(February 19, 2021) NWSEO continues to collect nominations for our “NWSEO Member Spotlight,” showcasing the work, dedication and talents of our members, inspiring others and connecting all of our union members.
Meet Paul Fike, Former Steward and Lead Forecaster at the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, MO, who retired at the end of January 2021 after over 36 years of service!
What sparked your interest in a career in weather?
My interest in meteorology started when I was 8 years old. I grew up in the southern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. On January 26, 1967, a blizzard dumped 23 inches on the Chicago area. It remains the most snow that I have ever seen from a single storm and triggered my interest in meteorology.
What is your history working with the NWS?
I started working with the NWS at the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) in August 1984. If you asked me in graduate school where I wanted to work, it would be NSSFC. I was also fortunate to work alongside my best friends for the first 10-12 years of my career. I met them in graduate school at St. Louis University. I also worked with former classmates from my undergraduate days at Northern Illinois University.
At NSSFC, I started in the National Public Service Unit and was promoted to Severe Local Storms Unit (SELS) Assistant forecaster in February 1987. In February 1992, I was promoted to the Convective SIGMET Unit which was part of the National Aviation Weather Advisory Unit (NAWAU). The SELS portion of NSSFC moved to Norman, OK and became the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). NAWAU became the AWC and remained in Kansas City. I was promoted to AWC Lead Forecaster in August 1996 as part of the charter group of AWC Leads. I held that position until my retirement on January 30, 2021.
Describe the most interesting/unusual experience in your work.
I always found my work interesting since every day is different. When you are forecasting on a national scale, there is always something to look at. I was a magnet for computer problems when I worked. On one occasion at 1 AM, the lights went out, but the computers stayed up. A few seconds later, the lights came back on, but the computers all went down.
Why did you join the NWSEO?
I joined the NWSEO due to the role that NWSEO plays in stating our case before Congress during budget deliberations. NWS management is confined to supporting the President’s budget. NWSEO has been an advocate for the NWS employees to the members of Congress who are making decisions on our future budgets.
Briefly discuss your leadership roles and your active participation within our union.
I was the first NWSEO steward for the AWC. I think my term started in 1995 and ran until 2001. During my tenure, three major events stand out: a budget crisis at the start of my tenure; the creation of the Collaborated Convective Forecast Product (CCFP); and the move of AWC from the federal building in downtown Kansas City to its present location which it shares with Central Region Headquarters and the NWS Training Center. The budget crisis showed the importance of your customers as advocates before Congress during tough budget times. The CCFP still exists today and is now known as the Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast (TCF). As steward, I worked with management on the impact and implementation of the CCFP.
I also was the national NWSEO representative on the NWS Strategic planning team. Later teams were able to complete this task. I was the NWSEO team lead for the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) team in the 2000s. Through the hard work of team members and the forecasters, we were able to successfully implement the graphical AIRMET (G-AIRMET) in 2008. In 2010, AWC and NCEP Central Operations shared a Department of Commerce Silver medal for this accomplishment. Since 2010 until my retirement, I was a team lead or a representative on teams working on the planning and transitioning from N-AWIPS to AWIPS 2 at the national centers. I have also been NWSEO representative on AWC Local Office Team (LOT) Working groups. I received Regional Isaac Cline awards in 2013 and 2020 for Program Management and Administration.
Current NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker and current AWC Steward Shari Mutchler were team members who worked with me on the GFA project.
Would you recommend joining/supporting NWSEO to others and if so, why?
My reason for initially joining the NWSEO is still valid today. With uncertain budgets ahead, the importance of NWSEO being an advocate for NWS employees is just as great if not greater today. I would recommend joining the NWSEO to support those efforts.
If you could improve one thing about your job, what would that be?
AWC has been able to successfully transition to remote operations during the pandemic. It is a major accomplishment and revolutionized the way we work. About 2/3 to 3/4 of our staff is working remotely. I would like to get past the pandemic and have everyone back on station when it is safe to do so. The camaraderie of the staff is diminished during remote operations.
On a national scale, I am hopeful that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be agreed to soon. I appreciate all of the work that the negotiation team has done on this. I am a believer in Quality Through Partnership. I like when management and NWSEO are able to work together to solve problems. I realize that this is not always possible, but I would like to see more of that not just in NWS/NWSEO, but in the world today.
What is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
My nephew was married in Hawaii on December 31, 2006 on the island of Kauai. I was able to travel to Hawaii for the wedding and the combination of his wedding and enjoying the beauty of Hawaii with family made for a memorable vacation.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
When I enrolled at the University of Illinois in 1977, I was signed up for a pre-pharmacy curriculum. However, before the fall semester began, I changed my mind and decided that I wanted to become a meteorologist.
NWSEO extends its warmest congratulations to Mr. Fike on his retirement and greatly appreciates his time and contribution to the NWSEO Member Spotlight. After supporting the work of NWSEO since 1988, we welcome Mr. Fike as a Lifetime Member of our union.
NWSEO publishes feature stories like this as a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other from across the nation, connect even more, and together, support each other in the work of NWSEO and in strengthening our membership.
Please submit your Member Spotlight suggestions and comments to Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(February 5, 2021) Congratulations to newly retired NWSEO Member David Saale of Kansas City, MO after serving 30 years in the NWS. Originally from Chillicothe, MO, Mr. Saale served in the Field Artillery Unit of the Army during 1976-79 in Augsburg, Germany. He began his career with the NWS National Logistics Support Center (NLSC) shortly after working for a printing company in the Kansas City area. Mr. Saale joined NWSEO in 2008 when he first met former Executive Vice President Bill Hopkins and General Counsel Richard Hirn in their visit to NLSC. “Richard Hirn and Bill Hopkins were very professional and shared with me that this would be a smooth transition and it was. My NWSEO contacts have always been helpful with any questions or problems that I inquired about,” he stated. Mr. Saale served as NLSC steward from 2008 until his retirement on January 2021.
In recent months, Mr. Saale contributed to a massive effort where NLSC shipped over 300,000 masks to NOAA federal employees.
When asked, would you recommend joining and supporting NWSEO to others; if so, why? Mr. Saale replied, “Employees should step up and support the work of NWSEO. I encourage employees to aid the only union with the ability to participate in collective bargaining for NWS employees (as well as NESDIS, AOC, AOML, OGC), creating better working conditions for all.”
The NWSEO salutes Mr. Saale and his great support of NWSEO membership and active involvement.
We hope feature stories like this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more, and together, support each other in the work of NWSEO and in strengthening our membership.
Please submit your Member Spotlight suggestions and comments to Christy Fox at email@example.com.
Submit forms by Wednesday March 31, 2021
(January 26, 2021) The NWSEO negotiated NWS Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program allows NWS employees to be reimbursed up to $300 per year as a health club membership dues rebate. This rebate also covers certain weight loss and smoking cessation programs. In order to be eligible for the programs, it is important that the correct forms are submitted to your supervisor no later than March 31, 2021. Complete information on the program is available here: Health Program Guidance
To take advantage of this important benefit, employees will need to submit the following to their supervisor:
Form A to Enroll must be submitted between February 1, 2021 and March 31, 2021 to receive benefits for 2021.
Form B to Receive Reimbursement must be submitted before March 31, 2021 for reimbursement for the prior year 2020. Employees must submit Form B, Self-Certification Usage CD-326 and proof of payment for membership/services to their supervisors no later than March 31, 2021.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 301-427-6939.
Remember, this health club and wellness benefit is available to you solely because of the work of NWSEO. It is just one more way to demonstrate the strength and benefits your membership provides.
Thank you for your membership and the support it brings to our professional organization.
(January 11, 2021) Active NWSEO membership is the lifeblood of our professional organization. It is through the strength of our members that NWSEO is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to help save jobs and programs, promote better working conditions, enhance career opportunities, and participate in collective bargaining for the bargaining units we represent. Your membership and willingness to be an active NWSEO member have certainly helped propel each of our units to be world-class within the U.S. Federal Government, DOC and NOAA.
NWSEO dues via payroll deduction (Form 1187) are set at one percent (1%) of your salary to a maximum of $24.30 per pay period, as of January 3, 2021 (Pay Period 1). This minimal increase of 24 cents per pay period over 2020 reflects the Federal salary increase of one percent for 2021. As directed by the President’s Executive Order signed on December 31, this salary increase applies to all areas, with no additional increase allocated for locality pay.
If you pay by credit card, monthly dues for 2021 are $52.65. Semi-annual dues for 2021 are $315.90 and annual dues are $631.80.
Thank you for your service and continued membership support!
(January 9, 2021) Please meet NWSEO Lifetime Member, Suzanne Sims of Tucson, Arizona. Ms. Sims reflects on her time as a member of NWSEO, which began in 1995.
- Briefly tell us what sparked your interest to pursue a career in weather?
My father was a meteorologist. He got his MS from the University of Wisconsin and worked as a meteorologist at Fort Huachuca when I was growing up in Southern Arizona. There was always a NOAA Weather Radio in the house, and rain gages being measured, and my father taught me how to identify different cloud types at an early age. My parents actually met at the University of Arizona, in the Atmospheric Sciences department when my father was a research scientist, and my mother was Dr. Louis Battan’s secretary. Dr. Louis Battan is well known for his research on radar meteorology and cloud physics. So, when I ended up studying there, the professors knew my parents and welcomed me aboard. In other words, my career in weather was sort of predetermined.
- What is your history working with the NWS?
I began my career in February 1990 as a Met Intern at Weather Service Office (WSFO) Phoenix. In 1994, I was promoted to a Journey Forecaster position in Sacramento, then transferred to neighboring Monterey in 1998. I was promoted to Lead Forecaster a year later and worked in Monterey until I retired at the end of February 2020. After retiring, I immediately returned to my home state of Arizona, and now live in Tucson.
- Describe the most unusual/interesting experience in your work.
During the first summer of my career, I got the chance to take a flight on one of the Hurricane Hunter planes during the Southwest Area Monsoon Project (SWAMP) as NOAA and National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) researchers studied monsoon thunderstorms in Mexico. It was also during that summer that I took the weather observation that closed down Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport when the temperature hit 122 degrees. The density altitude charts only considered temperatures as high as 120 degrees then but were modified by the following summer to account for temperatures as high as 130 degrees.
- Why did you join NWSEO?
I joined NWSEO in 1995 when a government shutdown and a possible furlough loomed. I should have joined much earlier in my career.
- Briefly discuss your leadership roles and your active participation with our union.
I served as branch steward and vice-steward at both the Sacramento and Monterey offices. I became Western Region (WR) Chairperson in 2013 and served in that role until this past October. I was also on the NWS Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Negotiations Team.
- Would you recommend joining and supporting NWSEO to others; if so, why?
Absolutely! Being part of NWSEO gives bargaining unit employees a means to steer the course of the NWS by participating in local, regional and national teams, and providing feedback on future contracts. Join NWSEO! Go to conventions, get involved, and run for office! Honestly, the most rewarding aspect of my career was serving as WR Chair. Relationships that I fostered in that role directly helped employees in WR, and our Regional Labor Council actually got important things accomplished within our region.
- If you could improve one thing about the job you held, what would that be?
As stated previously, I should have joined NWSEO earlier in my career.
- What is the best place you've traveled to and why?
Hawaii!! The Big Island and Kauai are my favorites of the Hawaiian Islands, but they are all wonderful.
- Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
Up until recently, I had never watched the TV show Lost. I read somewhere that it was the perfect show to binge-watch during a pandemic, and since I had never seen it, I gave in. It is now my latest TV obsession. Don’t tell me how it ends, though...I’m now in the final season.
The NWSEO congratulates Ms. Sims on her retirement. We are grateful for her service and tremendous support of NWSEO membership and the Political Action Committee (PAC) funding and also for participating in the NWSEO Spotlight article.
NWSEO recognizes and congratulates Suzanne Sims and all of our Lifetime Members.
We hope feature stories like this will encourage NWSEO Members to get to know each other from across the nation, connect even more, and together, support each other in the work of NWSEO and in strengthening our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight suggestions and comments to Christy Fox, email@example.com.
Dear NWSEO brothers and sisters,
As we take a moment to reflect on this past year, truly a year of disbelief, I’ve considered our top milestones in 2020.
NWSEO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS
This has been a record year for contract negotiations. First, the NESDIS Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was ratified by the NESDIS union members and signed by the parties. This is a big accomplishment for Chairman Hugh Sharkey, Aaron Savage, Jake Cherrix, Stan Abney, Zach Dornhagen and Arla Tillman.
Next, the contracts for the NOAA Attorneys Guild (NAG), Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) were opened for renegotiation.
Last, the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) took jurisdiction over the NWS contract negotiations and adjudicated the 29 contract articles in dispute. The NWS contract ratification vote on the imposed contract was conducted electronically, with the NWS NWSEO members overwhelmingly rejecting the contract by a vote of 91% to 9%.
A new dispute arose when NWSEO requested the parties return to the table to renegotiate the NWS contract. Management would only negotiate over the four articles agreed upon prior to the FSIP taking jurisdiction and NWSEO demanded to negotiate the contract in its entirety. The matter was taken to arbitration. Arbitrator Greenburg ruled NWS breached negotiations ground rules and ordered NWS back to the bargaining table to renegotiate over 17 articles. The arbitrator however, ruled the NWS is not obligated to renegotiate provisions imposed by the FSIP. NWSEO is appealing this portion of the ruling. In the meantime, NWS management must maintain the status quo by honoring the 2001 CBA.
OUR FIRST VIRTUAL NATIONAL CONVENTION
The 2020 NWSEO National Convention was a successful virtual one-day event. Over 150 members registered for this event. NWSEO President Werner, NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker and NWSEO Secretary-Treasurer Chris Jacobson facilitated informative sessions, reports, and new business. NWSEO awarded the prestigious 2020 Kip Robinson Award to Karleisa Rogacheski.
The 2021 NWSEO National Convention is scheduled in person (fingers crossed) for October 18-19, 2021 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV. Look for information on steward training in the upcoming 2021 Notice of Convention.
STRONG MEMBERSHIP PERSISTS DESPITE COVID, RETIREMENTS, PROMOTIONS & SEPARATIONS
NWSEO welcomed 122 new and renewed members during 2020. From our larger bargaining units, Central Region leads in total number of new members with 24, followed by Eastern Region with 21 new members for the year. NWSEO members from the agencies (NWS, NAG, AOML, AOC and NESDIS) have invited and encouraged growth of our union and together, current NWSEO membership is now at 1,591 members.
NEW NWSEO WEBSITE
2020 saw the launch of a much needed new and improved NWSEO.org website. Our website is an important resource for employees, media contacts, elected representatives, and the public. The new NWSEO.org has been a challenging effort due to the massive content of the former website, which contained over 1,000 pages of important information. We continue to work to improve this new website for our members. New features were added to the website to improve the user experience including:
- Mobile/tablet device friendly site
- Search feature to make it easier to locate important information
- Subscription service for website updates
- Improved NWSEO store
- Password-protected section for NWSEO Officers
IMPROVED MEMBER ENGAGEMENT
Member feedback is valued and important, and we have taken several opportunities to survey our membership on important issues in 2020. We reached out to HMTs about the OPL dispute to gain their feedback. We surveyed members for their feedback on the new NWSEO website, convention location and various work/life issues. We will continue using surveys to collect feedback from members in 2021. Please help us gather your input by responding to our surveys and ensure your voice is heard.
RECRUITMENT INCENTIVE REMINDERS
NWSEO CONVENTION TRAVEL INCENTIVE. Any NWSEO member who recruits two or more new members to join NWSEO using the Membership Form 1187 for payroll deduction (not by credit card) from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2021, NWSEO will provide reasonable airfare, 3 nights lodging, and approved group meals for the 2021 NWSEO Convention at the Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV on October 18-19, 2021. The name of the recruiter must be on the submitted Form 1187 in order for them to receive recruitment credit.
NEW HIRE ENROLLMENT INCENTIVE. NWSEO offers a New Hire enrollment incentive through December 31, 2022. Any newly hired employee (NWS, NESDIS, AOC, AOML, NAG) who joins NWSEO by Form 1187 (payroll deduction) within nine months of their start date, or during a New Employee course or its equivalent, will receive a $300 dues rebate via check mailed to the new member’s home address within 7 business days.
MEMBER REWARDS FOR BOTH NEW & LONG-TIME MEMBERS. Any NWSEO member who recruits a fellow non-member to join NWSEO by Form 1187, will receive a NWSEO t-shirt and a $50 gift card (of their choice). The new member will receive a $100 dues rebate mailed to his/her home address within 7 business days and a $50 gift card (of their choice). This enrollment incentive expires December 31, 2022.
CHEERS TO 2021
With the challenging 2020 year behind us, let’s push forward with hope, courage and renewed vigor to make 2021 the best year ever for NWSEO members. It’s through your talents, efforts, and dedication that the bargaining units NWSEO represents are so widely trusted and respected by our partners, peers, Congress and the public. Wishing you and yours all the best for a safe, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
President, National Weather Service Employees Organization
(November 30, 2020) Due to the requests of many members, NWSEO has extended the NWSEO Membership Drive “Turkey Throwdown,” through Tuesday, December 15th. November has been an incredibly busy time for so many in different areas of the country, not only due to COVID-19 concerns but also because of the Presidential election and the holiday season. “This recruitment drive has been much more about outreach, staying connected, and checking in on our colleagues during this pandemic. We should continue to reach out to our members and show that we care,” said NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox.
The current NWSEO Membership is 1,597.
The Top Recruiter for the Turkey Throwdown who recruits three or more new members by payroll deduction (Form 1187), will receive a $200 cash rebate check, a gift BOX from the Membership Director AND be eligible to win a paid trip for you and another NWSEO Member to attend the 2021 NWSEO National Convention at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada to include reasonable airfare*, 3-nights lodging, and approved group meals. The Winner of the Turkey Throwdown will be announced on December 16, 2020.
*In order for airfare to be reimbursed, you must be able to provide documentation that it is the lowest available rate, purchased at least 21 days before the convention, unless approved otherwise. Printed copies of airfares from Expedia or other travel sites may serve as documentation.
To help in your recruitment efforts, a “Recruitment Room” has been created on our website at https://nwseo.org/recruitment-room/. We welcome your input and suggestions to this section of resources.
Be sure to submit the Membership Form(s) 1187 (no social security nor timekeeper numbers are needed) directly to NWSEO Membership Director Christy Fox. Scan/email the membership form to firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax to (202) 600-2145. You can also text a readable image to (202) 907-3036.
(November 28, 2020) In August, NWSEO’s membership rejected the proposed NWS-NWSEO collective bargaining agreement by a nine-to-one vote. After the vote, the NWS protested the fact that the entire agreement was submitted to the membership for ratification. According to the NWS, the union’s membership only had a right to vote to approve the four articles of the agreement to which the parties had agreed before the NWS prematurely declared impasse, and not the 13 articles to which they agreed during bargaining that occurred after impasse was declared, nor the 29 articles that were imposed by the Federal Service Impasses Panel.
When the NWS refused to return to the bargaining table to renegotiate anything other than the initial four articles to which the parties had initially agreed, the union asked a Federal labor arbitrator, Keith Greenberg, to resolve the dispute over whether the union had a right to ratify and renegotiate the entire agreement.
On November 27, Arbitrator Greenberg issued his decision. In summary, he held that:
- The union had the right to ratify the entire CBA, including the Panel imposed provisions;
- NWSEO has a right to renegotiate all 17 articles to which the parties voluntarily agreed, and not just the four articles to which they agreed before the NWS declared impasse;
- NWS could elect, but was not required to, renegotiate the 29 articles imposed by the FSIP;
- The NWS violated the parties’ ground rules by refusing to give NWSEO a copy of the entire agreement, including FSIP imposed provisions, for the ratification vote, and by failing to conduct an editorial review of the final agreement with the union before the ratification vote.
As a remedy, he ordered that the union has a choice:
- either the union can now demand that the NWS return to the table over the 17 articles that were not part of the Panel’s final decision, or
- the union can demand that the NWS provide a final version of the agreement, conduct an editorial review, and then allow NWSEO to conduct another ratification vote on that edited version of the final agreement, and return to the bargaining table over the 17 articles if it fails ratification again.
NWSEO disagrees with the Arbitrator’s decision that the NWS does not have an obligation to renegotiate the provisions imposed by the FSIP - it contradicts his decision that the membership had a right to ratify the entire agreement, including the FSIP imposed provisions. NWSEO will be filing an appeal of that part of his decision with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Such appeals usually take a year before they are resolved.
In the meantime, the union now has a right to renegotiate the 17 articles to which the parties had agreed on their own, and to seek a better deal for the members on the subjects they cover, which include:
Parties and Purposes of the Agreement
Recognition and Unit Designation
Reduction in Force
Laws and Regulations
Rights of Employees
Rights of the Union
Equal Employment Opportunity
Rights of Management
Surveys and Questionnaires
It is unknown how long this negotiation process may take, and it may involve another trip to mediation and to the Federal Service Impasses Panel if the parties are unable to come to an agreement on these articles. Impasse proceedings usually take four to six months. The members will then have another opportunity to vote on whether to ratify the new agreement.
In addition, the union has a suit pending in Federal court in Washington, DC challenging the legality of the FSIP decision imposing the 29 articles. This suit alleges that the FSIP’s decision is illegal because the individuals appointed to the Panel by President Trump were not confirmed by the Senate. The suit also alleges that the FSIP did not have jurisdiction over the NWS-NWSEO bargaining dispute because the parties were not really at impasse in their negotiations- as evidenced by the fact that the parties continued bargaining after the FSIP accepted the case and actually came to agreement on 13 additional articles.
In light of the length of time it will take to renegotiate at least the 17 articles as ordered by Arbitrator Greenberg, the union’s appeal of that portion of his decision concerning whether the NWS must also renegotiate those provisions imposed by the FSIP, and the union’s lawsuit challenging the legality of the FSIP’s decision, it is unlikely that there will be a new NWS-NWSEO collective bargaining agreement anytime in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, as a result of this summer’s Court of Appeals decision in NWSEO v. FLRA, the NWS must continue to honor the 2001 collective bargaining agreement.
(November 23, 2020) NWSEO continues to collect nominations for our “NWSEO Member Spotlight,” showcasing the work, dedication and talents of our members, inspiring others and connecting all of our union members.
Meet Andy Boxell, NWSEO Central Region Vice Chair and Lead Forecaster in Milwaukee, WI.
Briefly tell us what sparked your interest to pursue a career in weather?
I think like many meteorologists, weather has always been a “thing” for me. Growing up in southern Indiana, severe weather was a regular occurrence, and that really helped feed an interest in the subject. And while not as common, ice storms weren’t unheard of, and heavy snow was especially impactful since the region doesn’t have nearly as much capacity for clearing roads as more northern locations. In fact, the December 22-23, 2004 winter storm brought nearly 2 feet of snow to the area, closing Interstate 64 for 3 days (and delaying our vacation to Florida by 2 days). To this day, that’s still the most snow I’ve ever seen from a non-lake effect snow event!
What is your history working with the NWS?
I started out as a SCEP student (precursor to Pathways) at the Louisville, KY WFO during the summer between my junior and senior year of college at Valparaiso University. I then split my time during the school year between WFO Northern Indiana and WFO Chicago, since they are about equidistant from Valpo. After graduation, I remained at WFO Chicago as an Intern, and then transferred to WFO Springfield, MO as a General Forecaster. After about 7 ½ years in Springfield, I moved to WFO Milwaukee as a Lead Forecaster.
Describe the most unusual/interesting experience in your work.
Each office I’ve worked in has had something unique, but my time in Springfield was especially busy and impactful. During my time there, I worked several record-breaking flash floods, ice storms, and countless severe weather events, including being on mids during the Joplin tornado.
I spent the last half of my midnight shift after the Joplin tornado acting as a Public Information Officer for the office, doing live phone interviews on WNYC, Fox News and CBS Radio, and the BBC, among others. By the end of that day our office had done interviews with media on 6 of the 7 continents.
When did you first join NWSEO, and what leadership positions have you held?
I joined NWSEO shortly after being hired full time as an Intern in Chicago. In Springfield, I was the vice steward or steward for much of my time there. Regionally, I’ve been the CR Vice Chairperson since 2016. In that capacity, I also serve as a remote steward for CWSU Aurora, IL and WFO Grand Rapids, MI.
What have been your experiences as part of the NWSEO leadership in Central Region?
As I became involved in leadership positions first at the local and then regional level, I came to see NWSEO has a vehicle for accomplishing positive change and workplace improvements in a collaborative way with management. If both parties are willing, I truly believe that by working together we’re often able to develop something better than either side could come up with on their own. I’ve been fortunate to work with managers at the local and regional level who see the value of a collaborative relationship, and Jim Lee and I have been able to bring about smart, positive change to how we do things across Central Region. The labor-management relationship does not always have to be adversarial!
If you could improve one thing about your job, what would that be?
The agency’s IT and web infrastructure are not only an enormous source of frustration for employees, but a huge liability for the agency. Issues with dataflow and Web access are daily occurrences at this point.
We have a lot of talented employees attempting to do their very best with an extremely limited budget and outdated equipment, but there’s only so much “patching” that can be done. It’s a good reminder that NWSEO is the *ONLY* entity that is able to directly lobby Congress on our behalf, including pushing for better resources for our IT folks who are trying their best to keep things running. Much of this lobbying is done behind the scenes, but we see the end result each year, as Congress often appropriates money well above what the agency requested. Without the efforts of Richard Hirn and others in recent years, not only would jobs have been lost, but we literally would not have been able to keep the lights on at times.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I’ve been homebrewing for almost 5 years. I just need to start making my own cheese and bratwurst to achieve the Wisconsin Trifecta!
We are so appreciative for Andy’s time and dedication to the work he and the members and employees of Central Region do every day and also, for participating in our NWSEO Member Spotlight. Many of you may have met Andy, perhaps at a NWSEO National Convention.
We hope this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more and, together, support each other in our work and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight, suggestions, and comments to Christy Fox at email@example.com.
Meet NWSEO Lifetime Member, Robert Ebaugh
(November 13, 2020 ) Please meet NWSEO Lifetime Member, Robert Ebaugh of Miami, FL. Mr. Ebaugh reflects on his time as a member of NWSEO, which began in 1997, the year he attended his first NWSEO National Convention.
“I look back fondly at all of the conventions that I was able to attend and participate in from 1997-2015. There were good times and bad.
My first convention was in Minneapolis when I was elected Southern Region Chair with Dan Sobien as my Vice-Chair. This came about from our efforts for NOAA to reprogram $750,000 to the NWS with a lot of work and assistance from General Counsel Richard Hirn and the NWSEO President at that time, Ramon Sierra. Richard, you were and are the best and I know you will be sorely missed when you finally retire!
I consider myself fortunate that Dan invited me to serve on the Credentials Committee when he became SR Chair. Thus, I attended every convention until 2015, my last one in Alexandria, VA. Through all of those years, I had the pleasure and was a pain to both JoAnn (Becker) and Delyne (Kirkham) while working on the committee.
I enjoyed being active in my work with NWSEO. I had many opportunities to strengthen the membership at that time and recruited many Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) students and interns over many years. I also helped to organize AOML, and I participated in the NWS Diversity Council and the Health and Safety team that secured the Health & Wellness benefits for NWS employees.
I wish the membership well and my heart is with you in the upcoming struggles for unions and especially government workers!
Stay Strong and Bless the NWSEO! I salute you, Richard and the council, and all of our active members!”
The NWSEO salutes Mr. Ebaugh and his great support of NWSEO membership and the Political Action Committee (PAC) funding and also for participating in the NWSEO Spotlight article.
NWSEO recognizes and congratulates Robert Ebaugh and all of our Lifetime Members.
We hope feature stories like this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more, and together, support each other in the work of NWSEO and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight suggestions and comments to Christy Fox, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(November 20, 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 email@example.com.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org
(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) 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.
(June 18, 2020) On June 15, the National Weather Service Employees Organization filed suit in Federal court in Washington, D.C. challenging the authority of the Federal Service Impasse Panel to impose contract terms on NWSEO and the NWS. The suit alleges that the FSIP has no legal authority because its ten members, all of whom were appointed by the President, were not confirmed by the Senate, as required by the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Three other Federal employee unions have brought similar legal actions against the FSIP.
NWSEO’s suit also alleges that the FSIP is acting in excess of its statutory authority because it intends to impose contract terms on NWSEO and the NWS in the absence of a bona fide impasse in negotiations. Progress towards a new NWSEO-NWS agreement continued to be made during the last three bargaining sessions in May, June and July 2019, and the parties continued to exchange new proposals and make agreements. Because of the progress towards a new agreement that was being made, on July 29 the union attempted to schedule additional bargaining sessions, proposing specific dates for August and September. However, the NWS’s chief negotiator refused to schedule any additional dates and wrote that the agency would only meet for one previously scheduled session on July 30 to provide the union an opportunity to unconditionally accept its outstanding proposals.
On December 19, 2019 the NWS filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel. On March 13, 2020 the Panel issued an Order asserting jurisdiction over the outstanding articles that had not yet been resolved during bargaining between the NWS and the NWSEO. The Panel ordered the NWS and the NWSEO to submit their “final offers” and a supporting position statement by March 30, 2020 and provided the parties with an opportunity to submit rebuttal position statements by April 10, 2020. Nevertheless, even after the Panel has exerted jurisdiction over this ostensible “impasse” in bargaining, the NWS and the NWSEO continued negotiations. Since March 30, the parties have, without Panel assistance, but with its full knowledge, voluntarily reached agreement on another thirteen articles of their successor agreement.
The matter is still presently under consideration by the Panel, which may issue a final decision following its next meeting on June 23. NWSEO has also requested that the Federal Labor Relations Authority issue a stay of the FSIP’s proceedings until NWSEO’s legal challenge to the FSIP is resolved in court. However, it is not known whether the FLRA will act on NWSEO’s request for a stay before the Panel issues a decision, which may come as early as next week.
NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer, Eastern Region Chairman David Solano
(June 17, 2020) Congratulations to our very own, David Solano, who is retiring later this month with nearly 31 years of service with the National Weather Service. Mr. Solano has served as an active leader, supporter, recruiter, and organizer of NWSEO and has worked with members from all over the country. He took a moment to share his experiences as a leader of our organization.
Dave, when did you begin your Hydro-Meteorologist career?
I began my Meteorology career back in 1984 upon graduating from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Meteorology. Upon graduation, I went to New York working for private industry until late 1989. It was in New York that I met and then happily married my wife Linda, and we just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past September 2019. I have been blessed with three children who have successfully “left the nest” to begin their own careers. In early 1990, I applied for and accepted employment in the NWS and since that day, I never looked back. My 30+ years of service began back at the Weather Service Office (WSO) at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton, PA International Airport as a Meteorologist Intern. I applied for and was promoted to Hydro-Meteorologist at the NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center (MARFC), in State College, PA. Eventually, I was promoted to Senior Hydro-Meteorologist at MARFC, the position I will be retiring from later this month.
Please share your experience(s) with NWSEO.
There are so many. Where do I start? I have had so many experiences throughout the years. To keep it simple, I have been a NWSEO member for nearly 30 years. I joined NWSEO upon my arrival into the NWS in 1990. Once I joined NWSEO, I immediately became active within the Union and continued to remain active my entire career. I served as Office Steward several times, Eastern Region Vice Chairperson for several years, Eastern Region Chairperson and national Secretary/Treasurer. I absolutely loved working for the NWS and NWSEO. I have a passion for supporting employees and supporting the NWS mission. Becoming a NWSEO member nearly 30 years ago was likely one of the smartest career moves I ever made.
As an active NWSEO member, I was able to serve on so many local, regional, and national teams and worked collaboratively with management to drive the NWS field offices forward with new products, services, technology, and innovation. Most recently was my involvement working collaboratively with management from the very beginning on the formation of the National Water Center (NWC). I cannot express my gratitude of having served as the NWSEO representative on several NWS/NWSEO Teams since 2009. Once the NWC was built, the NWC has continued to grow each year, reaching Initial Operating Capability, and created new, exciting positions within the NWS. More importantly, as the NWSEO representative, I have been invited to the NWC many times and I contributed, presented, and spoke to the leaders in the NWS Hydrology program representing the bargaining unit employees.
From an employee standpoint, as a past Steward, Vice Chairperson and Chairperson for Eastern Region and Secretary/Treasurer for NWSEO, I did my best to represent and provide representational services to those bargaining unit employees in need. I did my best when serving on the numerous local, regional, and national teams as an NWSEO representative. While I have done so much throughout the years, I am most proud of my two terms as NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer. During my years in this position, I am happy to report that our financials and investments continue to grow as the NWSEO balance sheet, income statements, and cash flow statements are solid. I feel assured the NWSEO is in the best financial state since its existence back in 1976. I know NWSEO has a bright future and will be stronger than ever in the years to come.
Recruiting new NWSEO has always been a passion of mine. I am also happy to report our NWSEO membership continues to grow and currently stands at ~1,625 members which is just off our all-time high of 1,632 members, even with the headwinds of promotions and retirements through the units under the NWSEO umbrella. I believe with a little effort from Stewards and NWSEO Members across the country throughout AOC, AOML, NAG, NWS and NESDIS, NWSEO can easily reach 1,700 members by years end.
With all the recent new hires, there’s opportunity to drive our numbers even higher and I call upon every NWSEO member to continue recruiting new AND existing employees from AOC, AOML, NAG, NWS and NESDIS into our professional organization.
Dave, why should AOC, AOML, NAG, NWS and NESDIS employees support the work of our union?
Why wouldn’t anyone want to support the work of our Union and the Labor movement? Think of it. Everything we have and enjoy, all the benefits we take for granted every day like days off, planning schedules, fixed schedules, alternate work schedules, entitlements to overtime, health benefits, pension benefits, health club reimbursements, paid vacation, annual leave, sick leave, retirement, unemployment insurance, social security, Family Medical Leave Act, parental leave, workers compensation, holiday pay, age discrimination laws, sexual harassment laws, collective bargaining rights, employee representation, lobbying and so much more, is because of the work of Unions like NWSEO.
As I said before, when you become an active NWSEO member, there will be the opportunity to work on both local, regional and national teams with Management to help develop and design new technology, integrate new science into operations and help develop new products and services to serve the nation. Serving and contributing on work teams will strengthen your resume and help propel your career and advancement. You need to be a NWSEO member to serve on these teams and by becoming a NWSEO member, you would be making the best investment decision in your life, an investment in yourself.
Your membership support and those who contribute separately to the NWSEO Political Action Committee (PAC) fund is the backbone for NWSEO in getting much needed vacancies filled, saving jobs, enhancing your working conditions, providing employee representation, forwarding the mission of saving lives and property, lobbying Congress to obtain full and adequate funding levels all agencies under the NWSEO umbrella (AOC, AOML, NAG, NWS and NESDIS), negotiating new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), work schedules that are work-life balance friendly, health club reimbursements, telework options (work-life balance) and so much more. Remember, some CBAs are open or about to become open and being renegotiated and you need to be a NWSEO member to ratify any new CBA (Contract). So, have your voice be heard. Be active and join NWSEO!
And finally, Dave, I’m sure members would like to know, what are you going to do now with all of your free time?
Ha-Ha! I’m going to do even more of my favorite hobbies: hiking, outdoors, travel and spend even more quality time with my beautiful wife and family. I’m looking forward to hopscotching around the world.
“In closing, I want to thank you, the employees of the NWS, AOC, AOML, NAG, and NESDIS around the country for your service. I want to personally thank everyone who served on the NWSEO National Council throughout the years, all Vice Chairpersons, and Stewards who give up their personal time to represent and serve the membership. I had so many people who helped mentor me throughout the years and for all those who assisted me, thank you. I also want to thank all the Stewards. Without your work as Steward, neither I or the NWSEO National Council and Chairpersons could do our jobs. Thank you all again for your support and service.
I respectfully ask: If you are not an NWSEO member, I strongly urge you to join the professional organization representing the women and men of AOC, AOML, NAG, NWS and NESDIS, the National Weather Service Employees Organization. I will be supporting NWSEO as an Associate Member in retirement for many years.
I am sure I will stay in touch with many of my NWS, AOC, AOML, NAG and NESDIS friends and colleagues”.
My best regards and in solidarity,
(June 15, 2020) NWSEO extends a heartfelt congratulations to Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern Region Chairperson David Solano on his upcoming retirement. With nearly 31 years of service with the National Weather Service, Mr. Solano has been an exceptional leader and union officer. He was pivotal in working with management on the formation of the National Water Center (NWC) and he served on many local, regional and national teams to drive the NWS field offices forward. Mr. Solano was a key member of the NWSEO Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Negotiation Team and the primary author of Contract Connect.
President Werner notes: “I've had the pleasure of working with Dave for over a decade now and have personally seen how he has put his heart and soul into NWSEO. It will be tough to see him go, but he'll never be forgotten! He's been an awesome colleague, good friend and a prime mover of NWSEO as well as a champion of the members we serve.”
Upon Mr. Solano’s retirement, Southern Region Chairperson and WFO Key West Steward Chris Jacobson will serve as NWSEO Secretary-Treasurer. Mr. Jacobson’s prior union leadership experience includes serving as Pacific Region Chairperson from 2014 to 2018. He has been the NWSEO representative on the NWS Mission Delivery Council since 2015 and also serves as a member of the NWSEO CBA Negotiation team. Mr. Jacobson was the Credentials Committee Chairperson in 2018 and has served as the Constitution Committee Chairperson since 2015.
You Can Help by Donating Leave via the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program
June 9, 2020 pdf copy
(June 9, 2020) Ms. Allie Burand, Meteorologist at the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) is in need of medical leave donations. Please review her message below.
“For those of you who do not know me, my name is Allie Burand and I am a newer meteorologist for the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit. I moved to Alaska in 2010 and worked for Penair as an aircraft dispatcher for 9 years before joining the AAWU in September of last year. In a surprising turn of events, I found out I was pregnant the same month I was hired at AAWU! My husband and I welcomed our baby boy, Owen Joe Burand, to the world on
May 1st. Since I have only been with AAWU for a few months, I had not accrued very much time off and am currently using all my available leave and advance leave to be home with our new baby. Fortunately, I have been approved for the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program which is why I am reaching out. If anyone has spare leave they would be willing to donate, it would be very much appreciated. Spending this time at home with my family is priceless.”
NWSEO Members have always been generous with annual leave donations for co-workers in need. If you are interested in donating leave for Allie, you may complete OPM form 630A. Please make sure the form is signed by you and Allie Burand is named as the recipient. Completed donation forms can be submitted by email to email@example.com.
If you would like to learn more about the Leave Transfer Program, including a full list of participants, visit: https://sites.google.com/noaa.gov/ohcs/policy-procedures/leave-time- and-attendance/voluntary-leave-transfer-program.
If you know of a NWSEO member in need of a medical leave donation and would like us to inform members, please have them contact NWSEO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NWSEO thanks you for your caring and generosity!
Meet NWSEO Steward Leah Pope
(May 29, 2020) Please meet NWSEO Steward Leah Pope, Hydrologist at Missouri Basin River Forecast Center (MBRFC) in Pleasant Hill, MO.
What brought you to the NWS and NWSEO?
My background is in civil engineering / water resources. I have a master’s degree in water management and hydro-informatics. I am fascinated in the math and science behind water and how it applies to the real world to help save lives. After earning my master’s degree, I got a job as a consultant to help calibrate the Community Hydrologic Prediction System (CHPS) model that RFCs use today. I enjoyed working on it and wanted a more “hands on approach”, so I applied and was selected for my current position at MBRFC. About 6 months later, I went to the NWS New Hires course and joined NWSEO because my office had no local representation.
How long have you been working with NWS? What do you do specifically?
I came to the NWS about 2 years ago. I forecast rivers in the Missouri Basin and do development work for the RFC including calibration and IDSS. That means I do lots of work with the CHPS model for forecasting floods, GIS to understand the physical components of the basin, and a suite of products to help portray the message.
What do you enjoy about your job? -about supporting NWSEO?
I am very happy with the work that we do on a daily basis because I enjoy the variety of tasks. I can be deep into coding one hour and then be coordinating with partners the next. I also enjoy that I can mix the technical with the creative sides of the brain. It is truly amazing to be a part of an effort to help save lives, like during the historic flooding of 2019. That was a tiring and unforgettable experience that happened within my first 6 months of forecasting.
When I joined NWSEO, I also became the local steward. I didn't mind because I thought it would be a good idea to help represent hydrologists and RFCs to NWSEO, but also to help my local office should issues arise. I feel that transparency and being open to different ideas are very important to not only solve issues but to find creative solutions. I try to involve my whole office in Local Office Team (LOT) decisions. I like that NWSEO, Central Region Chair Jim Lee in particular, is there whenever I have questions. I am also glad that 2 more people have since joined in my office!
Would you recommend joining NWSEO to others?
Yes! I think it is a good way to understand how decisions are made and what is going on around the NWS outside of your local office.
Any favorite hobbies, extracurricular activities or something we don't know about you?
I enjoy cooking, going to concerts, and travelling. I try to get to a new country every year, so I am excited for travelling to start back up after this corona virus “lock-down”.
We are so appreciative for Leah’s time and dedication to the work she and the members and employees of MBRFC do every day, and also for participating in our NWSEO Member Spotlight. We hope this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more, and together, support each other in our work and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight suggestions and comments to Christy Fox at email@example.com.
Dear NWSEO brothers and sisters,
I hope this message finds you well and your spirits strong. You all are amazing as you’ve continued to deliver exceptional support and services despite enduring a multitude of challenges and stresses during these unprecedented times. Your efforts and theirresults have been lauded by Agency leadership and members of Congress. I felt it was important to take a moment to update you on what has occurred during the past month. As always, NWSEO has continued to work diligently to represent your best interests, address issues and concerns, and work as collaboratively with management as possible to mitigate any negative impacts on your well-being.
May has not only kept NWSEO leadership busy but has presented some unexpected twists and turns. With that in mind, I thought it was important to take some time to focus on providing you an update on the following pressing issues and activities:
- Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) and our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)
- Addendum to the GS 5-12 Progression Program Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
- No Notice Reduction in Grades, Staffing Analysis
- Observing Programming Leader (OPL) Arbitration
- Union Grievances
FSIP and our CBA
As explained in the March 24 and April 10 Four Winds, the FSIP asserted jurisdiction over the 42 unresolved articles for the successor CBA. This came at the request of the NWS, after they walked away from the bargaining table and claimed that an impasse existed in negotiations. NWSEO contended the parties were not at impasse and have continued to bargain. Although NWS and NWSEO submitted their “final best offers” and supporting arguments for each of the unresolved articles as requested by the FSIP in April, NWSEO has continued to insist on bargaining until the FSIP reaches a decision. Since the FSIP asserted jurisdiction, NWSEO and NWS have successfully agreed to eight additional CBA articles, including four last week! As a result, the FSIP has allowed the parties to continue to negotiate and has not yet issued an order deciding which of the proposed articles the parties must incorporate into a new contract. Last week, NWSEO notified NWS that we wished to begin working toward agreements on an additional seven articles (20, 21, 27, 37, 41, 42 and 43) this week.
Addendum to the GS 5-12 Progression Program MOU
An unexpected twist…NWS management met with NWSEO on May 7, 2020 and notified NWSEO that they believed the Addendum to the GS 5-12 Progression Program MOU agreed to by both parties in January 2020 which passed Agency Head Review (AHR) on February 5, 2020 was illegal. We were further notified that Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 330.502 did apply per the November Addendum agreement which did not pass AHR. (AHR: The law essentially requires all agreements and MOUs to be approved for legal sufficiency by the head of the agency or their designee). NWSEO disagreed with management’s interpretation because if you take into account the context provided by CFR 330.501, it’s unclear that CFR 330.502 would apply. We requested management obtain an official interpretation of the CFR from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) before any action was taken. The management team at the table said this was unnecessary and that they would send us a previous audit finding from OPM that would support their position. We also requested that they provide us a detailed listing of who would be impacted by this reversal of the January 2020 addendum and the extent of the adverse impacts to employees. To date, NWSEO has not received this information. NWSEO reached out to those we thought might be affected to provide them a heads up on the actions that management might take going forward.
Management informed us that those employees who had received back pay would receive an Indebtedness Notice from the National Finance Center. Management agreed what had occurred was due to no fault of the employees nor the union and would assist affected employees in applying for an Indebtedness Notice waiver which they thought would be approved. The management team at the table agreed to contact local managers to have them assist employees on how to complete their individual waivers.
Another twist and a turn…a little over a week following the meeting, NWSEO heard from several affected employees that without notice, their pay grade had been reduced. For example, they were expecting to receive their pay at the GS-11 rate but received GS-5 pay. I notified the NWS management representative of this surprise when I learned about it on Saturday, May 16, 2020. I received a response that day he’d get to the bottom of it. I wanted to know what had happened and wanted folks who had received this unexpected pay cut to receive back pay immediately.
On the afternoon of May 18, 2020, I sent the following information request to the NWS management representative, which states in part:
“…This is a request for information necessary to file a grievance and a request for an extension of time to file a grievance.
We are investigating the Agency's declaration in our March 7, 2020 meeting that the GS 5-12 Addendum executed by NWSEO and NWS on January 28, 2020 and approved by Agency Head Review on February 5, 2020 was illegal, and that the Agency was no longer going to abide by it. We are also investigating the subsequent actions taken by the Agency and their adverse impacts to bargaining unit employees.
Pursuant to Article 6, Section 2 of the Parties’ CBA and 5 USC 7114(b)(4), NWSEO is requesting the following:
1. A copy of the 2015 Office of Personnel Management audit finding referenced during the May 7, 2020 meeting. In addition, we request any supporting documentation in sanitized form that explains the audit finding.
2. A list of all bargaining unit members impacted by this decision and the changes made to their eopf and pay from the time they entered the lower grade position to when the Agency determined from their perspective that the situation has been corrected to their satisfaction.
This information will include any change in grade, pay, indebtedness notifications/resolutions and any corrections associated with these actions. This documentation should be provided in sanitized form that ensures SSNs or other PII is masked.
3. Finally, we request the Agency provide written justification for its claim that 5 CFR 330.502 is applicable, when it is clearly not. The immediately preceding section of the regulations, 330.501, states:
“The restrictions in this subpart are designed to prevent circumvention of the open competitive examination system defined in Civil Service Rule 1.3 (5 CFR 1.3). These restrictions limit an appointee's immediate movement to another position after appointment from a competitive certificate of eligibles.”
It is clear that this subpart of OPM regulations does not apply because (a) the repromotion to the previous highest grade after one pay period was a non-competitive action and did not “circumvent” the competitive examination system; and (b) it was a career ladder promotion in the same position rather that a “movement to another position” which is what subsection 330.501 says is restricted.
On May 22, 2020, NWSEO received a response from management stating employees will be returned to their correct grade level and will receive back pay for pay period 9. We have not yet received a response to our information request. Management has 30 days to reply.
No Notice Reduction in Grades
Yet another twist that adversely impacted additional employees. As we reached out and tried to find those who may be affected by the management’s reversal on the Addendum agreement, we found another surprise. Some employees who had taken downgrades under the GS 5/7/9 hiring long before the Addendum agreement who served the full 90 days in the lower grade and never received back pay and hence, shouldn’t have been impacted by the recent turn of events, also received surprise, no notice down grades and received far less in their paycheck than anticipated. On Thursday May 21, 2020 NWSEO sent another information request to the NWS management representative which stated in part:
“…In addition to the members previously identified who fell under the conditions set forth in the January 2020 Addendum to the GS 5-12 Progression MOU and were demoted to lower grades without notice or due process, there are others receiving these no notice downgrades resulting in their paychecks coming up 100s of dollars short.
In order to ascertain the scale, impacts and causes of these adverse actions, NWSEO requests a listing of all downgrade actions that have occurred to bargaining unit employees since 4/12/20 through 5/25/20, the Agency’s justification for these actions and the current grade status of those employees adversely impacted by these downgrades…”
NWS Staffing Analysis
Unfortunately, there’s not much to update you on here. Chris Jacobson and I attended an informational top-level overview meeting with NWS leadership that are participating in this analysis. Chris and I offered our willingness to help and provide insight from the field level. We were thanked for the offer, but we have not been contacted. It’s our understanding the analysis is now complete and was briefed to the NWS Executive Council a couple of weeks ago. NWSEO is scheduled to receive another briefing during the afternoon of June 10. We hope to have details to provide following the June meeting.
On May 4, 2020, Arbitrator Evans gave the parties 30 days to settle the issue of backfilling OPL vacancies, and notified the parties that he will hold another hearing to determine whether the NWS is complying with his initial order if we do not resolve the matter.
NWSEO reached out to 1341-series employees and specifically to all 1341 GS-11 employees to find out if there was interest in applying for current OPL vacancies. We found there was interest in applying for some of the vacant OPL positions. NWSEO met with management and proposed that 10 OPL vacancies be advertised this year and a plan be developed to fill the additional vacancies over the next two years. Management is considering NWSEO’s proposal. If a resolution cannot be found, this matter will be decided by Arbitrator Evans.
Electronics Technician Merit Assignment Program Vacancy Grievance
On May 11, NWS denied the grievance NWSEO filed over the failure of the NWS to bid six GS-10/11 Electronics Technician (ET) vacancies in the Western Region via a “Merit Assignment Plan” or MAP vacancy announcement simultaneously with a Delegated Examining authority (or DE/CR) announcement. NWS stated in the denial, “NWS properly exercised its management rights to recruit externally for the ET vacancies and did not violate any past practice in choosing to advertise the vacancies as DE/CR only.”
NWSEO’s review of ET vacancy announcements over the past several years shows there has been a past practice established and that internal applicants have been selected and offered relocation expenses. By announcing these vacancies under DE/CR only with no PCS authorized, NWS has deprived internal applicants of the opportunity to transfer to other offices without relocation expenses paid.
NWSEO notified NWS today that this decision will be advanced to arbitration per Article 11 of the Parties’ CBA.
Discrimination against Internal Applicants for GS 5/7/9 DE/CR Vacancies Grievance
On May 15, NWSEO and NWS came to a settlement that was satisfactory to the employee represented in the grievance. Therefore, NWSEO withdrew the grievance asserting NWS wrongfully disqualified the employee for a position based solely on the basis that he already held a position within NWS.
Management’s unilateral implementation of the Alaska Regional Operations Center (ROC)
This grievance alleges that management unilaterally implemented a work schedule that had not been negotiated by the parties. NWSEO seeks an immediate remedy of working a schedule previously proposed by management and preferred to the current one followed by management’s commitment to return to the bargaining table to make a timely and good faith effort to negotiate a new schedule. The deadline for management’s response to this grievance was extended to June 4.
Although NWS and NWSEO seem to agree to disagree on a number of issues, the one thing we do agree on is that the safety of employees and their families is currently job number one. Our relationship regarding COVID-19 issues has evolved into one of collaboration with NWSEO attending one to two meetings a week with management on these issues. NWS Senior Leadership has solicited our feedback and have responded favorably to concerns we’ve brought to their attention.
Among some of us our anxiety levels are ramping up as there’s constant chatter about the “new normal”. What will it look like? Will it be safe or expose us to additional risks? We’re bombarded with information regarding a mirage of phased approaches to opening up America at the federal, state and local levels along with many dissenting and consenting voices on the topic and methods employed.
These activities are essentially out of our control, but we do have some influence on the NOAA/NWS approach. I’m happy to report that I’ve been told repeatedly that NOAA and NWS are going to take a conservative and scientific approach moving forward. At every briefing, a slide is provided showing the latest data along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and information put together by NOAA’s Captain Rathke along with his interpretation of the data.
Per our recent meetings, we are still in the mitigation phase or phase zero where we have been for weeks. To move into phase one, we’ll need ample sanitation and personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand, greater test availability, faster test turn around, and greater test accuracy. I’ve been told that phase one for offices supporting operational missions would just include some minor tweaks to provide some relief and may be based on the conditions at a given locality. Other NOAA units will gradually be allowed to bring back up to 25% of the staff to take care of some of the important work they do that they have not been able to do from home.
Moving forward there may be some disconnects between our more cautious approach and what's being done locally, but we have the final say in what we do in our federal facilities. We’ve discussed how our social distancing policies, minimum footprint for office staffing, sanitizing of offices and, of course, some luck has greatly mitigated the impacts to our folks and the mission and we want to be very cautious about changing what we're doing. Any changes to what we’re doing now at our offices will be conditions-based and we must ensure we have to keep adequate materials in place such as sanitizers and PPE. Safety of employees comes first, and therefore maximum flexibility in telework must remain. The fact that many of our NOAA folks in places like the DC area commute work using public transportation has been a key topic of discussion and a major concern in considering any changes to how we’re operating today going forward.
We’re still working to determine what phase two and three will look like, but it seems apparent that changes to current policy will evolve slowly and only as conditions become safe enough to relax current policy. As I’ve heard numerous times, this is a marathon not a sprint. No one can tell us with certainty how far along we are, but we’re far from the final mile.
Below are some helpful COVID-19 links gleaned from one of CAPT Rathke’s slides:
One more important note, the topic of face coverings was discussed at Tuesday’s NWS Operations meeting. Per the NWS Deputy Assistant Administrator and NWS Chief Operating Officer (COO), we will continue to follow what has been successful thus far. That is, employees should wear face coverings whenever they are unable to maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more. Within NWS offices, you should generally wear a face covering when entering or leaving the office, in common areas and bathrooms, or at any other times you cannot maintain a social distance of 6 feet. We were briefed at yesterday’s meeting that the NWS stance was shared with and supported by NOAA. In the future, any changes to the current NWS policy will likely come through the NWS COO.
Despite the numerous challenges presented, your NWSEO leadership team remains steadfast in fighting for the rights of employees and preserving jobs because you matter! The mission doesn’t get accomplished without your talent and dedication.
We need more motivated and dedicated employees to stand in solidarity for workers. Invite your co-workers to join us today to become a NWSEO member.
Thank you all for your service! Be safe and look out for one another.
President, National Weather Employees Organization
NWSEO Member Eleanor Vallier-Talbot
(May 11, 2020) Congratulations to long-time NWSEO Member Eleanor Vallier-Talbot who recently retired after 35 years at NWS. Before she soars into this new chapter in her life,
she took a moment to share her experiences in being a member of our organization. Eleanor joined NWSEO during her stay in Portland, ME late 1997.
“It's been a great experience being an NWSEO member. When I joined, I didn't realize how important having a union representing NWS employees would be, especially
for the operational field forecasters like myself. Having a proactive union like the NWSEO has proven, time and again, to be vital as the primary representative with
NWS management. Thank you, NWSEO, for representing ME and all the members, in protecting our jobs and livelihoods.” -Eleanor Vallier-Talbot
Eleanor attended the University of Lowell (now the University of Massachusetts at Lowell) for two years before transferring to Lyndon State College, where she received her
Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology. She began her career at the Providence, Rhode Island Weather Service Office and was one of the first female Meteorologist Interns
in Eastern Region. Her career included stops at WFO Portland, Maine as a Meteorologist and at WFO Charleston, South Carolina as a Lead Meteorologist but she spent most
of her career at the Boston/Norton (formerly Taunton) WFO.
"Take care of the people and they will take care of the mission.”
(May 6, 2020) NWSEO NESDIS Regional Chair Hugh Sharkey and several Stewards have met with NESDIS management on several occasions to exchange ideas and propose needed improvements to mitigate the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on employees. At some offices in NESDIS, insufficient supplies have been an issue for employees who are already challenged by social distancing requirements in their operations areas.
In the interest of promoting the safety of employees, Mr. Sharkey sought and obtained a generous donation of hand sanitizers from Barton Brands Distillery in Baltimore, MD for all NESDIS employees. Many thanks to Barton Brands Distillery for their support of our employees. Employees in these units are recognized as Critical Infrastructure and emergency personnel.
According to Chairperson Sharkey: “It is important to stay safe, and keep the mission going. You are needed today, tomorrow and in the future.”
NWSEO representatives have also discussed with NESDIS management on following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, to include taking employees’ temperature every day prior to their shift. In a case where an employee’s temperature reads at or above 100.4 degrees, the employee should report it to their supervisor immediately and will be sent home. The employee will be required to be cleared to return to work by a doctor or a public health official.
The importance of Management communicating how the common areas are cleaned and by whom was also discussed and Management assured NWSEO that more frequent and thorough cleanings would be routinely completed.
In addition, NESDIS Management stated they created a telework plus designation instead of 50% telework. This designation allows Engineering, IT and support team staff at Suitland, MD to telework more and come in a few days per week for a few hours to ensure mission systems are secure, check system status and perform any task unable to be done from home.
(April 17, 2020) Please meet NWSEO Member and Meteorologist James (Jamie) Morrow of NWS Raleigh (RAH), NC. NWSEO would like to congratulate Jamie on recently being selected to fill the NWS XO/PCO position at NWS HQ beginning in early May of 2020.
Where are you from originally, and what sparked your interest to pursue a career in weather?
I originally grew up in King George, Virginia, a small farming county located in the tidal basin of Virginia, known mainly for its abnormally large landfill full of Bald Eagles and its historical role of housing John Wilkes Booth days before his eventual shoot-out demise. I first became fascinated with weather after witnessing numerous hurricanes, summer thunderstorms, and experiencing first-hand the aftermath of the 2002 Laplata, Maryland tornado. This led to me pursuing a Meteorology degree at Virginia Tech where I received a B.S. in Meteorology and B.A. in Geography. As a student, I further cemented my love of weather through several opportunities to partake in and even lead “HokieStorm Chase'' trips with VT undergrads, along with beginning my NWS career as an unpaid student intern at WFO Blacksburg. The same office I later joined on as an NWS Met-Intern in March of 2015.
What’s your history working within the NWS?
I’ve worked in the NWS for 5 years now, beginning my career as a Met-Intern at WFO Blacksburg, VA (RNK) in early 2015 before promoting to NWS RAH as a Meteorologist in the Fall of 2017.
Throughout my career, I’ve focused on improving inter/intra-office communication, primarily through Social Media, IDSS, Fire Weather, and Media Partner relationships. I’ve also worked extensively with the Student Volunteer/Internship programs both at RNK/RAH, and I’m proud to be able to call many of the alumni from these programs now colleagues within the NWS ranks. When not on an operational shift, I can usually be found giving in-person or remote weather safety and Skywarn presentations or setting up for the next NWS outreach event.
Some career weather event “highlights” that stick out to me include the June 23rd Greenbrier Valley (WV) Convective Flash Floods, Presidents Day (2015) snow event, along with Hurricane(s) Florence, Michael, and Dorian events.
Why did you join NWSEO?
I joined NWSEO about two years ago, primarily in an effort to broaden my perspective on the overall agency that I plan to call home for the next 30+ years of my career. While I fairly well understand the local role of NWSEO, I was quite surprised how extensive the role that the national organization plays. This was especially highlighted through my attendance at my first NWSEO convention last year in Des Moines, Iowa. I was very impressed by the NWSEO organization’s efforts to protect the employees of the NWS as a whole, and I was encouraged by the friends and colleagues that work very hard on a day to day basis, both at the regional and national level, to make not only NWSEO’s mission, but the agency’s mission successful.
Would you recommend joining and supporting NWSEO to others, if so, why?
I would recommend that everyone gives NWSEO a fair shake. Not many people in today’s society have the opportunity to have bargaining unit representation at their employer’s table, and in a sense, a “say” in the agency's path forward as it reacts and positions itself for future successes. At the beginning of my career, I’ll admit that I was hesitant to lose that small sum of $$ out of each paycheck. Looking back, my only regret is not giving it a shot sooner. The potential benefits of union membership, especially the union’s role in local, regional, and national teams, can really help to propel your career while also providing a platform for you to make a difference for your co-workers all across the agency. While disagreements happen quite often at all levels, I am very appreciative of the efforts that the NWSEO and NWS representatives make, especially when it comes to protecting their employees along with evolving and pushing our agency forward in this fast paced age of science and technology. I will always cherish the relationships, opportunities, and contacts that I’ve made through my short-time within the NWSEO organization.
What do you look forward to about your new position?
Similar to my reasonings for joining NWSEO originally, I most look forward to the ability to expand my perspective of the agency, its structure, and mission as a whole as I prepare to transition into the XO/PCO rotation in early May. Having the opportunity to work alongside the NOAA and NWS leadership is a once in a career-type opportunity that I hope will cement my eventual career path going forward. Transitioning from a WFO-centric position into an agency-wide position will be a challenge, especially attempting to do so in this type of social-distancing and telework heavy environment. Luckily, I am confident that the skills and professional experiences that I’ve been able to furnish from my time in the field will be well suited for my future successes. I’d like to thank all of those in the NWS and NWSEO who have helped me get to this point in my career, especially those in the NWS RAH and NWS RNK families that have adopted me thus far in my career. I know confidently that I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Outside of work in a virus-free environment, I can typically be found on the local greenway, playing volleyball, getting crushed by RNK colleagues on the disc golf course, or watching hockey! During virus times, I typically just look forward to going in on my next shift while attempting not to let out an allergic cough or sneeze in this Raleigh, NC Green-wave. Strange times that we live in… Stay safe and keep the mission going everyone!
We are so appreciative for Jamie’s time and dedication to the work he and the members and employees of WFO Raleigh do every day and also, for participating in our NWSEO Member Spotlight.
We hope this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more and, together, support each other in our work and in building our membership. Please submit your Member Spotlight, suggestions, and comments to Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(April 15, 2020) NWSEO is preparing for an upcoming member ratification vote on the new NWS contract. This contract would take the place of the existing (2001) Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This vote will be conducted pursuant to contract negotiation Ground Rules agreed upon by NWSEO and NWS once we receive the decision of the Federal Service Impasse Panel resolving those provisions the parties were unable to reach agreement on their own. We are likely to receive the Panel’s decision sometime between mid-May and late June. NWSEO will be conducting this ratification vote online as quickly as possible after receipt of the Panel’s decision, with the assistance of the American Arbitration Association (AAA). As part of this process, we must have a valid, personal (non-NOAA) email address for each member, since AAA will email each member their own individual PIN to be used in the voting process, along with a link to the secure website on which the voting will take place.
Any member who does not provide NWSEO with a valid personal email address will not be able to participate in the ratification vote, and the interests of NWSEO require that this vote be conducted quickly, which would not be possible using mail ballots. There are numerous providers of free “webmail” email accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, AOL and Mail.com.
If you only have a noaa.gov email address on file or do not know if NWSEO has your personal email address, NWSEO strongly urges every NWSEO member to contact NWSEO Director of Membership Christy Fox at email@example.com with your current personal email address by May 8, 2020 in order to vote for or against the FSIP Imposed contract.
Additionally if your personal email address has changed, please email Christy Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your updated personal email address by the same date.
(April 14, 2020) On April 10, 2020 NWSEO filed two grievances over matters in the Alaska Region. The first grievance filed was for the unilateral implementation of a work schedule at the Alaska Region Operations Center.
At the Alaska Region Operations Center, four Emergency Response Specialists were adversely affected when management implemented a rotational schedule before completing bargaining. Even if there was an overriding exigency that required the immediate implementation of a new rotational schedule before bargaining had been completed, management was required under FLRA precedent and Article 8 section 6 to implement only its last proposal. The rotation which was implemented was not even one of management’s proposals and the union was denied an opportunity to bargain over it. The implementation of this rotation violated Article 20, section 3(a)(1) because it was not considered by the LOT.
Management’s implementation of this schedule is a violation of the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. section 7116(a)(1) and (5) as well as article 8, sections 3(a) and 6 and Article 20, section 3(a)(1) and (2) of the CBA. (In part, the LOT was not able to consider mandatory 1-day weekends in their new rotation.)
As remedy, the union demanded the nullification of the current, non-negotiated, management-implemented Alaska ROC schedule and a temporary schedule put in place until bargaining on a new schedule is completed.
The second grievance was filed for the improper cancellation of official time scheduled for the Alaska Region NWSEO Chairperson. When this scheduled official time was cancelled, it hindered the NWSEO Chairperson’s ability to provide representational support to the bargaining unit members of Alaska.
Union Representatives of Alaska Region have tried for years to build a collaborative relationship between the Bargaining Unit and Management. However, both these grievances show a pattern of attack on schedules and work-life balance within the NWS, and specifically, Alaska Region. NWSEO stands firm on protecting the rights of employees and their schedules.
(April 12, 2020) On April 10, 2020, NWSEO filed a grievance over the failure of the National Weather Service (NWS) to bid six GS-10/11 Electronics Technician (ET) vacancies in the Western Region via a “Merit Assignment Plan” or MAP vacancy announcement simultaneously with a Delegated Examining authority (or DE/CR) announcement.
It has been a past practice to bid these positions as both MAP and DE/CR and to offer relocation expenses to internal applicants selected under the MAP announcement. There have been at least 30 such simultaneous announcements since 2017, and multiple internal applicants were selected and offered relocation expenses.
NWS’ decision to not advertise these six Western Region ET vacancies through a MAP announcement on this occasion deprived internal applicants of relocation expenses if they were selected.
NWS’ failure to advertise these vacancies through a simultaneous MAP announcement is a violation of Article 8, Section 7 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “Any existing non-contractual past practices as of the effective date of this Agreement, which are not contrary to law or government wide regulation, may only be changed through the provisions of this Article.”
NWS proposes to strip employees of key benefits and protections.
April 10, 2020 pdf copy
(April 10, 2020) As detailed in the March 24, 2020 Four Winds, the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) has asserted jurisdiction over the 42 unresolved articles for the successor collective bargaining agreement. This came at the request of the NWS, after it walked away from the bargaining table and falsely claimed that an impasse existed in negotiations. Last month, the FSIP ordered the parties to submit their “last best offer” and supporting arguments for each of the unresolved articles. The Panel will then issue an order deciding which of the proposed articles the parties must incorporate into the new agreement. The final agreement will, however, be subject to membership ratification as well as agency head review.
The parties’ “last best offers” were submitted to the FSIP last week, and their final briefs were submitted to the Panel today. The NWS has requested that the Panel terminate the following employee protections and benefits:
- Terminate the practice of having at least two people on shift at WFOs. The NWS asked the Panel to allow it to have only one person on shift, alone, at night.
- Terminate the parties’ agreement that employees will be temporarily promoted when they are assigned to cover the shifts of a higher graded position that has been vacant for more than 20 days.
- Allow management to unilaterally determine the shift rotation, rather than have it decided by the Local Office Team.
- Terminate the Health Club Reimbursement program. Over 1,000 employees receive $300 annually from this program.
- Replace the pass/fail performance appraisal system with a 5-tier appraisal system.
- Allow the NWS to unilaterally reduce the amount of funding for employee awards, leaving management with discretion to terminate the practice of allocating 1.5% of payroll costs for awards.
- Allow management the discretion to deny PCS costs in all cases, in violation of Federal law.
- Eliminate the current agreement to grant employees court leave for the entire period of jury service.
In its “last best offer” NWSEO submitted revised proposals on 29 of the 42 outstanding proposals, which demonstrates that the parties were not at impasse as the NWS contends.
NWSEO is seeking improvements in existing contract terms, but the thrust of its proposals is to retain all existing benefits that it has bargained for over the past 40 years- which NWS wants to take away.
The FSIP is a panel of ten members appointed by the President. Most of the current appointees have a professional history of working for conservative and corporate interest groups that are actively seeking to bust public employee unions. The American Federation of Government Employees has recently filed suit alleging that the FSIP is illegally appointed because the Panel members are not labor neutrals and were not confirmed by the Senate.
NWSEO will submit the new contract for ratification vote by NWSEO members in accordance with the NWS-NWSEO ground rules.
(April 9, 2020) NWSEO National President John Werner and Secretary-Treasurer David Solano visited NHC, WFO MFL, and ZMA in early March. John and David were enthusiastically greeted at each office, receiving tours of each facility and meeting with the staff. At NHC, they learned about the day to day operations at the several units that make up the NHC: the Hurricane Specialist Unit; Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch; Technology and Science Branch, and the Storm Surge Unit. After visiting NHC, John and David walked across the hall to the WFO MFL where an informal question and answer session was held with the bargaining unit staff. John gave an all-encompassing overview of the NWSEO successes at the local, regional and national level, status of CBA negotiations and stressed to everyone in attendance the importance of NWSEO membership, especially now during tight budgetary times. As you can imagine there were plenty of questions regarding the Administrations FY21 budget proposal which again calls for staffing cuts (both Meteorologists and ITOs). There were also questions regarding the ongoing vacancies in the NWS. John said, “The lobbying efforts of NWSEO will once again be brought to the Hill and we feel confident at this time these budget and employee cuts will be defeated.”
After spending a day at NHC/WFO MFL, John and David spent the next morning at ZMA. They learned first-hand about the critical mission the CWSU performs in providing IDSS to FAA personnel at the air route traffic control centers. The CWSU meteorologists demonstrated expertise in providing meteorological consultation, forecasts, and advice on weather impactful to air traffic operations.
We greatly appreciate the feedback and input from the employees that we met. It’s their efforts that allow NWS to succeed in our mission of protecting life and property and enhancing the national economy.
Special thanks to NHC Steward and NCEP Vice Chair Eric Blake, WFO MFL Steward Joe Maloney and CWSU Steward John Oleska for their tremendous help in coordinating, organizing and hosting this visit.
Also, many thanks to the entire management team at the NHC, WFO MFL and ZMA for their courteous welcome and the tours they provided.
(April 9, 2020) NWSEO President John Werner and Secretary-Treasurer David Solano had the distinctive pleasure to visit AOML in early March. They were able to meet with the staff and tour the five-story research facility on Virginia Key, Florida. NOAA’s AOML encompasses ocean, coastal, and atmospheric studies to deliver NOAA’s future by transferring research results into operations and applications. The bargaining unit employees of AOML, who are represented by NWSEO, focus on improving the prediction of hurricanes, learning about the ocean’s role in climate and extreme weather events, and understanding the global impacts of ocean acidification and pollution on coastal ecosystems.
Many of the employees’ concerns focused on the President’s proposed FY 2021 budget which calls for the elimination of 20 AOML positions. The President’s FY21 proposed budget decreases NOAA funding by $5,057,000 and terminates funding for climate-related research and observations at AOML. It also cuts critical hurricane underwater glider research, development, and deployment efforts that are intended to enhance our understanding of air-sea interaction processes during hurricane force wind events. President Werner noted, “NWSEO will be lobbying the Hill to save employee jobs and to continue hurricane underwater glider research.” Many thanks to AOML Steward Jay Harris and AOML Vice Steward Evan B. Forde for coordinating this visit.
(April 1, 2020) NWSEO recently received notification from the National Weather Service that the NOAA Chief Financial Officer is requiring all NOAA Line Offices to review and analyze current and future staffing requirements to determine how many employees are needed to meet their missions. We were told that the overall purpose of this analysis is to create a NOAA manpower baseline, including NWS, that will capture and include all staffing requirements as input to the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget request.
The timing of this notification, considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, raised some red flags. However, after further investigation, it does appear the timing was coincidental, as the initiative to do this analysis started to develop last November. Management has relayed to me their hope that this staffing analysis will lead to a more favorable budget and staffing profile for NWS in the FY 2022 budget request. We have also been assured that the staffing analysis will assume that there will be no office moves or closures, and that it is in no way meant to reduce the NWS workforce. I was further informed that NWS is putting together a NWS Staffing Analysis Team to conduct the staffing analysis, which will consider both field and headquarters, and cover all portfolios. To ensure transparency in the analysis, NWSEO requested and NWS management agreed to provide NWSEO insight into the process and provide feedback as the analysis progresses.
NWSEO is eager to participate in this very important activity in the hopes of ensuring our offices receive the staffing required to meet the increasing demands from our partners and the public for environmental information and decision support services. It’s extremely important that we (NWS and NWSEO) work together to fix our staffing and budget shortfalls going forward.
NWSEO will provide further updates on this subject as they become available.
President, National Weather Service Employees Organization
Dear NWSEO brothers and sisters,
I hope this message finds you well and holding up under the challenges and stresses of these unprecedented times which the nation and the world have been experiencing. I commend you for continuing to lean forward in providing invaluable and uninterrupted services to our partners and the public, despite the enormous amount of stress we’re all under. I assure you that while you’re fulfilling your duties either from your office or your home, NWSEO continues to work diligently to represent your best interests, address issues and concerns, and correspond frequently with management to try to mitigate the negative impacts on your well-being.
Many of you have inquired about various contingencies for staffing, scheduling, leave, etc. as we struggle to balance our dedication to the agency mission while simultaneously tending to our personal and family needs. Caring for yourselves and your loved ones is of the utmost importance. We also must remember that we’re critical members of an expansive NOAA family. It’s from this family perspective I ask you to also look after the well-being of your coworkers. If you become aware of somebody struggling with the stress and fear resulting from the pandemic, or the financial impacts of the national emergency, or anything else, we urge you to take precious time to consult with them and help out any way you can. This is a unique and historical situation of which none of us have had to deal with before. Leveraging our work family, we all need to assist one another to get through this difficult time. If ever there was a time for unity and solidarity amongst NOAA employees, this is it!
NWSEO is particularly concerned about those employees in “high risk” categories. If you feel yourself or a coworker fits into such a category and is not being protected appropriately, please let your steward and/or regional chairperson know immediately! It’s also extremely important for those still working in their offices that these areas remain environmentally safe to the maximum extent possible. Along with restricted entry, offices need to have the sanitizer and cleaning supplies required to achieve this. Again, please notify your steward and regional chairperson of any concerns.
We’ve also fielded a myriad of questions pertaining to safety, hazardous duty pay, administrative leave, expedited COVID-19 testing, and other means meant to protect or compensate us during this dangerous time. NWSEO continues to communicate with agency management on these issues; however, it’s currently difficult to obtain answers to these questions.
For example, expedited testing is rightfully being prioritized for first responders, medical professionals, and others at the forefront of the battle. Yet, even many of the first responders are not receiving this priority due to the shortage of test kits.
We’re working with management to coordinate with our partners to develop a process to give our mission critical, operational folks testing priority. Despite having frequent and direct contact with the public, many of our first responders are also not receiving hazardous duty compensation currently.
Our workforce continues to be recognized as one of the most dedicated in the Nation, and we too are in the business of protecting lives and property. We take great pride in what we do, and in the sacrifices, we make in order to serve our partners and communities. Despite the current crisis, we’re fortunate to remain gainfully employed, while our families, neighbors and friends are sequestered in their homes and away from their jobs. Sadly, many are receiving little to no income and are doing so without the strong support system we have as essential government employees. NWSEO continues and will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf to provide as much protection for NOAA employees as is feasibly possible. We must ensure that we, our families, and our co-workers stay safe and that we can continue to provide the critical support we provide to our Nation.
If you have additional questions, concerns, suggestions, best practices, etc., please share them with your local steward and/or your regional chairperson. We’re here to listen and to assist wherever and whenever we can. Above all, remember to take care of yourselves, your families, and keep a watchful eye out for coworkers who may be struggling during this trying situation. Remember, we are all in this fight together, and together, we will persevere!
I’m incredibly proud to work with all of you, both as a coworker and as your NWSEO President.
Thank you all for your service! Be safe and look out for one another.
President, National Weather Service Employees Organization
(March 24, 2020) The United States Federal Service Impasses Panel (“the Panel”) has notified NWSEO and NWS that it is asserting jurisdiction over the 42 open articles on which NWS claims that an impasse in bargaining exists in the Parties’ successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The Panel directed that the impasse be resolved through written submissions using the following procedure:
- By Monday, March 30, 2020, each party shall submit to the other its final offer on the issues at impasse and a written statement of position to the Panel.
- By Friday, April 10, 2020, each party shall submit its written rebuttal statement to the Panel.
- After considering the entire record, the Panel shall take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the dispute, which may include the issuance of a binding decision. The Panel said that in such a case, it was likely to select and impose the entirety of one party’s proposal for a particular article rather than selecting provisions in a piecemeal fashion.
- The Parties may seek a voluntary settlement at any time prior to the issuance of the Panel’s decision and should immediately notify the Panel of any such agreement.
Due to the short turn around and lack of available resources as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, NWSEO requested NWS join the Union in requesting an extension to the deadlines imposed above. This would allow the Parties more time to find articles that with minor changes they could come to agreement on, and to make their arguments on those they cannot. While we wait for that response, NWSEO is busy crafting our final proposals and our statement of position.
After the Panel’s decision (likely in one to two months), NWSEO will submit the final contract to its membership for a ratification vote, in accordance with the CBA Ground Rules agreed upon by NWSEO and NWS.
Employees who Accepted Lower Grade Positions on the GS 5/7/9 Announcements and Served in that Grade for More than One Pay Period to Receive Back Pay
March 18, 2020 pdf
(March 18, 2020) NWSEO has successfully negotiated and signed a new addendum to the GS5-12 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which allows those employees who accept a lower graded position in a GS 5/7/9 bid to be returned to their previous higher pay grade the following pay period. Furthermore, those who have already served in the lower graded position for more than one pay period before being reinstated to their previous grade will receive back pay for all but the initial pay period. We have been informed that back pay requests have already been initiated for these employees.
For those affected, please contact Christy Fox at email@example.com if there are any issues with receiving your back pay.
The former addendum was rejected during Agency Head Review. The ruling from the Department of Commerce was as follows: “A voluntary downgrade to a lower graded position is not an appointment for the purposes of 5 CFR 330.502.” Therefore 5 CFR 330.502 does not apply in this situation. If you’ll recall NWS invoked 5 CFR 330.502 in the previous addendum which states in part that: “…An agency must wait at least 90 days after an employee's latest non- temporary competitive appointment before the agency may take the following actions:
- Promote an employee.
- Transfer, reinstate, reassign, or detail an employee to a different position; or
- Transfer, reinstate, reassign, or detail an employee to a different geographical area."
Since the CFR did not apply, we were able to negotiate the amount of time an employee would have to remain in the lower pay grade that they bid on to just one pay period.
“This is a win for our employees. We are committed to working with management to ensure employees get a fair shake,” commented NWSEO President John Werner.
NWSEO will continue working to ensure employees are treated fairly during the GS5-12 progression and work to protect the rights of our unwavering and dedicated workforce.
No one cares more for National Oceanographic 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.
(March 13, 2020) I recognize the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on our employees and their families. This event is evolving rapidly, and we appreciate the agility of our workforce to manage priorities during this time.
In response to the current pandemic, we are postponing the March Madness Membership Drive until further notice. While recruitment is the lifeline of our membership support, our members must focus on the health and safety of themselves and their families.
We have forwarded your concerns posted on the NWSEO Facebook page to NWS management. If there are further concerns, please continue to post your comments on the page and we’ll continue to send the information forward.
We stand in solidarity for the safety of our workers. Our workers are the backbone of our mission. Thank you for your unwavering service in protecting lives and property and please keep safe.
Eliminate 365 Total Positions at the National Weather Service
Eliminate 20 Positions at Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory
(March 4, 2020) The Administration has released its proposed NOAA budget for FY 2021, and it proposes a $75 million reduction in funding for NWS programs and the elimination of 365 positions at the National Weather Service, as well as the jobs of 20 employees at OAR who are also represented by NWSEO. Among the impacts the Administration has identified includes: closing NWS Weather Forecast Offices at night, closing at least one of the nation’s two tsunami warning centers, eliminating tsunami warnings for the Caribbean, and termination of global climate products that are used for pandemic health planning.
The President proposed many of the same personnel and budget cuts in his FY 20 budget, but they were defeated on Capitol Hill through NWSEO’s Lobbying efforts. NWSEO’s lobbyist has already begun personal meetings with appropriators as well as key congressional staffers in order to ensure continued funding for these positions and programs. Several members of Congress have already reached out to NWSEO offering their support in our fight against these excessive and unwise personnel cuts.
Here are the four proposals that include elimination of NWS employees. In each case, the risks cited are quoted verbatim from the NOAA Congressional Budget Justification, Link: fy2021_noaa_congressional_budget_justification.pdf and page references are provided:
1. Eliminate 248 forecaster positions at the nation’s 122 Weather Forecast Offices (-$15,000 million).
According to the NOAA Budget Justification, this will result in closing an unspecified number of forecast offices at night and offloading the responsibility for issuing forecasts and warnings to forecast offices in other states and communities:
“[O]ffices will collaborate with other NWS offices for met watch and services during off hours, while sustaining situational awareness, allowing for certain offices to reduce operation times . . .”
At other forecast offices, a sole forecaster will be left on duty to work alone:
“Safety and security of NWS employees is paramount and must be ensured where an office would have only one person in the building on duty.”
“[T]hese operational reforms intended to increase staffing flexibility will be conducted in FY 2021. Their testing and implementation could present some short-term risks that will need to be managed effectively to minimize any impact to operations.”
(pages NWS 56-57).
2. Eliminate 25 Positions and Reduce Tsunami Warning Program (-$11 million).
“This program change eliminates NOAA’s Tsunami Research and Operational Warning program as a national service program and merges the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii and the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) in Alaska into one center.”
“This reduction also eliminates all NWS-sponsored R&D to improve tsunami warning models, and partner funding for education and awareness programs including National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) grant funding to state and territory education, awareness, and inundation and evacuation map development, and the TsunamiReady® Program. This reduction also eliminates the International Tsunami Information Center and the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program.”
It appears that this “consolidation” may result in closure of both the Alaska and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centers:
“NOAA will continue to explore options . . . to merge the two Tsunami Warning Centers or co-locate them with (1) academic or scientific institutions or (2) warning or mission-critical centers such at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.”
(page NWS 60).
3. Eliminate 8 Positions and Consolidate Climate Prediction Center/Weather Prediction Center Functions (-$1.2 million).
“NOAA will consolidate functions at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Weather Prediction Center (WPC). . . While some efficiency will be realized, this consolidation will limit some of NOAA’s products and services such as climate prediction products with domains over hemispheres other than North America/Arctic. Some of these global climate predictions have supported national security planning and execution activities at the Department of Defense and the United States Agency for International Development including food security and disaster risk reduction, as well as pandemic health planning.”
(page NWS 66).
4. Eliminate 84 Information Technology Officer (ITO’s) the 122 NWS Forecast Offices and establishment of Regional Enterprise Application Development and Integration Teams (-$11.9 million).
“In FY 2021, NWS proposes to initiate a phased consolidation of its 122 Information Technology Officer (ITO) . . . Specific performance measure impacts are not determined at this time.”
(pages NWS 40-41).
5. Eliminate 20 Positions at the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (-5.06 million).
“NOAA proposes a decrease of $5,057,000 to terminate funding for climate-related research and observations at the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML).”
We are stronger when we stand together. Join the fraternity of members invested in their future by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to become a member. The March Madness Membership Drive is underway through March 31, 2020.
(March 3, 2020) After the partial government shutdown ended in January 2019, a NESDIS employee thoroughly checked his Earnings and Leave Statement. He realized he wasn’t getting paid correctly for his overtime worked. He was covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and entitled to true overtime, which is one and half times his pay. However, his SF-50 was erroneously changed in January 2015 which affected his overtime pay rate.
“I was probably trusting that NOAA would never get my paycheck wrong. When the government shutdown happened in January 2019, we didn’t get paid for pay period 1. I started reviewing the details of my paystub more carefully and I learned that my FLSA status had been changed. I had been underpaid thousands of dollars” stated the employee.
On February 4, 2019, Management advised the employee to resolve his problem through Enterprise Services. On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the employee contacted Hugh Sharkey, NESDIS Regional Chairperson. The Union’s first priority was to correct the mistake and then recover the underpaid wages. By April 23, 2019 the employee was getting paid true overtime once again.
To recover underpaid wages, NWSEO came to a settlement in principle of paying the employee the last two years of the lost pay with liquated damages. Liquated damages double the amount of wages lost due to the wrongful classification of the employee’s FLSA status. After Enterprise Services incorrectly paid the employee 0.15 on the dollar for each dollar owed the employee, it took NWSEO’s persistence and tenacity to get the employee over $200,000 in back pay.
NWSEO was there to intervene on behalf of the employee otherwise, the employee may have only recovered 15 cents on the dollar. This is NWSEO at work for you, the employees of NESDIS. To learn more about NWSEO membership, contact email@example.com.
NWSEO to Arbitrate Disqualification Against Internal MET Applicants
(February 16, 2020) In January, NWSEO filed a grievance on behalf of a GS-11 meteorologist who, after having been selected for a GS-5/7/9 DE/CR vacancy at another WFO, was disqualified by Region management because he was an internal applicant.
NWS denied the grievance on February 13.
In its grievance denial, management did not deny that the internal applicant had been informed by the MIC that he had been her selection, but claimed that the eventual selectee from outside the NWS “was determined to be the best candidate” because “the operational needs of the office could be satisfied with the addition of a new external hire rather than a more experienced internal candidate.”
Management also wrote that it “inten[ds] to consider incumbents for these vacancies,” but NWSEO believes the evidence will demonstrate that internal applicants were automatically disqualified in this and other cases. Therefore, NWSEO will invoke arbitration in order to secure the right of internal applicants to be fairly considered.
(February 1, 2020) The week of January 12, 2020, the American Meteorological Society hosted their 100th annual meeting at the Boston Convention and Expo Center, Boston, MA. NWSEO President John Werner, NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker, NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer and Eastern Region Chairperson David Solano and NWSEO Headquarters Chairperson Mike Dion attended the meeting alongside many colleagues, educators and scientists of the National Weather Service.
“This was a tremendous conference, many programs, guest speakers from all parts of the agency. We were able to connect with both NWSEO members and non-members at this event,” shared NWSEO Executive Vice President JoAnn Becker.
NWS DAA, Mary Erickson stated,
“We really valued the opportunity for NWS and NWSEO leadership to hear from over 100 employees at the NWS Employee Engagement event, and many more throughout the sessions of the AMS. We enjoyed the joint discussions on important topics such as the Future of Forecasting; Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity; and Evolve – the Collaborative Forecast Process. ”
“An amazing conference and a terrific experience as we were able to meet with bargaining unit members to listen to their concerns and observe first-hand the contributions they’re making. While in attendance, we engaged with senior NWS and NOAA leadership. These meetings are important to our professional organization as they serve to build our relationship as well as provide opportunities to discuss and tackle today’s challenges, resolve problems, and work together toward ensuring fulfilling careers for our people.” shared NWSEO President John Werner.
This year’s theme of the AMS conference was “The AMS Past, Present and Future: Linking Information to Knowledge to Society (LINKS).” At the webpage provided by AMS, it reads, “The community that gathers together as the American Meteorological Society can be rightly proud of our contributions to the safety, resilience and economies of society.“
You can read more about this year’s AMS conference at this link: Annual AMETSOC.ORG.
Forms should be submitted by Tuesday March 31, 2020
January 31, 2020
(January 31, 2020) Tuesday, March 31, 2020 is the deadline for submitting your forms for the NWSEO negotiated National Weather Service Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program. Through the program, which is open to all NWS employees, you may receive up to $300 per year as a health club membership dues rebate. The rebate also covers certain weight loss and smoking cessation programs. In order to be eligible for the programs, it is important that the correct forms are submitted to your supervisor before the due dates.
Form A must be submitted between February 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 to receive benefits for 2020.
Form B must be submitted between February 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for reimbursement for the year 2019.
Complete information on the National Weather Service Health Club and Wellness Services Fees Reimbursement Program is available here.
Note: New National Weather Service 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.
Remember, this health club and wellness benefit is available to you solely because of the work of NWSEO. It is just one more way to demonstrate the strength and benefits your membership provides.
NWSEO is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to preserve NWS jobs, promote better working conditions and career promotions for NWS, and participate in collective bargaining.
Thank you for your membership and the support it brings to our professional organization.
(January 24, 2020) NWSEO President John Werner; NWSEO Secretary/Treasurer and Eastern Region Chairperson David Solano; NWSEO Headquarters Chairperson and acting steward for the National Water Center (NWC) Mike Dion; and NWSEO Southeast River Forecast Center Steward Jeff Dobur were recently invited to visit the National Water Center (NWC), a branch of the NWSEO Headquarters region, on January 7-8, 2020, for meetings with NWC bargaining unit staff and Office of Water Prediction (OWP) leadership.
NWSEO met with OWP Senior Leadership for an informational briefing and discussion focused on current and future water resources modeling and service-related activities within OWP. These activities include the continued development and implementation of the National Water Model and the Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast Service (HEFS), Flood Inundation Mapping, achieving an initial operating capability within the Water Prediction Operations Division (WPOD) at the NWC, and other related efforts within the NWS, NOAA Line Offices and other Federal agencies.
NWSEO met with the bargaining unit (BU) employees with the 5 Divisions of the NWC. The NWS Water/Water Resources Program has been going through an accelerated period of advancement. All the improvements such as the NWC, the National Water Model, the Community Hydrologic Prediction System (CHPS), advances in meteorological models enabling ensembles and blends to help with rainfall forecasting, HEFS, inundation modeling, coastal modeling, hydraulic modeling, dam break support, hourly models, CHPS at WFOs and so much more, have made for better information to our users.
After the face to face meetings, the NWSEO President sent a note to OWP leadership: “It's clear you and your folks have set a vector which will lead to a much-needed expansion of our hydrological support capabilities; support which will be more effective and far more beneficial to our partners in the future. As well, I was heartened by the sensible approach your Center was taking moving forward as your plan recognizes the key roles WFOs and River Forecast Centers must play now and in the future in concert with your emerging capabilities to fully meet the needs of our partners. I'm looking forward to working with you in the future. Thanks again to all for providing us with an enjoyable and informative visit. Your dedicated efforts in helping NWS make a quantum leap in water support capabilities fully resonated with the entire NWSEO team.”
Meet NWSEO Member Alex Hoon
(January 15, 2020) NWSEO continues to collect nominations for our “NWSEO Member Spotlight” articles showcasing the work, dedication and talent of our members, inspiring others and connecting all of our union members.
Please meet NWSEO Member and Senior Meteorologist, IMET Alex Hoon of NWS Reno, Nevada. NWSEO congratulates Alex, the recipient of a Silver Medal by the Secretary of Commerce for meritorious service on the Carr Fire in Northern California in 2018.
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Houston, Texas...born and raised! I went to Texas A&M University and then I was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force. After several years as a weather officer in the Air Force, I came to
the National Weather Service here in Reno, Nevada, and I've been here ever since.
How long have you worked in NWS?
I've been with the NWS for about 13 years, I've done all my NWS time here in Reno, NV as a journeyman and then as a lead forecaster. My family and I fell in love with the western climate, the beautiful mountains, the great outdoors, and the great community here--not to mention we have a great office with awesome coworkers.
Why did you join NWSEO?
I had always been on the fence about joining the NWSEO, but never did. That is, until the 35-day federal government shutdown last year that convinced me that we are all in this together as federal employees, whether we are in the union or not. During the shutdown, I saw that many feds, including many of our own forecasters were struggling to get by when we missed those paychecks! I saw on TV there was a federal union rally in Washington DC and I watched my good friend Mark Pellerito speak to thousands as part of the rally! I talked to Mark about it afterwards and he told me that not only did he work a mid-shift the night before, but he drove all the way down from New York to DC! What Mark did that day really inspired me to become a part of the NWSEO.
What work do you do for the NWS?
I am a senior meteorologist here at the NWS office in Reno, NV. I am the fire weather program manager and incident meteorologist, as well.
What do you ENJOY about your job?
My favorite part of my job is being an Incident Meteorologist. I deploy to wildfires and other all-hazard incidents across the West. It's incredibly rewarding, working in remote locations with limited resources, helping to give firefighters critical weather information that saves lives and property. It's the best job in the weather service!
Would you recommend supporting NWSEO to others, if so, why?
I definitely think we need to support the NWSEO! Honestly, with the political climate the way it is, it's more important now than ever to be a part of the NWSEO. The 35 day government shutdown made that abundantly clear to me!
Tell us about the award you received.
This past fall I was honored to receive a Silver Medal by the Secretary of Commerce for meritorious service on the Carr Fire in Northern California in 2018. Upon arriving to the Carr Fire, I quickly realized that the winds were going to be much stronger than expected that day, and that there were many civilians, firefighters, homes, and businesses that were going to be directly impacted by these winds and rapidly spreading firestorm. I was able to notify the Incident Commander and fire leadership that the winds were going to be stronger than expected. We issued a rare evening update to the forecast and broadcast the warning to all the firefighters in the field, letting everyone know that the winds were going to carry the fire over the Sacramento River and into the City of Redding. The sheriff's office began to evacuate half the city of Redding, California--about 40,000 people--which allowed them to get people out of harm's way ahead of this catastrophic wind event and fire tornado that destroyed over 1,000 homes.
Hobbies, favorite places to visit or other favorites to share?
My favorite hobby is hunting. I enjoy hunting big game, elk, deer, antelope, even chukar. Another huge reason why I love to live out here in Nevada!
We are so appreciative for Alex’s time and dedication to the work he and the members and employees of Western Region do every day and also, for participating in our NWSEO Member Spotlight. We hope this will be a communication tool for NWSEO Members to get to know each other, from across the nation, connect even more and, together, support each other in our work and in building our membership.
Please submit your Member Spotlight, suggestions, and comments to Christy Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(January 10, 2020) On January 6, 2020, NWSEO filed a grievance over the NWS’s disqualification of internal applicants for GS 5/7/9 met DE/CR vacancies. The Union demanded the NWS award one affected bargaining unit member the position and location for which he was initially selected but later disqualified because he was not a new hire. In addition, NWSEO requested that all regions be issued written guidance instructing them not to disqualify internal applicants for GS 5/7/9 DE/CR vacancies.
Last fall, a current GS-11 forecaster applied for meteorologist positions in five different locations on USAJobs. He made the panel and was referred to the selecting official for at least one of them. The interview took place and the member received an email informing him that he would not be hired for the position because the manager was directed to hire new meteorologists into the NWS instead. In a subsequent phone call, the MIC told the employee that he was her original selection but that her selection was overruled by the region. NWSEO has since learned that the direction to select only new hires came from the highest levels of the NWS.
This action violates the agreement signed by the NWS and the NWSEO on November 21, 2019 to continue to allow and to hire internal candidates for GS 5/7/9 DE/CR vacancies, provided they accept a 90-day reduction in grade as required by OPM regulations. The grievance also alleges that even assuming there was no agreement to continue to hire internal applicants for GS 5/7/9 DE/CR vacancies, the new policy violates past practice and is a unilateral change in conditions of employment, which violates not only the CBA, but is also an unfair labor practice in violation of the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute.
Furthermore, the grievance alleged that the automatic disqualification of internal candidates violates merit system principles, 5 U.S.C. section 2301(b)(1), which states in part that, “selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, and skills, after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.” An applicant’s status as a current employee is a “non-merit-based factor” prohibited by OPM regulations. Therefore, the grievance also alleges that the affected bargaining unit member is a victim of a prohibited personnel practice.
NWSEO is committed to fighting for opportunities for our employees. We appreciate all of our members who support this organization.