NWS, to eliminate the NWS’s fire weather program, to close several NWS regional headquarters, and to privatize the NWS as well as the NOAA’s weather satellites. He testified before multiple Congressional committees during those years. In 1988, he was successful in blocking a 20-day furlough of NWS employees through Congressional lobbying.

John also negotiated the union’s first national collective bargaining agreement, which established the basic protections of advanced, fixed work scheduling NWS employees enjoy today. Under his leadership, the union successfully litigated a case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Gahagan v. United States, which established the right of Federal employees on court or military leave to receive the same premium pay to which they would otherwise be entitled in the course of their regular rotation. He authorized a plethora of arbitration cases, including one that established the rule that verification scores cannot be used in performance evaluations. 

Quadros made national news in August 1988 when he served as lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that obtained a permanent nationwide injunction against random drug testing of NWS forecasters. In Quadros et al v. Reagan, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that there was no evidence of drug abuse at the National Weather Service that warranted the invasion of privacy that drug testing entails. In an editorial, the USA Today declared its support for Quadros’s efforts to protect the Fourth Amendment, writing "we don’t have to shoot down individual rights to win the war on drugs." The Quadros case may be the only time in judicial history in which a Federal judge has personally enjoined the President of the United States, as opposed to subordinate officials.

(June 28, 2022) - The House Appropriations Committee will today approve the Fiscal Year 2023 Commerce Appropriations Act, which includes a significant increase in funding for the National Weather Service (NWS).  The Committee will recommend that the NWS receive an additional $84.4 million for “operations, research and facilities,” which is a 7.2% increase in funding over what the NWS was appropriated for the current fiscal year, and 3.2% more than was requested by the agency and the Administration. This includes $13 million in new funding for NWS staffing, over and above the “adjustments to base” needed to fund the anticipated 2023 Federal employee pay increase. Here is the Committee’s Report language addressing NWS staffing:

NWS Staffing.—The Committee continues to be concerned about staffing and management challenges within NWS, especially as the organization recovers from pandemic-related attrition and the need to meet the growing demand for real-time high resolution weather data and critical impact-based decision support services (IDSS). NOAA and the Department of Commerce are directed to ensure that NWS fulfills its critical missions by filling all NWS vacancies as expeditiously as possible and to continue to work closely with all stakeholders, including by seeking and incorporating input from employees on the optimum level of staffing going forward. 

To that end, the recommendation includes all requested adjustments to base for NWS. In addition, the Committee provides an increase of $13,000,000 above fiscal year 2022 to further address staffing requirements, including $7,500,000 for staffing at weather forecast offices to enhance equitable NWS IDSS and to increase the number of trained and qualified Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) for wildfires and other extreme events; and $5,500,000 to accelerate hiring at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Within these increases, NWS shall provide IDSS support for products generated by other line offices, as appropriate, such as harmful algal bloom forecasts. 

In its fiscal year 2023 spend plan, NWS shall follow direction as provided in fiscal year 2022 regarding details of all NWS funded positions. 

The Committee report also addresses the endemic problems with NWS dissemination:

Improving NWS Dissemination Activities.—The Committee continues to be concerned with the issues with NWS’ forecast dissemination systems, but notes that progress has been made in recent months. Disseminating accurate, timely information to broadcasters, emergency managers, and the general public during severe weather events is critical. Tools such as NWSChat are essential for ensuring that communities and businesses in rural farming com- munities and elsewhere have the proper time to respond. The Committee urges NWS to prioritize and continue to find ways to improve information dissemination to rural and other underserved areas. Further, the recommendation fully funds the requested increase to Optimize and Upgrade the Integrated Dissemination Program. 

The Committee also recommended substantial increases in operations funding for other NOAA offices and activities whose employees are represented by NWSEO. Funding for the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center would increase 18%, from $34.5 million to $40.8 million. Funding for the NESDIS Office of Satellite and Product Operations would increase by 25%, from $198.4 million to $248.5 million. Funding for NOAA Executive Leadership, which includes the NOAA Office of General Counsel, would increase by 12%, from $28.2 million to $31.7 million. 

The Committee provides $40 million to acquire a Phased Array Radar demonstration system, which will help the NWS address the looming need to replace the nation’s legacy NEXRAD weather radar systems between 2030 and 2040. 

The bill also includes $205 million to begin the procurement cycle for the new Hurricane Hunter aircraft to replace the WP–3D that are nearing the end of their useful lives. The civilian crews of these aircraft are represented by NWSEO.

The full House is expected to approve these recommended funding levels after it returns from the July 4 recess. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its recommended version of the FY 23 Commerce Appropriations Act. 

Read more about NWS funding in the Commerce Appropriations Act here.

(June 24, 2022) After in-depth discussions surrounding rotating shift work and its implications on worker health and wellbeing, NWSEO and NWS leadership have collaboratively launched the Shift Work Flexibility Team.

The team is co-led by NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker and George Jungbluth. The NWSEO executive council, regional directors, field representatives, and subject matter experts all sit on the team working jointly to find solutions for both immediate and long-term issues surrounding shift work.

There are several key objectives that will be addressed by the team, including:

  • Creating a robust education program for employees on shift scheduling options;
  • Allowing more scheduling flexibilities to better meet employee needs while ensuring operational needs are met;
  • Incorporating recuperative breaks and fitness options into shifts, encouraging staff to recharge and refocus;
  • Supporting voluntary early retirement for forecasters who have worked years on shift; and
  • Improving the office staffing profile to allow for more shift flexibility.

In addition to these objectives, the Shift Work Flexibility Team will advocate for staffing policies that directly benefit individuals engaged in shift work, within the following guardrails:

  • No single midnight shifts;
  • At least two workers on every shift;
  • No part timing of offices;
  • No degradation to the current services that each office provides; and
  • No office consolidation.

Moving forward, the team intends to address these issues, both at an individual and organizational level, to create a better balance between employee needs and the agency's core mission.

(June 14, 2022) Nominees for the 2022 Regional Officer elections are now confirmed, and the elections page on the NWSEO website is live and available to view here.
There are two contested elections this year, with three nominees for Alaska Region Chair and two for Eastern Region Vice Chair. Members in these contested regions will receive an email later this week with instructions on how to vote for officers in their respective regions.
Presented below are all 2022 Regional Officer nominees. For more information, check out the NWSEO elections page.

ALASKA REGION

Regional Chair: Carol Baqui; Kimberly Vaughan; John Cowen


CENTRAL REGION

Regional Chair: Jim Lee; Regional Vice Chair: Andy Boxell


EASTERN REGION

Regional Chair: Brandon Dunstan; Regional Vice Chair: Alicia Miller; Barry Lambert


HEADQUARTERS REGION

Regional Chair: Mike Dion; Regional Vice Chair: Ashley Kells


NCEP REGION

Regional Chair: Eric Blake; Regional Vice Chair: Rob Handel


NESDIS

Regional Chair: Hugh Sharkey; Regional Vice Chair: Arla Tillman


NOAA ATTORNEYS GUILD

Regional Chair: Mitch MacDonald


PACIFIC REGION

Regional Chair: Nathan Becker; Regional Vice Chair: Ken Kleeschulte


SOUTHERN REGION

Regional Chair: Chris Jacobson; Regional Vice Chair:Rob Niemeyer


WESTERN REGION

Regional Chair: Jon Fox; Regional Vice Chair: Brooke Bingaman

(May 28, 2022) An addendum to a February 2022 reintegration and telework policy memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been approved to reflect recent changes to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, including relevant reintegration metrics and schedule notifications.

This addendum, which supplements and amends Section 3, “Phasing/Reintegration Steps,” of the MOU between the National Weather Service (NWS) and NWSEO, comes as a result of the federal government’s rescindment of an evacuation order which, up until recently, included phased limits on building occupancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the original MOU provided an orderly process for the reintegration of our workforce, the language has since become outdated and this addendum addresses these changes. 

Changes include:

  • Phasing/Reintegration Steps: As the public health threat has evolved, the CDC has provided new metrics that provide a more accurate assessment of local COVID-19 conditions. The Safer Federal Workforce has adopted these metrics to make necessary mitigations and ensure the federal workforce’s safety.
  • A Flexible Reintegration Period will extend through July 31, 2022. During this period, all bargaining unit (BU) employees may return to the worksite on a voluntary basis or as required for mission critical onsite work consistent with NOAA COVID-19 Community Level Mitigation Measures and their approved telework agreements.
  • Supervisors may use situational telework and schedule flexibilities for a BU employee to allow up to 100% telework during this period to mitigate mission risk and impacts to returning employees, including those who have dependent care or transportation logistical challenges.
  • Following the Flexible Reintegration Period, NWS will resume full onsite operations consistent with NOAA COVID-19 Community Level Mitigation Measures and the February MOU language. 
  • Telework days added or approved when CDC Community Levels change will be noted on the fixed schedule. These telework days will remain in place until the next fixed schedule is posted.
  • In instances where facility area CDC Community Levels move from Low to Medium or Medium to High, employees will be notified no later than Monday of the following week for the opportunity for additional situational telework or for maximized situational telework.
  • Updates to the facility’s NOAA COVID-19 Community Level Mitigation Measures will be posted at each facility’s entrance, and a status message will be sent to all facility employees by email no later than close of business on Fridays.

With these changes in place, the focus remains the same: workplace safety and recognizing the remarkable accomplishments of NWS staff over the last two years.

Click here to read the full MOU addendum.

(Washington, D.C., May 26, 2022) On Wednesday, May 25, The Senate Commerce Committee approved by voice vote the “Fire Ready Nation Act of 2022,” which contains a provision that formally establishes an “Incident Meteorologist Service.”

As a result of NWSEO lobbying, the bill also includes a provision that will provide Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) with true time-and-one-half overtime while dispatched to wildland fires, and will raise the annual premium pay cap for IMETs to Level II of the Executive Service — or about $203,700 a year. If enacted, the entitlement to enhanced premium pay will be retroactive to January 1, 2020.

The bill now needs to advance to final approval on the Senate floor, as well as consideration and approval by the House of Representatives.

The Fire Ready Nation Act also contains a provision that requires the NOAA Administrator to “provide access to professional counseling or other forms of support as the Under Secretary considers appropriate for the betterment of the emotional and mental health and well-being of incident meteorologists and other employees of [NOAA] involved in response to high-impact and extreme fire weather events.”

Read more about the Fire Ready Nation Act here.

(May 17, 2022) NWSEO recognizes there has been a substantial delay in mail delivery of the 2022 Notice of Convention & Elections Letter. The letter, which was sent via bulk mail on April 25, 2022, has yet to be received by many of our members, and we understand the disruption this creates with the time sensitivity of the elections. 

Currently, the United States Postal Service is working to resolve this and our printer is also aware of the issue.  Unfortunately, we have no control over USPS protocol and cannot have this resolved as soon as we would like.  In the meantime, an electronic version of the letter can be found here.  Anyone can make nominations at any time prior to the deadline specified in the elections letter— you do not need to have received your elections letter in the mail in order to nominate someone.

Please review the elections letter online for specific details pertaining to officer and delegate nomination requirements. Remember, nominations must be submitted in writing,  and nominations for regional officers also require submission via registered or certified mail and must be postmarked no later than Friday, May 27.

Thank you for your patience, and we look forward to receiving your nominations!

(May 10, 2022) A new agreement reached between NWSEO and the National Weather Service (NWS) will improve and expand job opportunities for existing employees, according to NWSEO President John Werner.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU), which was reached after months of negotiations, targets two areas of concern for NWSEO: filling vacancies and options pertaining to permanent change in station (PCS) expenses. Addressing these issues, Werner notes, is an important step toward a more equitable work environment for both new and existing employees.

“With this MOU, there are more avenues for employees to have a better work/life balance,” says Werner. “There will be opportunities to have lateral transfers, as well as the ability to make career decisions that better fit your life.”

In recent years, Werner says “NWS management’s priority has been on bringing in new hires which at times resulted in the depletion of healthy experience levels within offices. This has not only put a strain on existing NWS staff, but left new hires in an untenable position to complete training in tandem with operational shifts. This MOU will create a more balanced approach to hiring, training, and ensuring both new and existing employees get the support they need to do their jobs effectively.”

There are two key components in the MOU that will amplify this new, balanced approach:

Merit Assignment Plan (MAP)

Per the MOU, MAP PCS assignment opportunities for GS11/12 1340 employees will double. Those wishing to relocate to a position with their PCS expenses paid for by the agency will have the chance to do so quarterly, compared to the previous twice-per-year agreement.

Reassignment Opportunity Notices (RON)

In addition to the enhanced MAP opportunities, employees will have the opportunity each quarter to transfer to another office using the streamlined RON process and without suffering a downgrade for 90 days. Unfortunately, because such transfers are primarily in the interest of the employee, the agency by law is precluded from paying PCS expenses.

These measures aim to foster a meaningful, equitable, and effective hiring strategy that will allow for both new and experienced employees to focus on what they need most — whether that be training, professional development, or location change.

For more information, read the full MOU here.

(May 05, 2022) National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) is pleased to welcome Samm Smith as the organization’s new Communication Director. An award-winning digital strategist, writer, graphic designer, and photographer, Samm brings wide-ranging communications expertise and a passion for the labor movement. 

Prior to joining the NWSEO team, Samm worked in the higher education sphere for ten years, most recently as the Director of Content Strategy for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At UMass, Samm managed institutional social media accounts with more than 500,000 followers from top to bottom, writing, photographing, and filming content, as well as serving on the Emergency Operations Team to handle crisis communications. Her most recent work included the creation of the university’s campus-wide content calendar, as well as the strategic overhaul of all content that appeared on the university’s homepage, umass.edu.

It was at UMass that Samm first became a rank-and-file member of a union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA); she held a variety of roles in her local, the Professional Staff Union, serving as a member of the bargaining committee and Sick Leave Bank board, a departmental delegate to represent the local at annual meetings, and as grievance officer. This first-hand experience in the labor movement propelled Samm to continue her education in the Union Leadership and Activism (ULA) graduate program at UMass, where she continues to work toward a masters degree in labor studies. Her research has focused on public sector and educator labor unions and is available for public access here

Samm lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with her husband, Tim, and her seven-year-old daughter, Mabel. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time exploring the Pioneer Valley with her family, singing in a 200-person rock choir, and volunteering her photography services to community-centered organizations.

More information about Samm and her portfolio can be found here.

-NWSEO-

(April 26, 2022) NWSEO has mailed the 2022 Notice of Convention & Elections Letter to all members this week.  The letter is also posted on our website at https://nwseo.org/ElectionsLetter

The letter details the procedures for local and regional elections and includes information on the 47th annual National Convention which is scheduled for November 7 - 8, 2022 at Harrah’s in New Orleans, Louisiana.  All NWSEO members are invited to attend the convention.

Any NWSEO member who recruits two or more new members to join NWSEO via payroll deduction (using Standard Form 1187) from August 1, 2021 through July 31, 2022, will be rewarded with the recruitment travel incentive, noted within the Elections Letter.

Up-to-date news and information regarding the 2022 NWSEO National Convention will be posted on our website at https://nwseo.org/convention/.

(Washington, D.C., March 28, 2022) - The National Weather Service Employees Organization filed a charge against the Department of Commerce alleging that the agency committed an unfair labor practice last week by failing to consult with the union before ordering employees back to the office effective on April 25. The charge, which was filed with the Washington Regional Office of the FLRA on March 26, 2022, alleges that the Department violated the union’s “National Consultation Rights” when it failed to provide the union an opportunity to provide its recommendations on a proposed reentry day, as well as by unilaterally changing its telework policy. In the March 25 broadcast email to employees, the Secretary of Commerce announced a new telework policy “that will offer staff up to two days of telework per week.” This was a unilateral change in the prior DOC policy which previously provided: “Supervisors/managers are encouraged to support telework for eligible employees of at least 4 days per biweekly pay period.” (Emphasis added).

The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute provides that unions which represent a substantial number of employees in an agency are entitled to “national consultation rights” and to “be informed of any substantive change in conditions of employment proposed by the agency and be permitted reasonable time to present its views and recommendations regarding the changes.” NWSEO was granted National Consultation Rights by the Department of Commerce in 2002. These consultation rights are in addition to the bargaining rights which NWSEO has with the National Weather Service and other line offices within NOAA. The Federal labor statute makes it an “unfair labor practice” to “refuse to consult or negotiate in good faith with a labor organization as required by this chapter.”

DOC’s failure to engage NWSEO in its reentry plans not only violates the labor statute, but thumbs its nose at a June 2021 memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management that directs agencies to satisfy their labor obligations prior to issuing a 30-day reentry notice.

In addition to filing the unfair labor practice charge, NWSEO has demanded that DOC rescind the March 25 announcement of the April 25 re-entry date, and to withdraw its new, restrictive telework policy until it has consulted with NWSEO and other DOC unions on the date and conditions for reentry and engaged NWSEO and other unions in developing a new telework policy. The charge will now be investigated by the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s (FLRA’s) Office of General Counsel. If the FLRA’s Regional Director determines as a result of her investigation that there was a violation of the Federal labor statute, she will issue a formal complaint against the Department of Commerce and bring it to trial before a Federal Administrative Law Judge.

(Washington, DC, March 23, 2022) The National Weather Service Employees Organization today filed a charge against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), alleging that the agency committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally implementing a policy of disqualifying applicants for positions if their resumes did not include specific information. The charge, which was filed with the Washington Regional Office of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, claims that the agency violated the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute by failing to consult with the union before changing the manner in which applications were evaluated. NWSEO was granted “national consultation rights” in 2002, which obligates NOAA to provide the union with prior notice of any proposed substantive change in conditions of employment as well as allowing the union a reasonable time to present its views and recommendations regarding the changes before they are made.

On or about Jan 6, 2022, NOAA began to disqualify applicants for promotion or reassignment if their resumes did not specifically include certain information such as the applicant’s citizenship, whether male applicants were registered for Selective Service, as well as certain specific information about paid and non-paid work experience such as job title, duration of employment expressed in a particular date format, and hours per week. According to the charge, these new requirements were imposed without consultation with NWSEO and without notice to employees or applicants. As a result, dozens of employees represented by NWSEO in its various bargaining units within NOAA were disqualified for consideration for positions for which they applied, including positions identical to those which they presently encumber.

The charge will now be investigated by the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s (FLRA’s) Office of General Counsel. If the FLRA’s Regional Director determines as a result of her investigation that there was a violation of the Federal labor statute, she will issue a formal complaint against NOAA and bring it to trial before a Federal Administrative Law Judge. 

(February 8, 2022)  According to Article 24 Section 18 in the contract, “National Weather Service Health & Wellness Reimbursement Program,” allows individuals to receive up to $300 per year for their health club fees, as well as other weight loss and smoking cessation programs.  This health and wellness program is open to all NWS employees and is available to you as a result of the hard work and determination of NWSEO.  It is important to NWSEO to support all that you are doing to create a healthier lifestyle.  In order to be eligible for this program, it is important that the correct forms be submitted to your supervisor no later than March 31, 2022.  For more information on this program, please click here: Health Program Guidance

To take advantage of this health and wellness benefit, employees will need to submit the following to their supervisor:

Form A must be completed to enroll in the program and must be submitted between February 1, 2022 and March 31, 2022 to receive benefits for 2022.

Form B must be completed to receive reimbursement for the employee’s previous year’s health and wellness fees.  Employees must submit Form B, Self-Certification Usage CD-326, and proof of payment for their membership/services to their supervisors no later than March 31, 2022.

Note: New NWS employees or existing employees unable to apply during the open season due to prolonged absences may apply within 14 days of returning to or entering service.

If you have any questions, please contact NWS Management and Organization Division, via email at daphne.love@noaa.gov or by phone at 301-427-6939.

(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-