AFEU President Stone Letter to ARC Center Director Tu

 

Things Center management could do now to address employee concerns

 

From:  “Stone, Leland S. (ARC-TH)”
Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 10:04 AM
To: “Tu, Eugene L. (ARC-D)”
Cc: Ames Center Bargaining Unit Members
Subject: [AFEU] Things Center management could do now to address employee concerns

Dear Center Director Tu,

On Tuesday, you and acting Administrator Lightfoot had an All-Hands and also spoke separately to a group of “early career” employees.  While a number of issues were raised, one clear theme that has been an issue for some time is the inadequate financial compensation of federal employees, which is hitting our early-career folks especially hard as they aspire to establish a future for their families (or planned families) in an increasingly expensive Bay Area.

The Agency’s answer to this is always that they are seeking new “personnel flexibilities” to address these concerns, which effectively lays the blame on Congress, scapegoats civil-service law, and, more importantly, fails to acknowledge the many existing authorities and mechanisms available right now that could be harnessed to at least begin the process of alleviating some of the financial stress our employees are facing.  This could be achieved without any need for the dubious legislation proposed by HQ that would undermine merit principles and current employee/taxpayer safeguards embedded in civil-service law.

In 2003, the Union worked with Chairman Boehlert of the House Science Committee to shepherd in the NASA Flexibility Act of 2004, which authorizes NASA management to provide tens of thousands of dollars in Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention bonuses to its high-performing employees as well as other compensation-related authorities.  For some inexplicable reason, the above authorities are rarely used and, when they are, the recipient is typically a senior official and not the very rank-and-file technical employees in desperate need of additional compensation.  The Union calls on you to commit to using these authorities aggressively to provide our best new and seasoned workers with meaningful bonuses acknowledging their significant value to Ames and NASA.  I have spoken to former employees who left for greener pastures and they told me that they ultimately gave up because Ames management did not even try to address their needs and that, if they had received any kind of bonus or some indication that management was trying, they would not have left because they really wanted to stay at NASA.

Furthermore, as Ames is gearing up to lease some of its real-estate assets to create new housing, the Union urges you to make sure that any Request For Proposals includes a set aside of 25% or so of the housing units to be reserved for federal employees, preferably at below market rate*, consistent with the Environmental Impact Statement.  If the new housing is in part designed to reduce vehicle traffic at Moffett, then the more Ames employees who could walk to work the better.  Clearly, any housing development activities initiated by Ames on federal property should be guided at least in part by a keen desire to mitigate the acute housing/commute problems facing many federal employees at Ames.

The Union believes that if the Center were to embrace the two recommendations above, this would go a long way towards showing employees that you hear them and are exhaustively exploring ways to address their concerns using existing mechanisms under your control.  I have cc’ed the bargaining unit for transparency so they may see their Union’s proposals and hear your reply.

Respectfully,

–Lee

AFEU

* In anticipation of the argument that a discounted rate would not be lawful, the Union would ask that the Chief Counsel’s office provide a written analysis to support any such claim.  More importantly, even if such a discounted rate were unlawful, why not propose a legislative solution for that problem given the obvious direct benefit to employees, instead of the current batch of anti-CS flexibilities being contemplated at HQ?