(November 12, 2020) The Senate Appropriations Committee has released its proposed Department of Commerce Appropriations Act which includes increased funding for NOAA and the NWS and rejects the Administration’s proposed cuts to staffing at the NWS and at AOML, whose employees are also represented by NWSEO. The Appropriations Committee criticized NWS’s budget execution and for continued understaffing at the NWS. The Senate bill increased funding for AFS specifically to fill vacancies. “Committee provides an increase of $23,000,000 above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level for this purpose and directs NWS to reconcile previous year funding gaps and prioritize filling vacancies in currently understaffed WFOs.”
The House had approved an even higher funding level for the NWS, and the two bills must be reconciled in conference.
Here are excerpts from the Senate Committee Report accompanying the FY 2021 Commerce Appropriations Act:
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OPERATIONS, RESEARCH, AND FACILITIES [In thousands of dollars]
Central Processing.................................................................................... 97,980
Analyze, Forecast, and Support...................................................... 537,393
Dissemination .............................................................................................. 76,843
Science and Technology Integration........................................... 155,524
GRAND TOTAL NWS ........................................................................... 1,099,102
Spending Levels.—The Committee notes its frustration with NWS over its failure to adhere to spending levels included in Senate Report 116–127 and adopted by Public Law 116–93. The Committee reminds NOAA and NWS that the spending levels specified by Congress in the reports or explanatory statements accompanying its appropriations bills are not recommendations, but are in fact a requirement and that per the bill, ‘‘any deviation from the amounts designated for specific activities in the report shall be subject to the [reprogramming] procedures set forth in section 505 of this Act.’’
Continued disregard for the spending levels included in the explanatory statements will result in increased budgetary controls for NWS in subsequent fiscal years.
NWS Staffing.—The Committee recognizes and appreciates NWS’s work to fill vacancies, especially for weather forecast personnel.
However, there is a long way to go, and the Committee continues to be concerned with the number of NWS employee vacancies given the importance of the NWS mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens. The Committee does not adopt the proposed NWS workforce savings and directs NWS to continue efforts to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible.
Furthermore, NOAA shall continue to provide quarterly briefings to the Committees on all NWS staffing issues, to include: a list of funded vacancies, by type and location, including the length of time the positions have been vacant; the program, project, or activity [PPA] from which each vacancy is funded, and the plan for addressing each vacancy; an update on the implementation of the Operations and Workforce Analysis; budget execution by PPA; major procurements; and other topics as appropriate.
NWS Staffing in Alaska.—The Committee remains concerned about potential NWS staffing reductions in Alaska and reminds NWS that any staffing changes must comply with the reprogramming procedures set forth in section 505 of this act. Prior to proposing any staffing reductions, NWS shall conduct community outreach meetings in all affected communities.
Information Technology Officers [ITOs].—The Committee notes that NOAA still has not submitted a proposal for a pilot Regional Enterprise Application Development and Integration team. Until such a plan is submitted, and NOAA reports the results, the proposal to eliminate ITOs is rejected.
Analyze, Forecast, and Support [AFS].—The Committee recognizes the need to fully staff the Nation’s weather forecast offices [WFOs] and believes the requested levels within AFS do not meet this need. Therefore, the Committee provides an increase of $23,000,000 above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level for this purpose and directs NWS to reconcile previous year funding gaps and prioritize filling vacancies in currently understaffed WFOs.
Tsunami Warning Program.—The Committee rejects NWS’s proposed cut to the Tsunami Warning Program, including for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation program grants. Funding is provided at no less than $500,000 above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level to ensure that high-quality tsunami watches, warnings, and advisories are issued to safeguard lives and property. The Committee directs NWS to expeditiously fill the current vacancies.
Workforce Succession Planning.—The Committee is concerned that a large percentage of NOAA’s workforce is either currently retirement eligible or soon to be. Therefore, NOAA is directed to provide the Committee, within 270 days of enactment of this act, a report that details: (1) the age composition of NOAA’s workforce, to include an assessment of the percentage of staff by line office that are currently retirement eligible or will be within the next five fiscal years; (2) a summary of the agency’s current workforce succession plans, including any relevant documentation; and (3) any challenges to succession planning that could be remedied through legislation.
To support the cause and work of NWSEO, contact NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one cares more for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
employees than NOAA employees.
No one works harder for NOAA employees than NOAA employees.
We are NOAA employees. We are NWSEO.
(October 30, 2020) The NWSEO National Convention was a successful virtual one-day session. With over 100 NWSEO members present, NWSEO President John Werner and NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker facilitated and led the group through various informative sessions, reports, and new business.
Richard Hirn provided informative General Council and Legislative reports and answered many questions from members. Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker led and promoted the Political Action Committee (PAC) fund drive, where NWSEO members: Robert Ruehl, Mark Pellerito, Kimberly Vaughan and Evan Bookbinder shared their personal testimonies about why they contribute to the NWSEO PAC. Final PAC pledges and contributions totaled $17,405!
NWS Deputy Director Mary Erickson spoke to NWSEO members about the vision of the NWS and diversity. Dr. Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction performing the duties of Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere also addressed the Convention and highlighted his commitment and gratitude to the employees as well as explaining the NOAA efforts to address sexual harassment and assault issues. Dr. Jacobs also discussed his vision for improving computing and processing across NOAA.
NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer Chris Jacobson provided the annual financial report and presented the 2021 Budget. Later in the day he led discussion on the Constitution Committee report and proposed amendments. The NWSEO members were able to discuss and debate proposed Constitution/Bylaws amendments via a GoToMeeting session.
NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox reported 1593 members as of September 30, 2020, highlighting efforts of top recruiters and plans to host a membership drive in November. Congratulations to the Top Recruiter of the Year, Steward Doug Anderson, who presented “his story,” why he joined NWSEO and his recruitment tips.
NWSEO awarded the prestigious 2020 Kip Robinson Award to Karleisa Rogacheski. This annual NWSEO award, named after a late lobbyist who worked diligently for NWSEO, is given in recognition of members volunteering their time and talents to make NWSEO a stronger union. Karleisa has been active in the Credentials & Elections and Recruitment Committees. She has also served on the NWS Contract Negotiation Team. Over the past year Karleisa, has participated in time critical projects in preparation for the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) contract decision. She has been a contributor to other NWSEO efforts such as this Convention and the new NWSEO website.
She is also the NWSEO representative on an NWS Tiger Team charged with developing an assessment and recommendations examining the potential longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on NWS strategy, partnerships, processes, and people (specifically, workforce resilience and culture). Karleisa joins past Kip Robinson Award recipients 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, and Mike Dion and Mark Pellerito. Congratulations, Karleisa!!
Summary of Voting Results:
Acceptance of the Credentials Committee Report – Approved
Waiving of the Reading of the 2019 NWSEO Convention Minutes and Acceptance of the 2019 Convention Minutes – Approved
2021 NWSEO Budget – Approved
Implement Direct Voting for Regional Officers – Approved
Term Limits for President and Vice President – NOT approved
Elimination of Regional Councils – Approved
Adjust referendum amendment signature threshold – Approved
The 2021 NWSEO National Convention is scheduled in person for October 18-19, 2021 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV. The 2022 NWSEO National Convention is scheduled for November 7-8, 2022 in New Orleans, LA.
(September 11, 2020) NWSEO recently learned that the HotelStorm platform and business was discontinued June 30, 2020. The partnership of NWSEO and HotelStorm began in September 2016 and was a valuable benefit to many NWSEO Members. It provided exclusive hotel discounts with savings of up to 60% over other online travel agencies. However, we have noticed issues with HotelStorm for the last year.
We apologize for any inconvenience to our members.
NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox continues to research new options and benefits for our members. If you have ideas or suggestions, please email Christy at email@example.com.
September 10, 2020
Dear NWSEO brothers and sisters,
I hope this message finds you safe, healthy and your spirits strong. Special thanks to all who are helping and assisting our NWS brothers and sisters in Lake Charles as they strive to get their lives and office back in order following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Laura! The intent of this message is to bring you up to date on Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations/ issues and encourage you to participate in some important surveys you have or will be receiving.
Updates on Collective Bargaining Agreements
NWSEO leadership has remained busy working collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations and issues over the past several months. The good news on the negotiations front is that the CBA between the NOAA, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), Office of Satellite and Product Operations (OSPO) and the NWSEO passed membership ratification, and was signed by both parties this week. The NESDIS/OSPO – NWSEO CBA is now undergoing agency head review. NWSEO would like to recognize NESDIS Chairperson Hugh Sharkey, Kevin Turner (retired), Aaron Savage, Jake Cherrix, Stan Abney, Zach Dornhagen and Arla Tillman for their contributions toward making this new CBA a reality. Congratulations to NESDIS/OSPO bargaining unit employees on their new contract!
On the other hand, the challenges over how to move forward with a new NWS - NWSEO CBA continue. When the tentative CBA failed to pass membership ratification, NWSEO requested the parties return to the table on November 3rd to begin renegotiating the contract. This would allow the parties time to review all the articles, craft new proposals and allow negotiations to begin closer to the end of this remarkably busy tropical cyclone and fire weather season. NWS again refused to renegotiate any articles other than the four which were agreed to prior to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) assuming jurisdiction. NWSEO took this dispute to arbitration and the arbitration hearing was conducted on August 31, 2020 where both sides presented their arguments. The parties are now scheduled to file their written briefs by October 2, 2020 with their reply briefs due October 13, 2020. Once the reply briefs have been received, the arbitrator will have two months to render a decision on the matter, which puts a decision being made in the early to mid-December timeframe. In the meantime, the 2001 NWS-NWSEO Negotiated Agreement remains in place.
I have become acutely aware over the past year of how important survey results are to management’s decision-making process. To ensure your “voice is heard,” I strongly encourage you to participate in the upcoming 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) slated for a September 14, 2020 release. NWS employees should also complete the NWS Organizational Health Index (OHI) survey which closes September 25. The responses to these surveys compared to previous year’s survey statistics produce what is essentially a scorecard on how the agency is doing and the results frequently steer the future direction for NOAA and NWS. It is important that everyone’s perspective is accounted for in these surveys.
Thank you for your support and service to our country! Please be safe and take care of yourselves, your families, and coworkers.
President, National Weather Employees Organization
(September 2, 2020) NWSEO would like to recognize member Amy Fritz and her husband, Ryan for their heroic efforts in rescuing a young, autistic boy from a rip current while vacationing in North Carolina.
Amy, the National Cooperative Observer Program Manager at NWS Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD and Ryan, CEO of Science of Cardio, were surfing well off the coast of Frisco, NC when they saw a young boy playing in the surf. Knowing the NWS had forecast a moderate to high chance of rip currents in the area, they quickly realized that the boy was not playing; rather, the boy was caught in a rip current and was being carried out to sea. Being both trained in open water rescue, they knew they had to act fast. Ryan, also trained in advanced lifesaving, quickly turned his 8-foot surfboard around and made his way toward the boy, who was now flailing his arms about 100 yards from shore. With Amy keeping constant eye contact with the boy, Ryan was able to position his board between him and the boy and then he was able to grab the boy by his arm and eventually secure the exhausted child onto the board. As Ryan safely guided the boy on the board towards shore, Amy scanned the beach and quickly found the boy’s panic-stricken mother and explained what had happened and then assisted getting the boy to shore and reunited with his family.
Amy mentioned that she was very appreciative of the accurate rip current forecasts prepared by hard working NWS employees that lead to her and Ryan’s heightened situational awareness. Amy was also cautioning those on the beach of the increased risk which likely led people to think twice about swimming that day.
Congratulations to Amy and Ryan on a job well done!!!
(August 20, 2020) Congratulations to all NWSEO Recruiters and a tremendous THANK YOU for all of your efforts in sharing the work of NWSEO with your colleagues, making NWSEO stronger each day. The NWSEO Summer Madness Membership Drive ended Saturday, August 15th; however, recruitment is ONGOING! As you know, our membership support is the backbone and core of our organization. Never forget that as a member, you are in a highly effective position to help increase NWSEO membership and keep our professional organization strong.
Since March 2020, thirty-nine recruiters worked to strengthen our union by an additional 50 members. Out of that group, twelve members recruited two new members to join NWSEO. These top twelve members will receive the recruitment travel incentive for the 2021 National Convention in Las Vegas.
Congratulations to all, especially the top 12 members with two new recruits:
Members, please continue to reach out to non-members in your office and other regions! Ask your Regional Chair & Vice Chair for guidance or NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(August 13, 2020) NWSEO members resoundingly voted down the tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Final results, as certified by the American Arbitration Association (AAA), show contract ratification failed with 91% of voters voting “NO” to the tentative CBA and 9% voting “YES”. This landslide rejection shows clear evidence of the widespread displeasure among NWS employees with the tentative agreement’s terms.
The ratification vote for the tentative CBA was conducted by the AAA from July 28 through August 12.
In accordance with the agreed upon ground rules, NWSEO notified management that as the ratification vote has failed, the parties are now to resume negotiations.
Thank you to all members who voted. Your voice counted in deciding on our new contract and your membership fuels our union.
Please continue to speak to others about becoming a union member. Ask others to stand in solidarity for the rights of the employees. Join NWSEO today. For more information about membership please contact Christy Fox at email@example.com
(August 3, 2020) As you may recall, NWS unilaterally and illegally terminated the existing/2001 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in July 2017. NWSEO took the matter to arbitration and an arbitrator ruled the termination was indeed illegal. The agency appealed to the FLRA, which overturned the arbitrator’s ruling. NWSEO appealed that ruling, and late last week, our NWSEO General Counsel reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the FLRA’s decision and reinstated the arbitrator’s award that the NWS illegally terminated the 2001 CBA. This means that until a new CBA is in effect, the entire 2001 CBA remains in full effect, and the President’s Executive Orders limiting official time and grievance rights cannot be applied to our bargaining unit.
NWSEO has now demonstrated, at the second highest court in the land, that the NWS has acted illegally in the most fundamental aspect of its labor relations- terminating its CBA - an action personally approved by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
This is a profound victory not only for NWSEO, but for all the other Federal unions because the Court ruled that the FLRA has applied the wrong standard of review of arbitration awards and that they may not set aside arbitration awards if they deem the arbitrator’s interpretation of the CBA “unreasonable.” Using this improper standard, the FLRA has set aside nearly 2/3 of arbitration awards that have been in the union’s favor, but none that have been in management’s favor. Stated another way, the Court ruled that the FLRA may not substitute its judgment for that of an arbitrator’s interpretation of the terms of a CBA. It remains to be seen, however, whether the FLRA will correct its ways, or whether it will continue to set aside arbitration awards illegally and with impunity.
A copy of the decision is attached (link to pdf).
(July 31, 2020) This month, NWSEO filed three grievances on behalf of NWS employees involved in hiring panels and ongoing hiring actions, downgrades, and granting appropriate relief including back pay, compensation, and certification.
On July 10, NWSEO filed a grievance on behalf of a Senior Forecaster who was notified that he was selected for the Information Technology Officer (ITO) position but then removed from the certification due to the employee’s “lack of experience in the 2210 occupational series” and “no prior positions as IT Specialist.”
In the past, NWS employees could crossover to the ITO position from different positions within NWS. Also, Meteorologists (series 1340), Hydrometeorological Technicians (series 1341), Electronics Technicians (series 0856) and Hydrologists (series 1315) have qualified and were selected for ITO positions without having previously held an IT Specialist position. A 2020 NWSEO survey of current ITOs indicated that 66 percent of respondents were selected competitively from 1340 series applicants, with only five having IT-related degrees. This survey also showed that only 17 percent of ITO selections were previously IT Specialists.
The Executive Order (EO) on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates issued on June 26, 2020 focuses on modifying qualification and classification standards to eliminate degree requirements where possible. The EO states in part: “agencies assess candidates in a manner that does not rely solely on educational attainment to determine the extent to which candidates possess relevant knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities.” This recent EO supports the NWS’ long standing past practice allowing qualified employees to cross over to different positions within the NWS.
NWSEO requested that the employee be reinstated to the certificate for the ITO position and his unofficial selection be made official with back pay. NWSEO also requested future applications for ITO positions be carefully reviewed based on experience and training as opposed to strictly based on whether the applicant previously held an IT Specialist position or has an IT degree.
The second grievance filed involves the January 28, 2020 addendum to the GS 5-12 Meteorologist Progression Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that required employees to wait one pay period before being re-promoted. Higher graded meteorologists were applying for and being selected for entry level meteorologist jobs so they could transfer to another office. NWSEO received notification that management repudiated that agreement and the employees who received back pay because of the January 28, 2020 MOU would have to pay back that money. The three employees were downgraded without any advance notice and were later notified they had to pay back the monies received. These downgrades and backpay collections violated the MOU.
NWSEO requested the Agency abide by the January 28, 2020 Addendum to the MOU. The NWSEO requested that NWS send a notice to all employees, assuring that it will honor this MOU and will refrain from repudiating other MOUs in the future, or from otherwise engaging in bad faith bargaining or interfering with or restraining employees in the exercise of their rights under the Federal Services Labor-Management Relations (FSLMR) Statute. NWSEO requested that employees who were improperly downgraded be compensated for their waiting period, with their time-in-grade adjusted to show a one pay period waiting period before being promoted to their previously held grade and step.
The third and most recent grievance involves the Agency’s downgrades of employees without any notice of a pending downgrade, or due process resulting in a large loss of income. Although the employees’ grade and pay have been restored, NWSEO requests the Agency make systemic changes to its protocols so that no other unit employee is ever downgraded without first being provided adequate notice and opportunity to reply.
NWSEO is working to ensure fair labor practices protect the rights of all NOAA bargaining unit employees in five bargaining units. Your membership support is greatly appreciated!
(July 16, 2020 pdf) The President had proposed to eliminate 365 positions in the National Weather Service, and $39.1 million in associated funding, for FY 2021. This included 248 forecasters, 84 Information Technology Officers, 8 employees at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s Climate Prediction Center, and 25 physical scientists and other staff at the two tsunami warning centers, which the President had proposed to consolidate. In addition, the President also proposed to eliminate 20 researchers at the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s (OAR’s) Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Key Biscayne, FL who are also represented by NWSEO, as well as $5.1 million in associated funding.
All the above-mentioned personnel and funding cuts were rejected as a result of NWSEO’s lobbying efforts - 385 positions and $44.1 million in associated funding in total.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a funding increase of $102 million overall for NOAA for total funding of nearly $5.5 billion. Total appropriations for NWS operations are proposed to be increased by 4.4% or $43 million over FY 2020 to $1,112,073 under the House bill. Analyze, Forecast and Support (AFS) has been increased by $24.4 million or 4.8%. The Committee also approved a $1 million increase for the line item that funds in part the attorneys in the NOAA Office of General Counsel, who are also represented by NWSEO.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet taken formal action on the FY 21 Commerce Department budget. There may be change to these overall numbers once they do which will have to be reconciled in a conference between House and Senate negotiators before the final passage of the bill.
Highlights of the House Appropriations Committee Report on FY21 NOAA Budget (quoted verbatim):
The Committee recommends a total of $5,454,068,000 in discretionary funds for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is $101,890,000 above fiscal year 2020 and $827,661,000 above the President’s request. In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (Public Law 116–136) included $20,000,000 for NOAA to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
Climate Research.—The Committee provides $190,000,000 for Climate Research and rejects the reductions to Climate Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and the termination of climate research at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and directs NOAA to continue this work at no less than the level of funding provided in fiscal year in 2020.
National Weather Service—The Committee recommends $1,112,073,000 for National Weather Service (NWS) Operations, Research, and Facilities, which is $46,372,000 above the President’s Budget request. The Committee reaffirms its commitment to the weather enterprise and the necessity of maintaining the mission of protecting life and property within the Federal Government. While the Committee does not oppose the continued growth of the private weather industry, the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters epitomize the need for the public provision of this critical information.
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.
Central Processing—The recommendation includes $102,538,000 for Central Processing while rejecting the proposed reduction to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services System and the proposal to terminate 84 Information Technology Officers who are critical to delivery of timely and actionable forecasts.
Analyze, Forecast, and Support—The recommendation includes $538,000,000 for Analyze, Forecast, and Support activities, but does not adopt the proposed NWS workforce savings that would only serve to exacerbate the staffing problems noted above. The Committee further rejects the proposed consolidation of the functions of the Climate Prediction Center and the Weather Prediction Center at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, as well as the termination of Aviation Science Research to Operations, and provides no less than the fiscal year 2020 amount for each of these activities.
Tsunami Warning Program—The Committee rejects the proposed reduction to the Tsunami Warning Program and instead provides no less than the fiscal year 2020 level for this critical program.
(July 9, 2020 pdf) The FSIP has issued its decision on the “impasse” between the NWS and NWSEO over the new NWS Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Both parties were notified of this decision late yesterday. The decision can be read in its entirety here.
In short, the FSIP ruled against NWSEO on 23 articles, ruled in NWSEO’s favor on three articles and inserted their own language into two articles.
The 333-page decision is under review and we will follow up with additional information when the review is complete. On an up note, the scheduling articles (Articles 20 and 21) from the existing (2001) CBA are preserved.
For now, it is important to note that the existing (2001) contract will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
NWSEO members will have an opportunity to vote whether to ratify the new NWS CBA or not as we proceed forward.