National Weather Service Breaks Union Contract

The National Weather Service has terminated its 16-year contract with its employee organization, the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that the National Weather Service has terminated its 16-year contract with its employee organization, the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO).

According to reporter Kimberly Miller, “weather service officials made the announcement this afternoon [July 21], saying it was done in consultation with Palm Beach resident and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.”

The newspaper quotes Louis W. Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, as saying that “We look forward to collaborating with the union on an updated agreement that paves the way for a more effective National Weather Service for America and a better workplace for our most valuable asset, our employees. Renegotiating the agreement with NWSEO is about enhancing the rights and opportunities that employees deserve.”

NWSEO has been concerned about the large number of vacancies in the NWS, which is forcing meteorologists to work overtime.

On the NWSEO website, the organization writes that “The National Weather Service has 668 vacant positions and these numbers continue to grow. The information, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from NWSEO General Counsel Richard Hirn, confirms what NWSEO has been stating all along: Many forecast offices are struggling to fill emergency essential shifts with the burden placed on the backs of dedicated employees. Overtime work is routine in many offices as emergency essential positions go unfilled for months and sometimes years.”

A GAO report issued in May said that “actions have been taken to fill increasing vacancies, but opportunities exist to improve and evaluate hiring.”

The weather service and the National Weather Service Employees Organization have been in negotiations over a new contract since 2015.

NWSEO is the labor organization and professional association that represents 4,000 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Those belonging to the employee organization include:

  • The forecasters, technicians and support personnel of the National Weather Service, the nation’s official source for weather forecasts and warnings.
  • The technicians who track and command the nation’s weather satellites from Wallops Island, Virginia.
  • The civilian crews of the “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft based in Tampa, Florida.
  • The attorneys in NOAA’s Office of General Counsel, who are responsible for enforcing laws that protect the nation’s environment and natural resources.
  • The hurricane researchers and other scientists and support personnel at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Key Biscayne, Florida.

About the Author

Michael Wald is a public affairs consultant and writer based in the Atlanta area. He specializes in topics related to government and labor issues. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Department of Labor, he served as the agency’s Southeast Regional Director of Public Affairs and Southeast Regional Economist.