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AFGE takes its ball, goes home

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UPDATE BELOW: Citing alleged “union busting” activities at a Nebraska Air Force base, the American Federation of Government Employees said Tuesday it is pulling out of Defense Department talks to design a new performance appraisal system.

AFGE objects to Offutt Air Force Base’s refusal to allow registered nurse Julie Sheehan to attend the design team meetings in Washington. AFGE said the base’s refusal is retaliation for her successful organizing and collective bargaining efforts. Sheehan is vice president of AFGE Local 1486 at Offutt.

AFGE said Sheehan attended an initial labor-management meeting in Los Angeles last September, and attended the first round of meetings in Washington last month. But AFGE said Offutt is refusing to let Sheehan attend further meetings. AFGE said the base’s supervisors have accused Sheehan of poor performance and placed her on a performance improvement plan — which they called “trumped-up charges” — though they said she has consistently received top performance ratings.

“They are targeting this employee to discourage union membership,” said Don Hale, president of AFGE’s Defense Conference. “This is nothing less than union busting, and we won’t stand for it. We are pulling out of the design team, and the Air Force Command and DoD’s senior leaders can explain it to Congress.”

Hale said AFGE will return to the personnel system discussions — which also aim to design new hiring flexibilities and work-force incentives such as bonuses — if Offutt allows Sheehan to participate and drops its claims of poor performance.

Offutt spokespeople were unavailable for comment.

UPDATE: The Pentagon issued this statement Wednesday morning regarding AFGE’s pullout:

The Department of Defense recognizes and respects the right of the union leadership to select the bargaining unit representatives they believe are best suited to serve on the design teams for the National Defense Authorization Act 2010 personnel initiatives. Unfortunately, a significant workload requirement precluded management from releasing one of the selected individuals. We have provided the union leadership the opportunity to select an alternate for this very important initiative. This option is strongly encouraged in view of the workload considerations of the previously selected individual.

The NDAA 2010 personnel initiatives present the Department with both a tremendous challenge and opportunity. In crafting the new authorities, our goal has always been to assure broad based participation. AFGE is one of several unions participating in the design and development process. As we proceed, we will continue efforts to assure the union perspective is fully considered.

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  1. Sam Kitchen Says:
    March 18th, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I applaud the AFGE for pulling out of these discussion and supporting a fellow Union Official. Thank you for your continued support of all bargaining unit employees throughout the Government. This is, as you stated, nothing more than retaliation and disparaging treatment against a bargaining unit member. In a recent 67 page EEOC report it was noted that within my occupation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons that the Bureau has bred a agaency that allows retaliation and harassment of its employees. I see that we are not the only agancy that is retailiated against for doing the right thing.

  2. Ivan Lennon Says:
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    The press release this article is based on is chock-full of lies by AFGE. [...]

    As for the “failed” NSPS system, AFGE has never been able to explain just what was so bad about it – the worst their lawyers could come up with was that it wasn’t hurting employees now, but they were somehow sure it would in the future. The REAL reason is that it had an appraisal system with checks-and-balances built in to be as impartial and fair as possible, necessary because bonuses were based on performance. So, a fair appraisal with bonuses based on performance – no wonder AFGE had hysterics. And no wonder they’re trying to sabotage development of a similarly performance-based successor.