DoDEA Renews Attack on Employee Rights

posted January 28, 2019

Because they apparently never stop trying to demoralize and degrade the employees most responsible for making their schools great, DoDEA management is once again seeking legislation that would strip workers of bargaining rights and the basic civil service protections provided to most federal employees.

DoDEA is again asking the House and Senate Armed Services committees to pass legislation management claims is intended to merge its Stateside and Overseas units, but is actually a thinly veiled attack on its employees' rights.

DoDEA sought similar legislation in 2018 but neither the House nor Senate took up DoDEA's proposed measure as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. Now, DoDEA wants those committees to add its proposal to the FY 2020 NDAA.

Should the law be passed by Congress, the following areas would become the "sole and exclusive authority" of the Secretary of Defense -- and, by extension, the authority of the DoDEA Director -- and would no longer be negotiable:

  • Compensation (DDESS employees have had the right to bargain pay, thanks to FEA action, since the early 90s; DoDDS employees have had their pay defined by a law that would be thrown out under this proposed statute)
  • Allowances (LQA, COLA, etc.)
  • Leave
  • Benefits (including pensions, health coverage, travel, etc.)
  • Performance management (which DoDEA could argue includes evaluations, disciplinary proceedings, appeals rights, etc.)

In other words, the DoDEA Director would be able to unilaterally dictate all rights, benefits and working conditions for DoDEA employees.

DoDEA claims the legislation is necessary to enact changes that would improve its operations and services to students. However, FEA has offered multiple times to work with management on legislation that would enact most of the changes DoDEA seeks except for the elimination of employee rights and benefits. DoDEA has refused our offer: thus proving their priority is not improving services to students, it is attacking its employees.

DoDEA has already shown a willingness to use bodies such as the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) to impose negative working conditions on employees through the bargaining process. The FSIP, whose heavily pro-management members were appointed solely by the White House, sided with DoDEA on nearly all disputed items in the bargaining of a successor Master Labor Agreement for FEA-Stateside members and DoDEA management is now seeking to use the FSIP to impose negative ground rules in the bargaining of a new contract for Overseas employees. Still, that FSIP process at least involves some semblance of bargaining, which DoDEA management now wants to eliminate altogether through the reintroduction of its legislative proposal to gut employees' rights.

FEA will be working with NEA-Government Relations to make sure the new Congress is informed about DoDEA's true intentions with its legislative proposal and the harm that would result to working conditions and the overall quality of DoDEA schools if management's proposal were adopted. After all, in a time when teachers and the public nationwide are speaking out for better learning and working conditions in schools, how does DoDEA expect to remain an excellent school system if it continues to attack its employees who matter most: those who educate and work directly with students?

Like last year, FEA will likely ask our members and NEA members nationwide to write to Congress about this hurtful proposal from management. Last year's effort resulted in over 25,000 messages being sent to Congress in opposition to DoDEA's plans. We may need that many and more messages this year to stop the effort again.

More information on the proposed law and our efforts to combat it will be sent out in the weeks ahead. As always, our unity is our strength. We fought off this harmful proposal by management last year and, through unified action and with the support of our brothers and sisters throughout NEA, we can do so again!

We can only hope that, one day soon, DoDEA management will learn that attacking its employees week-after-week is not the way to bring about "continuous improvement."