EPA Ignores Experts Setting Password Security Policy

In case you missed it, EPA is yet again changing it's password requirements. This attempt to strengthen security will ultimately reduce security.

As noted security expert Bruce Schneier notes, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently published its four-volume SP800-63b Digital Identity Guidelines. As Bruce notes, the document "makes three important suggestions when it comes to passwords:

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NTEU Defends EPA Attorneys from Attack

After EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wrongfully accused EPA's attorneys of colluding with outside parties, NTEU Chapter 280 came to their defense with a strongly-worded rebuke of the Administrator's improper accusations.....

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NTEU Members Get Free $1,000 Death & Dismemberment Insurance

In case you needed another reason to join NTEU as a member, all NTEU members are automatically covered by a $1,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment Policy -- Free! There is no premium to be paid; the only requirement is that they remain an NTEU member in good standing.

Members can get basic policy information....

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Continuing Resolution Expires December 8. Then What?

On December 8th, the current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 expires and the temporary debt limit suspension in place will be lifted.  To date, none of the FY 2018 appropriations bills have been enacted and there remains no agreement on the so-called spending caps (sequestration).

On December 8th, funding for federal agencies expires and the temporary debt limit suspension will be lifted.  Congress must vote before then to pass a CR, an omnibus appropriations bill, or some combination thereof to keep the government open.....

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Consider Leave Donation to Dr. Grifo, EPA's Scientific Integrity Official

Dr. Francesca Grifo, the Scientific Integrity Official at EPA, is undergoing treatment for a serious illness. She is expected to be away from work until January 1, 2018.  Her accumulated annual and sick leave, and leave bank hours are exhausted. Please consider donating annual leave to help her out.  Dr. Grifo has been instrumental in helping our employees with Scientific-Integrity issues and we need her back.

Dr. Grifo is a member of the EPA leave bank. You may transfer your leave to Francesca by completing....

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Open Season & Free Access to Consumers' Checkbook Comparison Tool

Federal benefits "open season" started today. This is the time that federal employees may change their insurance plans without a qualifying life event. Open season runs through Monday, December 11, 2017. NTEU Members get free access to the awesome Washington Consumer's Checkbook health plan comparison tool.

Employees wishing to change their health insurance company may do so....

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House Committee Wants Federal 2-Year Probationary Period

A House Committee advanced legislation this week increasing the probationary period for federal workers to at least two years.

H.R. 4182, the inappropriately named "Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act of 2017," would extend the probationary period for employees from one year to at least two years and possibly beyond.....

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Consumer's Checkbook Health Guide Access & Discounts

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NTEU members get free access to the Consumers’ Checkbook’s online guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees and Annuitants. This user-friendly, interactive guide allows FEHBP participants and prospective enrollees to rank and compare plans, as well as gauge plan features and flexibility based on doctor selection and other factors. It also provides information and plan comparisons for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. Currently only 2017 plans are available. 2018 plans go live in the guide on November 13, 2017, the first day of federal benefits open season.

Also, NTEU members are eligible for a 30-percent discounted subscription to Consumers’ CHECKBOOK magazine, which rates local service providers for quality and price in seven local markets. They rate the best doctors, dentists, auto repair shops, plumbers, veterinarians, carpet cleaners, roofers and much more.

If you're already a member, thank you! If you're not, click here to join now and get your discounts!

House & Senate Action on Budget Resolution

In a round of bad news for federal employees, the U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) by a vote of 219-206 that directs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to produce at least $32 billion in cuts. This committee primarily has jurisdiction over federal employee benefit programs, which is where these cuts would need to come from, translating into federal employee benefit reductions.....

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Demands to Bargain

Whenever there's a change in working conditions NTEU has a right to bargain. Depending upon what type of change and how it's rolled out, we may be able to negotiate over the scope of the change.

Sometimes management has a legal right to implement a change, however, but they still are required to bargain what's called "implementation and impact." If an announced change will impact you, please contact Chapter 280 at info@nteu280.organd let us know more about the change and how you expect it to impact you.

Keep in mind that there are very tight timeframes for telling management that we demand to bargain. So do not delay in contacting us or it might be too late!

EPA Mistakenly Increases Parking Rates

If you park in the Reagan Building garage (as part of the HQs parking program), your parking costs are not supposed to increase for October. However, we have been contacted by members who informed us that the proposed new rates were nonetheless populated in the pay.gov system.

We notified EPA about this discrepancy and he told NTEU that EPA has been correcting the errors person-by-person for the NTEU bargaining unit (members and non-members). If you find that your bill for October has increased from last month (either as an individual parker or as part of a carpool) please let us know ASAP so we can notify management and get it corrected.
 
We have demanded to bargain the proposed increase and submitted initial proposals, but negotiations have not yet been scheduled. Until negotiations are concluded, there should be no change in the parking fees.

We will keep members informed of any progress and of course any final agreement with regard to this situation. Thanks to those of you who sent me comments, information, and suggested proposals. Feel free to continue to do that and I welcome any calls to further discuss this or any other issues.

To stay up to date, please join here.

Inspector General Investigating Time & Attendance

NTEU learned today of a broad time and attendance investigation by the Inspector General's Office. We have confirmed that they are investigating employees in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, but it appears from the scope of their employee questioning that they may be investigating beyond OTAQ.

Given this broad investigation, it's essential to keep in mind several important items....

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NTEU Wins Transit Subsidy Settlement

NTEU successfully negotiated a transit-subsidy reimbursement for employees for owed back transit benefits, and the deal has now been signed.

Recall a few years back Congress increased the amount of transit subsidy for employees from $130 per month maximum to $250 per month for those with higher transit costs. Despite Congress increasing the subsidy, EPA refused to increase the benefits, costing employees thousands of dollars in lost benefits.

NTEU challenged EPA's failure and the case has now settled.  You will be able to claim your actual transit costs up to the maximum of $250 for any time after Congress increased the amount that EPA did not allow. You will have 30 days to submit your claim after EPA makes the official announcement.

We are trying to get the agency to give to employees actual amounts employees were reimbursed, but thus far have been unsuccessful. As a result, you may need to reconstruct the amounts you were paid yourself based upon your own records. We know this is difficult to do and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. But given that you could be reimbursed around $3,000, it is worth your time.

This is another benefit brought to you by NTEU. If you have not yet joined, please do so now by clicking here and filling out the SF-1187 dues withholding form. The more employees who join, the stronger we are in negotiations such as these and able to get your direct benefits.

New Chief Steward

Alan can be reached at chiefsteward@nteu280.org or 202-566-2784.

Alan can be reached at chiefsteward@nteu280.org or 202-566-2784.

NTEU Chapter 280 has chosen Alan Margolis as Chief Steward.  Beginning August 1, Alan will assume the position while transitioning out of his OGC work.  He expects to begin picking up NTEU work starting August 3, and to fully transition to NTEU work from OGC work by mid-September.

Alan has been at EPA since 1991, with all but three years spent in the Office of General Counsel.  He served as the first LGBTQ+ special emphasis program manager (SEPM) in OGC and also served on the Diversity Dialogue Committee.

We are thrilled to have such an experienced lawyer join the NTEU team!

Fitness Center Update

We've been negotiating with management and they've been negotiating with Federal Occupational Health, the contractor that runs the headquarters' fitness centers, to see if there are ways to keep the fitness centers open despite the Administrator's refusal to spend money on employee health.

We are hopeful that, working with management, we'll be able to keep open both the Potomac Yard and Federal Triangle fitness centers and that they transition to EPA not funding them will be seamless to employees.

The next update to this topic will come in a members-only email, so if you're interested in keeping abreast of the topic, join Chapter 280 now.

VERA/VSIP Update

Dues-paying members of NTEU Chapter 280 received a number of members-only emails detailing various aspects of the voluntary early retirement authority (VERA)/voluntary separation incentive payment (VSIP) process over the past several months. By now most of you, including the non-dues paying employees have learned many of the details we gave early access to for members.

The application period for VERAs and/or VSIPs is currently open. All applications must be submitted by July 26, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To apply, visit this link.

Due to problems accessing the federal eOPF system used by EPA for personnel records, deadlines may be extended, but do not count on it. The agency is currently refusing to extend the application deadline even though you need the eOPF system to get information necessary for the application. NTEU is pushing the agency to change its position and extend the application deadline.

 

House Committee Passes EPA Budget Bill

Today the U.S. House of Representatives Interior & Environment Committee passed a funding bill for EPA, the Department of the Interior, and related agencies. The bill provides EPA a bit more than $7.5 billion, a 6.6% cut. Coupled with the 1% cut for fiscal year 2017, EPA would be down 7.6% if the bill passes and is signed into law.

There some question about whether the EPA funding bill will pass Congress. Legislators are still discussing an "omnibus" spending bill, that would lump all the non-defense agencies together. No telling what would come out of that process.

We'll keep you posted!

New Electronic Transit Enrollment Form

Click to visit EPA HQ's new transit subsidy application and renewal form.

Click to visit EPA HQ's new transit subsidy application and renewal form.

EPA finally is doing away with that cumbersome PDF transit benefits enrollment/recertification form, in favor of a web-based form.

While the form has not been officially rolled out agency wide, it can nonetheless be accessed and completed by clicking here. Submitting this form is the same as submitting the old PDF-based form.

Note that you will need to sign into EPA's Intranet, however, to access the form.