Federal Union Fiddles as Federal Employees Furloughed?

By on May 20, 2013 in News

After hearing that a high level political appointee was approving attendance of a number of union officials on the clock and on paid travel to vacation resorts, I trolled the American Federation of Government Employees’ website for this year’s training and conference events.  Attendance at these events may be approved by a friendly management or under a labor agreement with an Agency and includes not only attendance but frequently (thanks to the Federal Labor Relations Authority decisions) government paid travel and per diem.

The following currently appears on the AFGE Headquarters website:

National Leadership Meeting
Orlando, FL
September 23–27, 2013

The NEC has called for a special National Leadership Meeting to develop a unified vision, strategies and actions to protect our members’ interests.

The environment has grown increasingly hostile for our own members and our union. What has worked in the past will no longer be sufficient to be successful in the near future. And we want to continue to be successful. Our time is short.

We hope the majority of Locals will send one to three representatives, along with the NEC, Bargaining Councils, HRC members, DEFCON, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Nurses, HISCO, etc. You can select who attends. No formal notices or elections are required, but pre-registration is required. (MY EMPHASIS)


National Leadership Meeting
September 23-27, 2013 – Orlando, FL

Discount Disney Tickets (Buy before Sep 20)

Disney has made available special tickets to their theme parks for conference attendees. (MY EMPHASIS)

Available theme park tickets through this discount include:

  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with 30 minutes of game play at the PlayStation® Pavilion
  • Disney’s Winter Summerland or Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Courses (before 4 p.m.)
  • A round of golf at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course

Tickets will be available for purchase online until September 20, so purchase your tickets early! (MY EMPHASIS)

The Hotel, by the way is the Lake Buena Vista Resort which claims on its website:

“Orlando, Florida is the ultimate getaway. Whether you’re single, married or with a family, there are plenty of things to do in Orlando. Spend your days at one of the many infamous theme parks or spend your time indoors indulging in a shopping spree! If that is all too much hustle and bustle, you can take it easy and tee off in one of the 170 odd golf courses in the region! Either way, there are too many things to do in Orlando not to have a fantastic and unforgettable holiday!” (MY EMPHASIS)

AFGE has hundreds of Locals around the country.  Most, if not all, have contracts or at least friendly political appointees that grant official time as well as pay travel and per diem for these folks to attend this “training”.

More AFGE Training Opportunities

AFGE District 2’s May get together is listed on its website as the Sea Crest Hotel in N. Falmouth MA.  The Hotel website calls it the sea Crest BEACH Hotel. (MY EMPHASIS) What does this resort say about itself?

“In today’s fast-paced culture, it sometimes seems difficult to appreciate the little things in life. Now is your chance to recapture these simple pleasures. Easily reached by both land and air, Sea Crest Beach Hotel provides a new look and personality that is light and airy, with a playful atmosphere and staff. Just minutes over the Bourne or Sagamore bridges, the Sea Crest Beach Hotel provides the perfect backdrop for business, and an equally alluring backdrop for a peaceful Cape Cod escape. (MY EMPHASIS)

AFGE District 5 May gathering is at the Sheraton Birmingham AL.  The union’s notice includes the following:

“This year will be a very special meeting. We are asking that you bring your family members with you to the convention.  We will make sure we set aside some special time for family.  This resort is located next to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the McWane Science Center, the Botanical and Japanese Gardens, the Birmingham Zoo, the Alabama Theatre, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Riverchase Galleria Shopping Mall and an outlet shopping mall 20 minutes.  Any cost associated with the tours will be at your expense.” (MY EMPHASIS)

Four of AFGE’s Districts in the Midwest are meeting in Spearfish, South Dakota May 20th through the 24th.  What’s near Spearfish? Mount Rushmore and a variety of fun to be had.  The Conference Center Hotel’s website says:

“The hotel’s location near historic Deadwood enables you to go for the jackpot at 82 casinos or pan for gold at Broken Boot Mine. You can feed the fish at the DC Booth Historic Fish at the DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery, snowmobile in Black Hills National Forest or ski at Terry Peak. Day trips to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial are other favorites, as is rock climbing at the striking Devils Tower.” (MY EMPHASIS)

District 9 is offering a June conference at Camden on the Lake resort  at the Lake of the Ozarks.  If you can’t get in there, you’ll stay at the Four Seasons Resort nearby.  On the Agenda is a Welcome Party, a Lake Cruise and Movie night.  Their announcement, not mine.

Districts 6, 10, and 12 will be hosting a Multi-District Training Seminar from August 4-8, 2008, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, Louisiana. According to the hotel website:

“Explore the best of New Orleans from the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel. Unwind in a comfortable guest room with WiFi, a 37-inch flat-screen TV and a mini-refrigerator. Upgrade to a deluxe room and absorb views over the Mississippi River or the bustling French Quarter. Choose an executive room and enjoy Executive Lounge access with complimentary breakfast and evening appetizers.  Gather with colleagues over cocktails at the lively Spirits bar before heading across the street for a vibrant night out at Harrah’s Casino. Savor local specialties at Drago’s Seafood, a popular New Orleans restaurant. “(MY EMPHASIS)

District 11’s training is to be held in two locations, the Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado and the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver Washington.  If you go to Beaver Run, it’s a ski resort with lots of outdoor activities.  It’s brochure tells you:

“On a stroll through town, Breckenridge Colorado’s mining heritage comes to life in the storybook architecture and Victorian flair that is truly one-of-a-kind.  Shops, outfitters, soda fountains, galleries, cafes and restaurants line the sidewalks. It’s a rainbow of colorful things to see and do. And there is no shortage of town festivals and events to share in every season of the year.”

If you go to Vancouver, the hotel promises:

“Reinvigorate in the hotel indoor lap pool and whirlpool after a workout in the fully equipped fitness center, a complimentary feature of this stylish Vancouver, Washington hotel. Sample contemporary Northwest cuisine in Gray’s at the Park or recharge with a coffee at Esther’s Coffee Bar located on property. Spend the day in downtown Vancouver and take a stroll along the nearby promenade which runs parallel to the Columbia River. Spend time browsing the wares in the local boutiques, shops and galleries” 

What is All of This Costing Taxpayers and Furloughed Employees?

If an average Federal employee is a GS-11 and assuming a geo pay from say, Philadelphia, the rate is $33.26 per hour.  Add to that about 40% overhead (typical figure) and you get $46.56.  A furlough day for one of these folks arguably and at most saves Uncle Sam $372.48.  A union training day costs the same as no mission work gets done.  If you include any travel and per diem to the mix for the union attendees, the cost per day goes up.  If the money was not spent on the union training, a critical question is how many Feds would go unfurloughed especially when you consider that any cost is more than doubled by the folks who attend both the district and national training conferences.  You run the numbers, you’ll find that every union training day equals up to three furlough days depending on travel , hotel, and meal costs.

What is AFGE Thinking?

Is it just me, but do you find it hard to believe that the Federal government’s largest union is holding conferences at resort locations and advertising a party atmosphere when represented employees are being furloughed and Agencies have drastically cut mission related training to help avoid furloughs?  Puts the question to the union’s priorities and the seriousness of  anti-furlough rhetoric.

This goes way beyond bad PR and indicates an insensitivity belied by J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, who issued the following statement on May 14 of this year in reaction to the Department of Defense’s plan to furlough civilian federal employees.   He said:

“The administration’s latest furlough announcement, 11 days for Department of Defense civilians, is absolutely outrageous. It is well-known that the Army spent $2.5 billion more on service contracts than it was allowed under law, a sum that could have been, and more important, should have been used to offset furloughs not only in the Army, but in the rest of DOD as well. “

I wonder if he scans his own websites from time to time or is, himself, happy to attend conferences with a “playful attitude and staff” (see above).  Maybe AFGE should forego official time and paid travel while Federal employees’ pay is frozen and many Agencies are planning or carrying out furloughs.

The Washington Post “Federal Eye” on 08/01/2012 had the headline: “GSA IG looking into 77 conferences held between October 2010 and April 2012”.  Some might ask whether IGs in this administration have the courage to address this issue asking who approved what and why.

No opinions above, just facts and questions.

© 2016 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.


About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

110 Replies

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  1. Joseph says:

    This is a very misleading article. “No opinions above, just facts and questions.” COME ON… who are you kidding? So I’m supposed to believe you because you copied and pasted a hotels website description of the activities that are offered at the hotel or the surrounding area? Am to assume that union leaders go and party and not get down to business just because of activities that are offered just because they offer discounts at theme parks so people can relax after they are finished with meetings and conferences for the day? So if the meetings were held in Toledo Ohio, would you write how union members plan on spending their day at the Toledo Zoo? How about Detroit? Spent their time on Bell Isle taking a relaxing stroll in the park? Regardless of where a convention is, one cannot generalize and say work isn’t getting done and its being paid for by the tax payers. Also, a lot of time in these conventions is part of internal union business, in which the leaders and stewards are on their own personal time, not funded by the tax payers. Do your homework instead of making assumptions

  2. G-pa says:

    Misleading article! I’ve served at union conventions before, including one in Orlando as a delegate for my lodge. My pay, travel and per diem were paid by the membership of my lodge and not the government or facility where I worked.

    • Bueford says:

      Nice to see some rational and well thought out replies. I have been to a couple of training sessions and I took leave for both of them. I have also gotten in harm’s way as a steward. Recently had some questionable travel in our local and the timing of this training and vacation atmosphere just looks bad when I will be foregoing my vacation due to furlough concern$. On the other side of the discussion, Union reps staying home will make no difference to my vacation and the local economy at these sessions will get a boost. The art. XXIII hostile takeover and additional nonsense at my local is why I am no longer involved. I think there would be less competition for the leadership it the treasury were closer to 10K instead of 100K.

      The trial appeal review didn’t make the last NEC meeting agenda but the new local leadership and cronies did manage to make a trip to DC that same week. (Are you smelling anything yet?) I am waiting for the NEC to meet in June and make a decision on this and my union decision is dependent upon theirs. I don’t think my local would represent me anyway and I am hearing they have been complaining to management at my work about free speech comments on the internet.
      Every union person here knows that if I were to go to the trouble of substantiating this it is a clear
      violation of the statute, and I have already opted for non-member statutory protection from my local. My ultimate judgment of AFGE will depend upon the NEC’s adherence to their duty under the constitutional provisions for due process under article XXIII. We can all believe as we wish. When the Truth is known it will speak for itself and I am open to it, whatever it turns out to be.

      Personally I think a little criticism is good if taken constructively.

      Integrity is also a requirement for unions. http://www.afge.co/integrity1….

      Thank you for your good union work and for the rational and thoughtful reply.

      • Richard says:

        So SCABS and B.U.M.s is it, anyway… This writing is in
        response to articles written by Bob Gibson. Now I know this idiot is off line
        comparing a GS-11 salary to many of us that are in the WG category or lower GS
        scale. These numbers are highly inflated, yet no one who replied to his article
        dropped their emotions and answered rationally Funny I thought that those who
        represent BUE’s of ANY union (Teamster’s, UAW, Machinist, Etc…) would
        actually know better. I would further argue though – that each of the named
        union’s bargains for every benefit (salary, retirement, medical, COLA, work
        hours, etc…) that those of government unions do not have an option to strike or
        take other actions. Remember the strike when Reagan fired all the ATC’s. We are
        not a “private” or a closed shop so to call others SCAB’s or b.u.m.’s seems uncalled
        for in this manner. The main concern for membership drives must surpass those
        who are already anti-union and as Walter Ruther (first UAW International
        President) once said “from the ballot box to the bread box” is what matters
        even more in this day and age.

        So the issue of “vacation” as Mt. Gibson refers is not true.
        The rooms are covered and so is travel from the local or whatever source is the
        sponsorship. With that said the “extras” are paid out-of-pocket by any
        representatives that wish to include their family. So the cost is a burden on
        the attending person. Funny thing – on the way to a conference I passed a Democrat – hmm imagine that.

        Brother Bueford, I would like to meet you and catch a beer
        together some time. I too am from AFGE local 1406. Seems to me that there are
        those who feel entitlement is more important than service – of which is very
        murky business to say the least. I’ll leave this alone but would argue that if
        we were able to strike how many of those regular BUE’s would drive right over
        the top of others that receive a stipend to protect and fight for the rights of
        others? Most all by my guess and you know why? In the end they receive the same
        negotiated benefits under the labor agreement when ratified (no closed shop in
        Federal service). Seems like a lose-lose or why pay dues period! when I get the
        same service up to a point is the maintained mentality.

  3. President says:

    Wow, you are very wrong here. I am a Local AFGE President and know nothing about a trip to disney. Perhaps it is a management trip since they are the ones who steal from the Bargaining Unit.

  4. Bueford says:


    Bob did give us a forum to share ideas. People who have had bad experiences with their local need a place to air their grievances. If you know of an open forum for this please reply so all can discuss it openly. I won’t be silenced or ignore the emperors dirty clothes- in the interest of getting them laundered. In my case I am too particular about my associations to be part of a corrupt local. I previously gave them hundreds of hours of my time. I would really like to be part of surveys or constructive discussions about what all BUEs really want, and not be told what I want from a national pulpit. I also believe this is the way forward for AFGE and increased membership.

    With respect-

    Still no reply about unions reducing or foregoing dues to share the burden during furlough… It’s easier to attract investors when you can show you have skin in the game.

    • Union Man says:

      Since you have to ask, that means it’s really none of your business, but don’t worry, the union is “sharing the burden”

      • Bueford says:

        I’m a Union man too. I am currently waiting to see if national will rule that my local act like a Union man’s Union. I think reducing dues during furlough would be publicity too good to keep under wraps. I have looked and not seen it anywhere, not via email from national, web search or from my local. My Union man training tells me don’t believe it unless it is in writing. If you have it in writing I would like to see it. Until then I will carry my own burden of disbelief.

        • Union Man says:

          Department of Labor rules allow any local to set their own dues according to that local’s membership votes and their national constitution rules (which are set by the membership during the union’s convention. If there was a convention recently, maybe your local has some insight into what went on how they’re addressing your concern). So if your local wishes to reduce dues, all it takes is a vote by the local to enact it, a national chapter can offer guidance on how locals run their business but it’s ultimately a local’s membership who decides what they pay, how often and how. So if you’re going to hold people accountable, start with yourself, run for union office, talk during your meetings, hold your local leadership accountable, whining here is not going to do much for you.

          • Bueford says:

            Since government Unions can’t strike I’m sure there is no need for a strike fund to help members out during furlough. I was really hoping for something from national that would at least recognize members were losing 20% of their income and that national was going to lead the way and offer some kind of relief from dues allotments. This would go a long way toward proving AFGE members were all in this together.

            I am bearing a valuable gift in an ugly package. AFGE boasts that they represent 600,000 employees and have 220,000 members. So what is up with the other 380,000? Could it be that some are just waiting for some kind of sign that what AFGE says is really genuine? Is it possible they have some kind of moral fiber that won’t allow them to support things that are wrong? 19 DOL criminal actions for AFGE in 2012 looks to be a record. I have also witnessed some blatant wastes of official time and I am embarrassed for the stewards involved because they obviously had no shame of their own. Is it possible that the 380,000 are just waiting for someone from national to curb these abuses? All I hear from AFGE and my local is how important official time is, and then I see it abused. I have never heard any concern about official time other than how much more can we negotiate and don’t get caught abusing it.

            A novel idea: National can actually make a statement about enforcement of official time requirements in their locals and also come up with some kind of dues relief for furloughed members. Maybe a public statement about more stringent requirements for monitoring compliance with Labor Law and actively enabling members to view financial records in their locals. Do you think this is what the 380,000 might be waiting for? It might even quiet some congessional critics. This kind of ethics and leadership are what we should expect from AFGE National. It’s what I’m waiting for. Dues for 380,000 averaging $15 would total about $5.7 million every two weeks. Do you think the organization could put that to good use?

            Good comment from the point of view of a local and setting dues and the department of labor rules and member rights. I am doing my best to hold people accountable. Those who gave statements speak for themselves:


            Still waiting for the NEC to rule. No whining here, just using every opportunity to make this right. Next stop DOL and another potential embarrassment.

      • demhack says:

        He’s a taxpayer so it certainly is his business

        • Union Man says:

          Actually no. Paying taxes is not a qualification to be privy to internal union business. Just like me paying taxes does not entitle me to look at your tax return.

      • theinnerring says:

        i think you just made his point.

    • G-pa says:

      Union representatives endure the same furlough time off as their members, we don’t get paid for those days either. The union dues are set at the lowest possible amount to cover the cost of the National, District & Local Lodges in fighting for better contracts and filing grievances and arbitrations and to pay for the cost of maintaining a lodge where union members can gather to air out collective concerns, etc. It is possible that giving away free memberships could bankrupt your lodge and leave you with no representation or contract. If you are suffering from extreme financial difficulties, then contact your union representative and ask for some hardship funding assistance (my lodge provided funds to applicants who showed justifiable hardships). The conservatives laugh at the workers for being so easily manipulated by them, as to discourage your membership with untrue propaganda! Don’t be a fool, join a union, get involved/vote, and protect your workers rights. If you want to try doing this for yourself, study the Weingarten Rules/law and you’ll find out just how much they’ll listen or respond favorably to a single person acting all alone… you won’t like the results!

  5. soonbgone says:

    Bob, Bob, Bob – you are about as misleading as you can be aren’t you? Tell the truth, correct EVERONE instead of throwing in your snarky comments on well-articulated posts that set the record straight on the inferences you make and that tell the “rest of the story”. You should be ashamed of yourself for stooping so low and representing yourself and your publication like a Fox News hack.
    To the rest of the posters, want a lesson in life? Every where the word “union” is used, replace it with employees. The union IS employees, and after you do that, you will begin to understand the absurdity of anyone represented by a union, bad-mouthing their union. They are bad-mouthing themselves. Unions are the community of employees at a given employer. Now replace the word union with family. Imagine if every beef you had with your family was aired for all to see. You certainly wouldn’t let your next door neighbor bad-mouth your family, so why do you let Congress and the rich do it?

    • Author says:

      Except that most Federal unions, including prominently AFGE, are led by the self interested with misconduct histories, focus on those with axes to grind and aren’t a bit interested in working with Agencies or on behalf of the regular, come to work, do a good job Federal employee. I wish the kind of union you are suggesting was common in the Federal sector. You write a great paragraph. It’s a shame there’s no truth behind the rhetoric. You unions file more grievances and ULPs, negotiability appeals and impasse cases about union institutional rights, official time, union offices and the like than about worker issues. Get real! Great words need at least good deeds. What has your union done for workers lately? What union commentors don’t like about this article is that the data comes directly from union websites and is irrefutable. The emperor’s lack of clothing is obvious. I will bet one thing and that’s that none of these events will appear in the public area of union websites in coming days.

      • G-pa says:

        “You unions file more grievances and ULPs, negotiability appeals and impasse cases about union institutional rights, official time, union offices and the like than about worker issues”… WTH?! These are all employee concerns which could affect whether or not your representative will be allowed sufficient time to respond to your issue with management and the time to build a defense/investigating and work through the grievance process with you, trying to help you come out on top of the issue. Try going to court without a lawyer and see how well you can fight against a prosecutor with many, many years & training in the governing laws… You’ll lose your butt! The agency I worked at & was a chief steward had more than a dozen lawyers, countless legal aids & numerous HR personnel to support managements attack upon our employees/members.

  6. Bueford says:

    It is good to know that some of the locals are doing a good job. Our local was inspirational in these two websites. http://www.eafb.org and http://www.afge.co both tell a story. Government unions are getting enough bad PR. I think that taking these trips while BUEs spend their vacation fund offsetting wage losses during furlough is in poor taste. Union officials should be sharing in the sacrifice. I think some of our local officials need training in ethics first. AFGE Locals had more DOL criminal enforcement actions filed against officers in 2012 than in the previous five years combined. If they fail the ethics course I don’t want their representation and they should stay home- the other training will not help. Saying that government and business officials do far worse is just an excuse. Right and wrong matter, and less wrong is still wrong! AFGE needs to spend some time doing some introspection and policing their own. We need a Union with a stellar reputation because integrity matters. Again Kudos to the Locals and officials who are doing it right. BTW Is anyone going to be reducing or foregoing dues during furlough?

  7. FUBAR says:

    Unions are a thing of the past and need to be abolished. They were created at a time when companies were taking advantage of the people, these days there are state and federal laws that cover the worker so no real need for the Union.

    • pattismithrocks says:

      I think we should abolish corporations, moran

    • AKFed says:

      Unions are far from a thing of the past. The beginning of the disparate distribution of wealth in this country can be traced to the pro business provisions of Taft-Hartley which tipped the balance of the National Fair Labor Standards Act in favor of employers. The only way possible to restore social and economic justice will be for all workers to stand together against the tyranny of Korporate Amerika through a resurgence of unions and creation of a labor or populist party. The GOP is blatantly anti worker and Dems are equally biased in favor of the status quo, though less blatant.

      • FUBAR says:

        Such BS, look at all the businesses that have shifted their production outside of the states…..unions have caused most of this. Time for them to go and time for the laws to change.

        • AKFed says:

          Businesses have left this country to escape having to pay a living wage to their workers. So yes, indirectly you can say they left because of unions, unions ensure fair fair pay, benefits and safe working conditions for workers. Businesses are going off shore to break the back of the working class in this country by exploiting workers in developing countries. I guess you are content to accept whatever scraps employers are willing to provide. The decline of the American middle class mirrors the decline in union membership in this country. The middle class will not prosper without a resurgence in union membership and a tax policy that ensures fair distribution of wealth.

        • AFGE Local President says:

          You mean a minimum wage (baseline labor cost) caused it….would you be more than willing to work for 1.50 a day? If so, companies would gladly stay in the U.S. If not, then tell me why a company would stay in the U.S. when they can pay a third world worker a buck fifty a day? And then tell me how that is a Union-caused problem. Uhhh-Huhhh

  8. Mark Fleetwood says:

    As someone who goes to work, each day, and comes home tired each evening after working as hard as I can to represent the members and interests of my bargaining unit, I find this whole conversation incredibly demoralizing. I should probably not be surprised by such ignorance of what federal union activists do, day in and day out. It’s ubiquitous even at my facility. All I can tell you is that were it not for training conferences like the ones the author bemoans, I would be in the dark about how to represent employees of my bargaining unit. Unlike the Agency HR Specialists I dialog with every day, before joining my Local and becoming involved as an officer, I had no background in human resource management, worker’s compensation, equal employment opportunity, collective bargaining, OSHA regulations or any of the knowledge that workers approach me each day expecting me to know about. No one can seriously posit that the talking head teleconference method of training is as valuable as the networking opportunities of attendance at a bona fide training opportunity. The author’s motivation was to generate controversy which generates readership. In this, he has apparently been successful. The National Enquirer has been successful for decades using a similar method.

    • FUBAR says:

      What a crock, Networking on the golf course or in the line for a ride at Disney. My tax paying money at work by union officials. Figures. The facts speak for themselves. Gonna send this to Fraud, Waste and abuse because I bet you don’t spend 8 hours in conference…..

      • Mark Fleetwood says:

        I don’t know where you send your Tax Payments… Mine go to the Department of Revenue not to my Local Union. I’m proud to pay Union Dues to my Local. If I and the legions of Union Workers who do pay dues should suddenly stop, nothing would be standing between you and a 60 hour work week with no overtime pay… (You’re welcome, by the way.) I invite you to send this to Fraud Waste and Abuse… I’m not going to Disneyland, but I will be sending one or two Stewards… That’s all my Local can afford. If Fraud, Waste and Abuse investigates this THEY would be guilty of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. The Author has already betrayed his anti-union bias in his remarks. “None so blind as those who won’t see…” Hey! How about that last election! That was a humdinger, wasn’t it?

        • demhack says:

          Bias?? Hardly all he is doing is stating the facts your the one who claims its anti union

          • Mark Fleetwood says:

            Bless your heart… You really don’t have a clue, do you?

          • demhack says:

            No the facts speak for themselves you just don’t like the unions excesses being brought to the light of day. Just like cockroaches running when a light is turned on

        • FUBAR says:

          Mark, my tax paying money for all the Govt officials that go to these events spend half of the first day getting the brief and the rest of the time screwing off. So yes you all are wasting my tax paying money, And yes I am ANTI-UNION! Because Unions are one of the main reasons American companies are shutting down or sending their business to other countries….thanks Unions I really appreciate it.

          • Mark Fleetwood says:

            Well, according to you I’m overpaid, so I must pay a lot of taxes too… Why don’t we just call it even and figure I pay for my own time while I’m in this training…

    • MtnGurl says:

      Why shouldnt your training be by teleconference or CBT? Just like the government employees that you represent. There is no money for training for regular employees.

    • demhack says:

      Great then the true test of your efforts would be the members paying your salary rather than the taxpayers or corporations

      • Mark Fleetwood says:

        Are you going to stop paying the HR OWCP Specialist who proudly says “If they don’t ask me the right questions, I don’t have to give them the right answers.” At least I’m on the injured employees’ side…

        • demhack says:

          There are more “injured” feds on the roles than service men. 80% of all the claims are claims that a State OWCP or SS would turn down. You have Feds claiming PTSD for seeing an accident while on the job. Having ortho surgery and then claiming they can never work when 99% of the taxpayers are back after the same repairs.
          Sorry Feds and their unions are unaccountable, over paid and under worked

          • Mark Fleetwood says:

            Well… I don’t guess I need to say anything after that tirade… Thanks for making my point… “Those lazy Feds” is certainly a new and refreshing argument…

          • demhack says:

            just calling a spade a spade

  9. Snitch says:

    I will be there a camera and camcorder. Friends will be ready to photograph the skip outs at the parks.

  10. lazycs says:

    Time that union members start paying more to insure their upper echelon members live HIGH on the HOG. Nothing is too good for these perfumed princes

  11. P Curley says:

    I say the same thing as I have said about management. Most of these “meetings” and “conferences” are unnecessary. In this technological age, video conferencing will most often suffice. As management “training” and “meetings are a waste of taxpayers’ money, this is a waste of employees’ union dues.

    • Mark Fleetwood says:

      I’m skeptical, but I would be willing to give it a try… Are you going to make the Agency provide a room and teleconference equipment for my Stewards so they can learn how to defend a nurse who was charged AWOL while she attended her mother’s funeral?

  12. Michael Tomasic says:

    I have no axe to grind in this debate, except that I am a Democrat. I do not view this discussion as Democrats versus Republicans. I do however call into question the premise that national or regional union meetings and seminars are government give-aways.

    1. Unions pay for the costs of these representatives to attend.

    2. The payment of these expenses by unions will not affect the consequences of the Sequester.

    3. Union management is elected by its membership, and can be changed by its membership.

    4. Compared to the tax deductions taken by management and business ownership for advertising, entertainment, meals, lodging and transportation for seminars around the world, the union expenditures amount to nothing.

    5. Congress, the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch not only attend many boondoggles, they often receive “stipends” or “speaking” fees, more commonly called graft, to the very same “seminars” that big business writes off as a tax deductible expense.

    6. Lastly, consider the the billions of dollars “lost” or “unaccounted for” in Iraq and Afghanistan and the no-bid contracts for billions of dollars to Dick Cheney’s former employer, Haliburton, in which he continued to own millions of dollars in stock, and other oil company related “businesses”.

    Yes, union executives sometimes abuse their offices, but in comparison they are guilty of misdeameanors while these other crooks have stolen tax dollars by the billions, yet manage to avoid even the threat of being indicted. And these include Democrats as well as Republicans.

    At least the union membership has the ability to curtail inappropriate conduct. In comparison, with the no-holds barred corporate political donations to “non-profit”, educational 501c entities, the union member is way ahead of the game.

    • Author says:

      Some bad assumptions to start

    • demhack says:

      OK then if you value your union so much time to raise the dues to cover the stewards admin time., his office heat light computers rather than the taxpayers

  13. Gen Info says:

    They could not have picked a more economical destination. Disney World looks like a ghost town at end of September. Kids are back to school. Hurricane season. Prices of all hotels, restaurants, and other activities in Orlando are at rock-bottom at that time of the year.

  14. E.Clarke says:

    I can’t believe AFGE is planning conferences during a time when they shoudl be demonstrating leadership and cancelling all conferences that require travel. I do beleive AFGE needs to have meetings but by teleconference and not by spending millions on travel and Per diem. AFGE could demonstrate the williness to participate in bettering our country and our Federal service careers instead of thie pockets.

  15. pattismithrocks says:

    AFGE certainly has a responsibility to hold meetings to plan its efforts to respond to the attacks on federal employees and federal employee programs which are being launched by Congressmen and Senators of both political parties. Developing strategies to defeat furloughs and other assaults on federal employee pay and benefits are the essence of what representational activitiy is all about. Conducting such strategy sessions in a central location with the participation of union representatives with a variety of ideas and viewpoints makes a lot of sense.

    The issue of official time is statutory and contractual. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 provides for official time for a broad set of union activities and indicates that the amounts of such official time are subject to negotiations by labor and management in respective bargaining units. Each federal agency has negotiated agreements with unions that represent employees in that agency regarding official time. Whether agency employees are entitled to official time to attend a conference depends on whether the topics discussed during the conference are appropriate under the law for official time and what was negotiated by a particular agency regarding official time use. The law provided for such official time because the law prohibits a closed shop but mandates that the federal unions provided representational services to non-members.

    Given that strategy meetings are .necessary in order to properly represent federal employees, the way AFGE set up these conferences is disturbing. Advertising fun and games that may be available at a conference hotel and/or in the surrounding area is inappropriate. These meetings are working sessions and not play time activities. AFGE severely criticized the Social Security Administration for sending hundreds of managers to a Phoenix resort hotel a few years ago. SSA advertised the amenities available sat the hotel ranging from pools, bars and casino trips. This event received severe criticism from the press and the union and led to SSA severely limiting future conferences.

    When AFGE does essentially the same thing in scheduling meetings at resorts and advertising the amenities to lure representatives to attend, AFGE is as guilty as SSA in poor judgement.

    The second disturbing aspect of these meetings is of the 8 hotels mentioned in the article 6 are scab non-union hotels. AFGE has a policy enacted at its last convention to only hold such meetings in unionized hotels. . Conducting conferences at resort, non-union hotels indicates that many AFGE leaders are not interested in supporting their colleagues in organized labor. That is a sad state of affairs.

  16. AKFed says:

    The author as a so-called LR specialist should be aware that 5 USC Chapter 71 clearly states that federal sector unions are in the public interest. The maligned district trainings referenced are designed to train the front line shop stewards how to meet their obligations to represent employees in grievances, OWCP, EEO, ETC. The sites are largely selected on lowest cost to the district and central location within the district. Should the unions quit preparing their representatives to fulfill their duties because of sequester? Screw that!

    • redauburn says:

      They can do this by video chat or calls, they do not have to travel and have hotels and bring family members for this. It would be cheaper to send 1 person to each office location and train a few inhouse than to have all these people travel. They are not interested in the employees grievances etc, just how much they can take out of the pockets to have a fun few days.

      • ifonlyicouldretire says:

        actually there is a lot you can get through face to face conference that is really lacking in video conferencing not to mention the far greater ability to network with others in your same position that would not occur if you’re not at a location together. People with spouses who tag along are doing so at their own cost for those extra people- what’s wrong with having something for them to do while their partners are working? I’m sure they were merely perks that were marketed by the venue so posted by AFGE as available. This is much ballyhoo over nothing. Kudos for AFGE for picking places that are an excellent bargain given the off season pricing they’ll be getting. Same with conferences in vegas or any other resort during an off-season. Its super cheap! So many people jump to ridiculous conclusions based on their own offcolor projections. Look in the mirror first and recognize your own projections before you leap down the path of righteous indignation. Chances are you are totally wrong when jumping to conclusions of someone else’s reasons for doing anything.

  17. HarleyGirl795 says:

    OH HELL TO THE NO! They speak out of both sides of their mouth, they are HYPOCRITES if they carry on with this conference…

  18. HRGuy71 says:

    When federal unions support the winning Democrat (and they support the Democrat about 95% of the time), the Dems make sure they are rewarded with taxpayer dollars, a meeting for one or two people in the oval office, and no hassle on official time, making sure the FLRA and MSPB appointees are squarely on board with the union perspective, and expanding the scope of bargaining to ensure unions have more power (and more paid time) to take away from the efficiency of the agency while a couple of years go by negotiating new contracts.

    There may be a pay freeze, a freeze on bonuses or promotions, etc. but the unions themselves always do well for themselves for their time, effort, press releases and making sure the media thinks all federal employees support the same candidates they do.

    Once again, Bob has dared to speak out on a topic that is well known in the LR community with the usual catcalls and denials of what is actually going on throughout government. The LR community also knows, as some IRS employees may also know, what is expected of them if they want to get a promotion or keep their jobs even in the absence of a direct order as the new policy preferences are parroted throughout the bureaucracy.

    The only thing I would add is that AFGE may be the largest union but, perhaps, not the one that always receives the most benefits for union officials.

  19. Joseph says:

    Bob: you need to keep reminding yourself of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “Gather all the facts before you set out to distort them”. Your math does not compute into any “savings” to offset furlough days.

    • PhoenixWoman says:

      He’s not paid to be accurate. He’s paid to attack and destroy the last surviving part of America’s middle class, the part that belongs to Federal unions. He’s just building off of decades of very expensive antigovernment propaganda put out by groups like the John Birch Society (whose founder and funder, Fred Koch, started the right-wing Koch family dynasty whose tentacles have reached into every part of American life).

      • Author says:

        Paid? I’ll let you know where to send my check.

        • LaborAttorney says:


        • PhoenixWoman says:

          Somebody’s paying your freight. The question is whether you get it directly from the mulit-millionaires and billionaires who want to destroy America in the name of Austerity (aka “refusing to commit to the common good”) or if you get it via various one-percenter front groups like Heritage or ALEC or Cato or some other less-well-known “pro-business” outfit..

          Here is what America will look like in a few years if the Austerity Billionaires whose water you carry have their way: http://www.tomdispatch.com/pos

          • Author says:

            I’ll be glad to tell you where you can get the bumper sticker saying: “The Paranoids are out to get me”.

          • demhack says:

            The only folks that I see trying to destroy this country are the 47% who don’t pay taxes and Feds who on avg make $130,000 per year and their pension is in the red $560B

          • AKFed says:

            The folks destroying this country are idiots like you who buy into the Faux News propaganda like the 47% BS. The working class has been under assault in this country by Korporate America and the 1% since the 1930’s. Now that they have effectively destroyed working conditions in the private sector through “right to starve” legislation they are turning their attention to the last bastion of employee unions, the public sector. Once they have broken the backs of the public sector unions they will solidify their oppression of American workers and prevent a resurgence of working class activism with application of domestic terrorist provisions of the Patriot Act!

      • Rambo1957 says:

        Squawk! Koch Brothers! Paranoia will destroy ya! What a buffoon!

    • $31427826 says:

      You need to realize, Bob is not out to present the facts. His only purpose is to bash the unions.

  20. shkago says:

    You’d be surprised at how many “union officials” do NOT take personal leave to attend these functions! Having been a Gov employee for nearly 40 years, I saw a LOT of people cheating the system! This article is spot-on as to what really happens by union people! Unions are KILLING THIS COUNTRY! Open your eyes, people!!

  21. Shaking My Head says:

    Union reps can go across country at the cost of thousands of tax payer dollars to frolic and perhaps train, and I cannot get approval to go AT MY COST to a local conference that I need for my chosen profession. What a world.

  22. Andy2x says:

    This is the kind of ridilculous article that detracts from real issues, like political appointees and government managers traveling to tropical locales at $25K/year, or sending an employee to a $40K unnecessary course. Disney offers very low rates for conferences (saving money) and they offer discounted tickets to ALL conferences held at their facilities. This article sounds like it was written by a Repulican member of congress.

    • Shaking My Head says:

      Not really. At a time when travel requests for serious conferences/training are being denied, reading something like this is disappointing. Doctors and other professionals cannot get needed training. Offering to pay for it yourself is also denied. The union where I work gives out incorrect information, plays favorites, and is downright disruptive beyond the original issues. Sending these folks to playgrounds is not the answer. Of course, this is a small issue when you consider the bigger messes with which we are dealing, but it is these small problems that need to be dealt with in order to stop the big ones.

    • Tim2x says:

      Wow Andy, Way to stick to party lines on the issue. If you were to read the whole article there were other conferences set up as well….not just Disney. Maybe you could make an excuse for each one of those instances. While your’e at it, go ahead and start throwing out excuses for our administration and the follies the purport.

    • PhoenixWoman says:

      It’s definitely written by someone whose career is based on trying to show managers how they can please the brass — who themselves must please Congresscritters, who themselves must please the rich people who put them in Congress — by cutting budgets, which is typically done nowadays by slashing at employee benefits.

      That’s why FERS was brought in to replace CSRS. That’s why the Pentagon introduced a really rotten payroll system, PHHRS, which they soon dropped because it was an unholy complex mess — but which spread to civilan agencies before it died.

      That’s why we have all these articles that try to get Feds to attack each other, rather than fighting the real enemies and dealing with the real problems, most of which have to do with the fact that, even as the vast majority of us have either fallen behind or are barely treading water, the richest Americans — who are so rich that they don’t identify with slobs like us, but with their fellow hyper-elites across the globe — have made out like bandits: http://blogs.reuters.com/david

    • demhack says:

      why would they need the tickets if its a business meeting

  23. Rambo1957 says:

    Spent one week in Pittsburgh a few years ago for a union conference. Many representatives either did not attend the conference or attended very little. Oh, they were there. Drunk. Not all mind you. But that conference cost plenty of money and seemed to get little accomplished. Never attended another.

  24. retired fed says:

    What Pam Baca said times 5. Mr. Gilson knows all of that but just chooses to ignore the facts. The only thing the Government supplies for this activity is the time, nothing more is allowed by law.

    • Rambo1957 says:

      No. But union dues are wasted and the membership rarely has a clue as to what on. Time costs money to the taxpayers.

      • PhoenixWoman says:

        If union dues are “wasted”, why is it that the Federal (unionized) workforce still has the middle class lifestyle most Americans had up until Reagan and the Bushes started letting their billionaire pals ship jobs overseas?

        • Rambo1957 says:

          Clinton signed NAFTA with a Congress controlled by Democrats. Reagan and Bush Sr. Both worked with Democrats controlling Congress.

    • Author says:

      Were you asleep for Department of the Treasury, Customs Service v. FLRA, 836 F.2d 1381 (D.C. Cir. 1988).

    • LaborAttorney says:

      In some cases, management kicks in travel costs as well.

  25. jamesjim1k says:

    As a former Union VP for a major union, I see this as nothing but a flash point anti union message. I was a union VP in charge of the Midwest, and yes I could have had a meeting in any city in 8 states, for in 1995 dollars, at a cost of around $29,000. I could have hosted the same meeting in Orlando or Las Vegas, for half the cost. My volunteers put in lots of extra hours that they were not compensated for, and I and many of them choose to pick up the fare to bring their family with them at their own expense at an opportune time during the school year.
    Its a no brainer. Half the cost, and yes they get to spend some time with the family. The upside of it, I had 90% of the spouses in the meeting learning how to support the spouse. I did not have any of my reps out with the family to play, did not allow that! We had Fri/Sat meetings, in many cases in Orlando, the hotel would often give reduced rate for Thur, and we had Sat night stay covered for cheapest air fare.
    I would encourage everyone to bring in the family at their own expense, and enjoy a couple of days. It was a lot cheaper than doing it in Dc or my region. It worked really well because about 60% of the families did it. It was a small perk, at their own expense that made up for the hours on the phone.

  26. Guest says:

    I cannot wait for this administration to be OVER

    • Chris Tompkins says:

      This sort of thing was going on long before the current administration was elected, and will continue long after this administration is replaced by the next one. Only Congress can fix this sort of thing and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

    • Ross200 says:

      I look forward to eights years of President Hillary Clinton after President Obama.

  27. what do you think? says:

    Why wouldn’t the unions post a sample furlough grievance letter for the various issues such as enough funding being available for current FY tasking. Just wondering……

  28. Fed_Peasant says:

    AFGE Secretary Treasurer Eugene Hudson should be rectifying this situation. Or, maybe he approved it….LOL!!!

  29. steve5656546346 says:

    We have become a 3rd world corrupt country.

  30. Keeg says:

    I am so pleased to see that the union is thinking of all it’s members not just themselves.