On Friday, July 8, 2005, the Agency embarrassed itself in front of the press, constituent groups and other members of the public. This occurred during the Commission meeting to vote on the proposed restructuring plan. By now, you have seen various press reports on the meeting.
The meeting started on a defensive tone with the Chair attempting to persuade people that her plan was necessary. The only changes found to be appropriate were changing counties that offices would have responsibility for and having FEPAs report on a single district even if their state now was split. The “Dear Colleague” letter send July 12, 2005, basically is a print of her remarks at the meeting.
The various Commissioners spoke on the plan with the Vice Chair chastising those who provided input for not giving her a plan. The Vice Chair then went on the remark how even though her work group did not see a business justification, they had all kinds of data and she sent them back to develop some kind of plan. Acknowledging that the plan was not perfect, the Vice Chair chastised everyone again for not accepting change and stated, in essence, that we should have “blind faith” in the Commission’s leadership. Commissioner Silverman indicated she had many questions, but believed the plan would fix the fact that the Commission is like a piece of Swiss cheese, with holes that are growing. Finally, Commissioner Ishimaru made very clear that he did not support the plan and apologized for the way that affected staff, particularly senior managers, have been treated throughout the process. Commissioner Ishimaru indicated that the plan should have been developed in an open process, that information should have been shared, that public input would improve the ultimate plan and that the plan does not meet its goals and fails on too many fronts, since it fails to address many basic issues. Finally, Commissioner Ishimaru indicated that he wanted to hear from any employee who feels he/she has been subject to retaliation for having provided input or commented on the proposed reorganization.
After the great defensive opening statements, the questions and the fireworks began. Although Commissioner Ishimaru asked a lot of relevant questions, many times, the Chair attempted to call him out of order and later had to recant.
Nick Inez and Jim Lee displayed their demeaning attitudes in answering questions. Both were very defensive. And in case you did not know, Jim Lee says that “Notices of Intent” were filed a long time ago, but that no longer is the process. Only the Office of General Counsel or the Commissioners approve litigation.
As a result of the questions, several things are clear. The Commission will not hire new employees, and if an employee leaves, the employee will not be replaced. Questions about the costs and savings largely went unanswered, again.
There will be a backlog of cases and EEOC does not know how it will deal with them. There will be even fewer staff in the future since savings require positions will not be filled.
Commissioner Ishimaru put a motion on the floor that the Commission not take any action on the reorganization until the appropriations bill is signed, but it failed for a lack of a second. Commissioner Ishimaru warned of the dangers of acting in face of Congressional concerns.
As for next steps, several already are under way. Now that the Commission is sending its proposal over to Congress, many questions are being asked and it is going to be harder for the Commission not to have hard data.
Once again, your efforts in taking action to let your Congress people know your concerns will pay off. Check the website www.council216.org for an action fax later this week. We have to protect the appropriations language that will force EEOC to replace employees who leave and will prevent them from reducing services.
WE could not have gotten this far without all of your help, so thanks for taking action in the past, and do not stop now. Now is an even more critical time to use the momentum we gained by our actions. The Council’s legislative efforts will be noted at the AFGE Executive Board (NEC) meeting next week, and at the AFGE Human Rights Conference, there will be a forum on EEOC’s issues. So we have two more national platforms to raise the consciousness of other federal workers (many of whom have spouses, family, significant others, etc. who work in the private sector) and get them involved to keep EEOC a meaningful agency that is well prepared and able to address the mission.
Will keep you posted.