Good evening Chapter 141,
Today wrapped up the virtual legislative conference that is usually held live, in person, in Washington DC with our elected representatives of congress. These meetings with Senator Collins, Senator King and Representative Golden were opportunities to bring the issues that face Chapter 141 to light. It is our role during this legislative conference to inform these elected officials of the issues that we face as federal employees.
Locality Pay/Staffing Issues
One of the many issues that we discussed was expanding the coverage of Boston locality pay to more than just southern Maine. We have been working jointly with the National Border Patrol Council here in Maine on making this a priority.
We shared many examples of how most of our Ports of Entry are hundreds of miles away from quality healthcare, our heating fuel seasons are significantly longer among other examples that we are all familiar with. These are all things that are overlooked when locality pay increases are evaluated, because common sense shows that our cost of living is equal to, if not higher, than those living in the areas identified under Boston Locality pay. We also brought to light the recent examples of the “air bnb” short term rentals that have exploded in our areas. People are being priced out of their homes and long term rentals are outrageously priced, if you can find one at all. It is clear that recruitment incentives are short term fixes, as our locations in Maine have continued to lose staffing that was brought on to fill the gap. The positive news is that Representative Golden is working on submitting a bill for increased Recruitment and (finally) Retention! at hard to fill locations. A draft of this bill has been sent to us here at Chapter 141 and we will be pushing to include the rest of the counties in Maine in the Boston Locality Pay designation. We will keep you updated as that process continues.
There are currently 2 tracks of trying to get officers Hazard Pay, a national grievance and legislation. There are currently no updates to the national grievance which is awaiting decision from an arbitrator. NTEU national is attempting to create legislation that will ensure we receive hazard pay for our continued efforts during COVID-19.
There weren’t many updates for the retirement issues, other than they are still making their way through congress. For those who are not aware, these are the 2 main issues with current employees’ retirement: Enhanced Retirement Recession and Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act.
Enhanced Retirement Recission In November 2020, CBP sent letters to approximately 1,500 CBPOs informing them that they were no longer eligible to receive the higher annuity for their time at CBP without 20 years of service at the agency, despite the fact that they had been promised a proportional annuity and paid in the higher law enforcement officer (LEO) contribution. NTEU sent a letter to OPM urging them to find a solution for CBP Officers who have been notified of changes to their eligibility for a proportional law enforcement annuity. In response, OPM confirmed that resolution of this issue must be through legislative action. Since then, NTEU has continued to engage with CBP, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and other allies on the Hill to discuss potential legislative solutions. OFO and OPM have both reconfirmed their commitment to assist NTEU by collaborating on legislation aimed at fixing the OPM interpretational guidance that gave rise to this issue. I will update you on the status of such legislation as it develops. Additionally, impacted employees can find additional information and FAQs related to this issue at https://www.nteu.org/cbp-enhanced-retirement-error.
Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act Earlier this year, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Law Enforcement Equity Act (H.R. 962/S. 1888), which would include certain federal positions within the definition of law enforcement officer for retirement purposes. The bill would extend LEO retirement to armed, uniformed Seized Property Specialists in the GS-1801 job series that are responsible for custody, management, and disposition of seized and forfeited personal and real property, including controlled substances, currency and firearms. The bill also includes a provision that allows certain LEOs to buy back prior service as law enforcement service for purposes of retirement. Both the employee and the government agency would be required to pay the difference between normal retirement contributions and law enforcement retirement contributions during those years, plus interest. There have been some questions about whether CBP Officers who were on board when CBP Officers became eligible for law enforcement retirement in 2008 would be eligible for the buyback provision in this bill to March 2003 when CBP was stood up. The bill’s sponsor has assured us that the intent is to ensure all employees who have years of service in a job series that was later granted law enforcement retirement can buy back that prior service, including CBP Officers. The Congressional Research Service believes that the current language would cover CBP Officers and the bill’s sponsors have asked both the Office of Personnel Management and the Congressional Budget Office to confirm that. If it is found it does not, they intend to amend the bill when it moves forward to ensure CBP Officers are able to take advantage of the buyback provision if the bill becomes law. While this is good news, it’s important to note that the high price tag of this bill may make passage difficult. And the buyback option makes it even more costly. We will continue to work with the bill’s sponsors to encourage passage of this bill to ensure that CBP Seized Property Specialists are granted LEO retirement back to March 2003 and that the bill’s buyback provision applies to CBP Officers.
Legislative Conference and Your Dues
One of the common misconceptions, especially from our non-dues paying member friends, is that your dues money go towards political donations to elected officials. That is simply false. There is a separate fund that members can elect to contribute to called the Treasury Employees Political Action Committee. If you would like more information on this, please contact me after business hours and while you are not at the workplace, on government time or using government equipment.
The attached photos are the talking points we also spoke about during the meetings.
Thank you all for being members.