FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: August 22, 2019
NOT JUST ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR!
The 2019-2020 school year is now underway for virtually all our members, both Stateside and Overseas. I want to take a moment to introduce myself -- I'm Brian Chance, an Information Specialist with over 20 years experience as a DoDEA employee -- and thank you for the honor of serving as your Association President. As some of the issues in this update make clear, we are in anything but a "normal" situation as the school year begins.
I want to thank our many returning FEA members for your continued support of your professional Association. As always, our strength is our unity; any ability we have to fight the hostile forces aligned against us is due to our standing together.
I also want to welcome the many new employees entering DoDEA this year; although the challenges are many and, unfortunately, growing more difficult all the time, you will find the spirit and perseverance of the military children we educate to be an inspiration and a reminder of how valuable and how incredibly important your job really is. Thank you for taking on this role and for your dedication to your profession.
ABOUT THIS UPDATE
I will endeavor to send out an update at least twice each month, typically around the beginning and middle of the month, as a way to keep members informed. The FEA DC office and your Area Directors will also send you information and I will often refer to those other sources of information in this update, just to call attention to information we want to make sure members are aware of. Much of the information below has been sent out to members already in some form over the summer, but I wanted to make sure everyone has seen it as the school year gets into full swing.
Please use firstname.lastname@example.org to contact me anytime you wish. As you know, working remotely with OWA often has its challenges, so email to my NEA address is much more efficient.
A PERSONAL NOTE
FEA Pacific Area Director Melanie Horton has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has resigned from her duties to the Association. A replacement for Melanie will be named by the FEA Board of Directors later this month. Like many of you, I've known Melanie for a long time and know what a tireless advocate she is for DoDEA employees. I know I speak for the entire FEA Washington DC office staff and for FEA members everywhere when I say we're all thinking of Melanie as she begins her treatment. Melanie has asked that anyone wishing to send her a personal message or who is curious about her progress visit her CaringBridge page at this link.
STATESIDE CONTRACT ISSUES
Our FEA Stateside members continue to work under an unsigned, invalid and illegally implemented Master Labor Agreement. FEA-Stateside has an arbitration hearing on the contract scheduled for September 11. The situation for Stateside members continues to be very stressful, especially due to DoDEA's illegal extension of the duty day. The Agency is taking these actions because it believes it can act with impunity under the current administration. FEA-Stateside is fighting DoDEA's actions daily but management knows that legal solutions take a long time, especially with bodies such as the Federal Labor Relations Authority biased against employees and their unions. NEA has also been working with FEA-Stateside and the FEA DC office to raise awareness of DoDEA's illegal actions among the lawmakers who oversee the Agency. Change will come, though it can never come quickly enough! Please see FEA Director for DDESS Jane Loggins' August newsletter for more information on this and other fights that FEA-Stateside is engaged in on behalf of members: Link to Stateside Updates by clicking here.
Stateside members are also reminded to follow this link and use the form provided to keep track of any extra, unpaid hours they are required to work, to assist in FEA-Stateside's efforts to get employees paid for DoDEA's illegal contract implementation.
OVERSEAS CONTRACT ISSUES
Bargaining (if it can be called that) of a new Negotiated Agreement for FEA's Overseas bargaining unit got underway this summer, though without any Overseas educators present at the bargaining table. It seems clear that DoDEA does not feel obligated to bargain on much because it believes the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) will eventually agree to take jurisdiction over the process and impose the negative contract terms management asks for, similar to the tactics the agency followed at the end of bargaining for a new Stateside contract. The proposals DoDEA has put forth are extreme and, in many instances, illegal. For example, the Agency seeks to eliminate virtually all due process and grievance rights for Overseas employees, despite these rights being specifically protected by an act of Congress. It unfortunately seems that DoDEA management is willing to inflict serious harm to its employees and to the quality of its schools, just because it believes it can do so for the moment.
FEA members serving on the Overseas Contract Bargaining Team will begin participating in face-to-face bargaining with DoDEA representatives in September. It is our hope that, somehow, hearing directly from its employees about the damage its contract proposals would do, if enacted, may convince DoDEA to alter its present course of action. If not, FEA is prepared to fight using every means available to us to undo the damage and to regain any rights illegally stripped from our members.
ADDITIONAL THREAT TO DUE PROCESS RIGHTS FOR OVERSEAS MEMBERS
As reported to members over the summer and also in the August FEA Journal, a Federal Appeals Court ruled against FEA and other unions, striking down an earlier court's injunction against implementation of three anti-employee Executive Orders from the Trump White House. Barring willingness by the full Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court to review the case, the Executive Orders could be implemented in the weeks or months ahead.
The Orders seek to weaken due process and appeals rights for employees, place severe limits on the amount of "Official Time" that can be used by elected union reps to conduct representational duties, and speed up the firing of employees. The changes do not affect existing contracts but, because the Overseas contract is currently being negotiated and DoDEA has already proposed inclusion of these harmful policies in the new Overseas agreement, the Executive Orders are an especially urgent threat to the Overseas bargaining unit.
The Court of Appeals did not rule on the legality of the Executive Orders but it did rule that challenges to the orders must first go through the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which is appointed solely by the White House, before they could proceed to Federal Court.
In a more recent development, separate from the court case FEA was a party to, another union just recently filed its own lawsuit in the Western District of New York, seeking its own injunction against implementation of these Executive Orders. It is unknown how soon a decision would be handed down in that case or how likely that suit is to succeed.
See page 5 of the August FEA Journal for more information on this threat.
We did have good news this summer in another case heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals. As explained in this update, the court overruled the FLRA's rejection of FEA's grievance against DoDEA in the fight to develop a "Smart LES" to help employees better understand how their leave and earnings are computed. There remains a lot of fighting to do in this effort, but FEA, led by UniServ Attorney Bill Freeman, has been fighting for the Smart LES for over 15 years, and we are prepared to keep fighting for as long as it takes!
MORE POSITIVE NEWS
Also, as recently reported to members here, efforts by FEA/NEA and other unions to secure Relocation Income Tax Allowance and Withholding Tax Allowance reimbursements for retiring/separating and new/incoming civilian employees are advancing in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Current federal employees who relocate to a new duty station for the benefit of the government are already eligible to receive such RITA/WTA reimbursements for taxes assessed on the value of PCS moving services and allowances. Employees who are ending their careers and being moved back to their permanent home in the states, as well as new employees first moving overseas to their initial duty station are currently not eligible for such reimbursements. Legislation supported by FEA/NEA to extend RITA/WTA to incoming and departing civilian feds is included in both the House and Senate versions of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). If the language makes it through the conference committee phase in September, it will become law and reimbursements will be extended to incoming/separating employees in the future. While not an ideal solution -- eliminating the tax altogether still remains our goal -- this RITA/WTA relief should ease the financial burden currently imposed on these employees just beginning or ending their federal careers. FEA and NEA continue to monitor the progress of this tax relief and will inform members if and when the language is finally enacted into law.
Members wishing to run for Area office in FEA this year are encouraged to visit FEA's Election Information page. There you will find nomination forms and information about running for the following three positions:
- FEA Director for DDESS
- FEA Pacific Area Director
- FEA Europe Area Director
Any FEA Active member who resides in the geographic area represented by each position may run for that office, or nominate another FEA Active member who meets the qualifications.
The deadline for receipt of nominations is October 16, 2019.
That's plenty for now. Please continue to look for periodic updates from FEA's DC Office, your FEA Area Directors and from NEA, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @FedEdAssoc. This promises to be a very challenging year and we will do our best to keep our members informed about all the various issues and changes -- both positive and negative -- affecting you.