June 1 2018 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members and Leaders Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: June 1, 2018
POTENTIALLY GOOD NEWS
Last week, the House of Representatives passed its version of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and did NOT include DoDEA's proposed merger law language, which would have authorized the agency to strip employees of most bargaining rights and civil service protections. We're told the Senate has already marked up its version of the bill and the DoDEA proposal was not included there either. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the NDAA within the next few weeks. However, even if neither house of Congress includes the proposal in its initial NDAA, the DoDEA proposal could be inserted when the final NDAA bill is worked out in a conference committee made up of Senators and Representatives. More information on this merger issue is available at www.feaonline.org (please view it only when you are off government time and property, not using a government computer, etc.)
FEDERAL RETIREMENT CUTS
Also missing from the House version of the NDAA are several harmful proposals by the Office of Personnel Management to make drastic cuts to federal employees' retirement benefits. OPM had asked the Speaker of the House to include its provisions in the must-pass NDAA, despite the fact the provisions would affect all federal employees, not just those at the Defense Department. Among the negative moves OPM requested were increasing the amount employees must contribute toward their retirement to around 7.25 percent of their pay; eliminating COLAs for all current and future FERS retirees and reducing COLAs for CSRS retirees; calculating pensions based on an employee's high five years of salary instead of the current high three years; and eliminating annuity supplements for employees and their survivors who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62. The fact OPM's hurtful proposals were not included in the House NDAA does not mean they could not be included in the Senate version or introduced into any other piece of legislation this year. However, the fact the House did not grant OPMs request to include them (at least initially) in its version of the NDAA is at least a small ray of sunshine in our otherwise extremely turbulent sky. We will continue to keep track of this issue as well, since it is likely to be raised again elsewhere.
As we reported to members last week, the General Services Administration has issued guidance to federal agencies, authorizing them to pay Withholding Tax Allowance (WTA) and Relocation Income Tax Allowance (RITA) to reimburse federal employees for "substantially all" taxes they would now have to pay on government-provided moving assistance (such as airfare, shipment of household goods, etc.) when they are relocated in the interest of the federal government. Such moves would include those transferring to new locations or being moved because they were declared excess. Unfortunately, taxes on similar costs for people moving into the system (new hires, including CONUS hires) and those separating from the system (retirees and others leaving federal service) are not covered by the GSA's guidance, meaning these individuals would not qualify for WTA or RITA and will face a huge, unexpected and completely unfair tax burden as a result of the new tax law enacted late in 2017. FEA/NEA and our coalition partner Associations representing other federal workers will continue to push for relief for these employees from these tax burdens. Thus far, however, there has been little sign of Congress moving on this issue.
EXECUTIVE ORDERSAlso as reported to you last week, President Trump signed three Executive Orders clearly meant to impede the ability of employee unions such as FEA to represent members and protect their rights. The orders seek to put severe restrictions on official time (the time allowed for union representatives to handle grievances, bargaining and other labor/management issues, thus reducing the need to elevate and litigate many issues at a significantly higher expense to the federal government); to require all federal agencies to renegotiate all existing contracts with employees' unions under very restrictive guidelines; and to disregard existing civil service laws to make it faster and easier for management to fire employees they deem to be "bad performers." Many of the provisions in the Executive Orders are, in the opinion of FEA and other legal authorities, clear violations of existing federal laws and, therefore, unenforceable. Though claiming the measures are intended to improve the "efficiency" of federal government, they seem more likely to result in confusion, increased litigation and further decreases in employee morale. The full ramifications of these Executive Orders are likely to take a number of months, or even years, to sort out, but it is clear they were not signed with the intent of improving working conditions or easing the current state of attack federal workers find themselves in.
I recently returned from a very positive and productive trip to the Pacific. I was able to visit 10 schools and speak with lots of leaders and members along the way. One highlight was the AEAO Retirement Celebration. It was a great chance to say "thank you" to educators who have given so much to our schools and our students. NEA Executive Committee member Hanna Vaandering, and FEA Executive Director HT Nguyen were also along to speak with members and honor our retirees. While we were there, I was very proud to be able to show Hanna a few of our great schools and give her the chance to see the dedication of our members.
It is really important for FEA and NEA leaders to get a chance to speak with members. We heard lots of concerns about DTS as well as the new tax laws concerning relocation, DoDEA initiatives, and a variety of other issues. FEA will continue to notify members as soon as we receive information on these topics. Many thanks to all the members who took time to speak with us, and especially to all the Pacific leaders who helped with arrangements for our trip and school visits.
Next week, I will head to St. Louis, Missouri, to meet with other NEA State Presidents. This is an excellent chance for us to share concerns as well as solutions to the problems we are all facing. It is also an important opportunity for me to network with other state presidents and to share information about the struggles we currently face in DoDEA. Together, we are truly stronger.
NEWLY ELECTED FRSs
If you are a newly elected FRS, first I want to thank you for stepping up to this important job. I hope the members at your school will support and assist you in your work to advocate for members. It really is a team effort. The FEA Washington office has sent forms through the regional leadership to each school to report 2018-2019 DoDDS FRSs and the person (if different from the FRS) to whom membership materials should be sent over the summer. (DDESS materials will be sent to the local presidents). If you have not already done so, please complete this form as soon as possible and return it to Nereyda Jones-Luciano in the FEA Washington Office at this email. If you do not have a copy of the form, please contact Nereyda. Thank you!
Once again, DoDEA has announced summer trainings far too late in the year for many educators to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. No matter how many times I tell DoDEA that educators have to make summer plans months in advance, they just don't seem to get it. FEA will continue to ask for information and will share as soon as we receive any information.
For anyone leaving the FEA Bargaining Unit, including retirees, it is a good idea to stop your payroll dues deduction before you leave. Ask your secretary for a SF 1188. If you are transferring, you can restart dues deduction by filling out an SF 1187 in your new location. Also, be sure to file and elevate your "Goodbye Grievance" before your last duty day!
FEA/NEA SUMMER MEETINGS
The FEA Annual Membership meeting will take place June 29 and 30 at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Paul, MN. The meeting is open to all FEA members (Active and Retired). No pre-registration is necessary but, if you do plan to attend, please send a note to FEA's Gary Hritz so we can have an idea of what our headcount will be and make sure we have adequate space for everyone. The FEA meeting takes place immediately before the NEA Representative Assembly (NEA-RA) being held July 1-5 in Minneapolis. Twenty four of your fellow FEA members have been elected by you to serve as delegates to the NEA-RA. Learn more about the NEA-RA here.
The latest edition of the FEA Journal was mailed to members May 15 and is currently available on the FEA website as well. Be sure to stay informed this summer by checking out the FEA website or following us on Facebook or Twitter @FedEdAssoc.
RED FOR RESPECT
If your school/local is Wearing Red for Respect this coming Monday (or any other day of your choosing) please remember to send a picture to us so we can add it to our Facebook page. The way things are going lately, we might all need to start wearing red 24-7!