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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New Chief Steward

Incoming Chief Steward Anne Pastorkovich.

Incoming Chief Steward Anne Pastorkovich.

We've passed the Chief-Steward torch recently in Chapter 280, with Chief Steward Alan Carpien's retirement. The Chapter Executive Board voted to replace Alan, upon his retirement, with NTEU Secretary Anne Pastorkovich.

Alan leaves us after serving 48 years in the federal government, with 37 years of that at EPA. We were fortunate to have Alan for the last six months of his federal service as he poured all his energy into serving our members.

Outgoing Chief Steward Alan Carpien.

Outgoing Chief Steward Alan Carpien.

Upon his departure, Alan said:  "Please convey to the NTEU Board and membership my thanks for their allowing me to serve as Chief Steward for the last six months.  I hope I have been able to help some people and even learned a thing or two.  Happy New Year to all and best of luck as you continue in your careers." Alan made an enormous difference for us settling several grievances favorably for our members and handling numerous other member difficulties. We are very sad to see him go.

The sadness of his departure is tempered somewhat by the fact that he will be replaced by equally-capable Anne Pastorkovich, longtime Union official and Executive Board Secretary. Anne is also an attorney with the skills necessary for the Chief Steward position. Anne assumes her seat on January 9, 2017.

Anne's departure left a hole in our Executive Board, however. Our Secretary position remains open. If you're interested in serving as Secretary, please contact NTEU Chapter 280 President Diane Lynne. Remember, only dues-paying members may serve on the Executive Board. If you're interested, please visit our membership page to get the details on Chapter membership.

Open Season Ends December 12

Don't forget that "open season" for federal employees ends at midnight on Monday, December 12, 2016. Open season is the time when you can change your health, dental, and vision plans and create a healthcare flexible spending account without a qualifying life event. OPM has a countdown clock, along with more information on open season here.

NTEU members get FREE access to the awesome Washington Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Health Plans, which lets you see how the plans compare on price and features. If you want Guide access and have not yet joined, please contact NTEU Executive Vice President Amer Al-Mudallal directly at 202-566-2789 to process your membership form. Since Guide access is provided through NTEU's national website, and membership-form processing normally takes some time, we'll need to handle your form specially to ensure you get full access to the NTEU website before the deadline.

If you've already joined but still do not have access, please contact NTEU's national membership coordinator Margaret Allen at 202-572-5500, provide her your name and full social security number, and let her know that you need access soon to the NTEU website members-only materials.

In addition to the Guide to Health Plans, members also save money through a bunch of discounts provided by NTEU. If you take full advantage of these discounts, you can effectively offset the entire cost of your yearly membership.  Click here to see a complete list of member benefits in this PDF.

 

NTEU Fights for You

Click above to download a flyer to hang in your office or cube.

Click above to download a flyer to hang in your office or cube.

There are new threats to the important, hard work you do every day at the EPA. NTEU is here to serve as your advocate through uncertainty.

NTEU is YOUR Union working on:

  • Educating Congress and the administration on what you do
  • Defending EPA employees
  • Fighting threats to your agency

Now we must stand together. Join NTEU and Join the fight for EPA employees.

Click the image at the right to download a flyer with this message. Hang it in your cube or office, in your break room, and on community bulletin boards around the office.

Open Season & Consumers' CheckBook Guide to Health Plans

Become a member  and get free access!

Become a member and get free access!

Don't forget that "open season" started this week. You can now change health, dental, and vision plans, and start, change, or end your federal savings account (FSA-Feds). You must make your selection by December 12, when open season ends. After that, you can only make changes with a "qualifying life event."

If you are a dues-paying member of NTEU, you get free access to the Washington Consumers' Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans by joining NTEU Chapter 280 at this page. Then, when you receive your NTEU membership number, get access to the free Guide to Health Plans benefit by clicking here.

If you're having problems getting access to the member's-only section of the NTEU.org website, it may be because NTEU does not have your social security number or has not yet issued a membership number. Please contact NTEU Membership Records Coordinator Margaret Allen at 202-572-5500, ext. 7004 to find out about your membership status and get access.

Federal Benefits "Open Season" & Free Consumer's Checkbook Plan Comparison

How to get your free Washington Consumer's Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees.

How to get your free Washington Consumer's Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees.

Once a year the federal government lets its employees make changes to their health, dental, and vision plans and flexible spending accounts without having what's known as a qualifying life event, such as a marriage, birth, death, or other qualifying event. This once-a-year time to change is known as "open season" in fed-speak.

This year's open season runs from November 14 to December 12, 2016.

But how do you decide which health plan is right for you? As a benefit of being an NTEU member, NTEU provides free access to the Washington Consumer's Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, which normally costs $10 per person. This excellent, easy-to-use guide takes you through a few simple steps to find the best health plan for you and your family. Find every plan available to you ranked by estimated out-of-pocket costs and more.

Not a member of NTEU, visit our Join page and sign up now to get your free health benefits guide starting November 14. The image, above, is NTEU's publication on this free access (click it to download a PDF document).

Effecting Positive Organizational Change at EPA

by Lou Kerestesy

Too often, when government attempts to change, it ends up reinforcing behaviors it doesn’t want.

Government is under such tremendous pressure to improve that change is the new normal. Yet many in government feel worn down by change that doesn’t improve much for them or their customers. Agencies that undergo “change management” efforts make three common mistakes that inhibit change and reinforce undesirable behavior:

  1. Most organizational change is conducted from the top, where the view is too broad to see specific behaviors that need to be different. A top-down view lacks information from lower and peripheral parts of the organization needed to make change stick. It also mistakenly assumes leaders control or can influence the right change mechanisms throughout the organization.
  2. Most organizational change is about the organization, not behavior. Goals, benefits, strategies,  new processes and procedures, tools, re-organizations — most are about the organization. Leaders rarely describe specific existing behaviors in need of change, or what desired behaviors would look like.
  3. Most change efforts take the wrong approach to changing behavior. Top-down, organizationally focused change requires compliance, and compliance relies on punishment and penalty (with some negative reinforcement). These are great for preventing, decreasing and stopping unwanted behavior, but not for promoting new behavior.

Fixes to these shortcomings are straightforward.

Leadership can integrate top-down and bottoms-up approaches by talking to the people who will be impacted by change. The "what" and "why" of change should be communicated from the top down and from the center out. But information about the how of change needs to be communicated up and in. Hold town hall meetings, set up a cross-agency workgroup, take surveys — find ways to ask people in the organization “how would we do that?” and, periodically, “how’s it going?”

An easy fix to sync behavioral and organizational change is to identify not just the current activity that leadership want to be different, but also the behavior. Explain what’s wrong with current behaviors and what triggered the need to change them. Describe new behavior that leadership wants to see. Ask people who do the work to tell you how their behavior would have to change to be more of something that is the target of the change effort — more innovative, customer-service oriented, risk tolerant, etc.

Finally, promote new, desired behavior using positive reinforcement. But beware, that doesn’t mean pats on the back and bonuses.

Everything we do produces a consequence. When a behavior changes our environment in ways we like, we repeat it. When it changes our environment in ways we don’t like, we stop. According to Aubrey Daniels in “Bringing Out the Best in People,” we do what we do because of what happens after. To change the right behaviors in the right way is to understand what reinforces them and to modify reinforcements accordingly.

Consider this example: If contracting officers spend more time with customers to produce better requirements and solicitations but miss deadlines for awards and extensions, what happens? They’re not rewarded for better contracts and forgiven for missing deadlines. They get in trouble for missing deadlines because the real reinforcement in their world is for throughput, not better quality.

Organizations get the behaviors they reinforce. If they modify reinforcements they can change behavior like a magnet aligns metal shavings. One powerful positive reinforcement an organization can offer is to enable someone to improve what they do to benefit themselves and their customer, and let them carry out it without getting in trouble.

Organizations will likely find they must prioritize — that as their people do more of something, better, they have less time for something else. But that’s also what change management is about, isn’t it?

 

Lou Kerestesy is the Founder and Chief Innovator at GovInnovators and has 30 years’ experience in federal, state and local government. GovInnovators mission is to help government serve best by innovating itself, from the inside out. Lou can be contacted by clicking here. Lou's full bio at LinkedIn.

Commentary originally published on fedscoop.com and used by permission of the author here.

What to Do When You've Been Wronged at EPA

The agency and its employees, through its unions, agreed on procedures to challenge actions that we don't think are fair, appropriate, or accurate. We call that process a "grievance," and it's detailed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Article 34.

EPA guarantees that a grievance filed by an employee "does not affect the employee's standing with the Agency." Employees are assured by EPA that they will be free from "restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, intimidation or reprisal" for filing a grievance or participating in the grievance process. See CBA, Article 3, Section 3.

Prior to filing a grievance, we typically try to reach out to your manager to discuss the matter, with your permission, of course. We find that we can sometimes resolve the issue informally prior to resorting to the formal grievance process.  But where our informal contact bears no fruit, where you're uncomfortable with us reaching out informally to your manager, or where it is strategically disadvantageous to do so, we then move to a formal grievance.

Process
The grievance process is established to resolve issues at the lowest level possible. To accomplish this, the agency and NTEU agreed on a three-step process....

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New NTEU National Website

Some of the new members-only features of the new NTEU website.

Some of the new members-only features of the new NTEU website.

NTEU's national office recently unveiled its new website, and it rocks! It includes a new member page tailored to you with news specifically about EPA, new access to member benefits, a legislative action center, and more, designed to give you even more for your paying membership.

If you're having trouble accessing the new website's members-only section, check out this login tips and tricks sheet. And if you're still having problems, email webhelp@nteu.org.

Want to get all these awesome benefits but you're not a member? Visit our Join page and fill out the SF-1187 form to start your membership today!

Political Activities as a Fed: The Hatch Act

It's all politics all the time lately in the media. As a fed, we have some restrictions on what we can and cannot do at work and at home when it comes to political activity. We want to keep you out of hot water, particularly since the Hatch Act's only authorized penalty is removal from your job as a fed.

According to the Washington Post, "there have been 88 complaints of Hatch Act violations" since October 1, 2015. Five of those resulted in disciplinary actions and six more in informal settlements with penalties ranging from three to fourteen days suspension.

And while high-placed political appointees get a pass with no punishment for clear violations, the little guy gets hammered. And since we're all little guys (you too ladies), we need to watch out. Below is a quick question-and-answer list put out by the EPA Office of General Counsel on what you can and cannot do....

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Long-term Care Insurance Premium Increases

Many of you know that you're eligible for long-term care insurance as a federal employee. The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) helps you pay for care when you are ill, injured, or disabled. Long term care is care that you need if you can no longer perform everyday tasks by yourself due to a chronic illness, injury, disability or the aging process.

In the past, premiums were relatively stable. However, in 2010 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved premium increases. On Tuesday OPM briefed NTEU's national office regarding yet another premium increase. If you have coverage, expect significant premium increases on November 1, 2016....

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NTEU Protecting Federal Retirement

The FERS retirement system is fully funded and financially sound with no unfunded liability. Today, FERS is frequently pointed to as a model by a diverse group of pension experts for its three-legged stool structure (defined benefit, defined contribution, and Social Security), and by workforce experts for meeting workers’ job portability needs. Federal employees contribute a portion of their pay toward their retirement to achieve an average FERS pension of approximately $1500 per month, a modest retirement income.

But since 2010, Congress has used the federal retirement program to help close the federal deficit, essentially cutting the take-home pay of new employees. Federal employees have contributed $21 billion to deficit reduction through increased retirement contributions.....

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