U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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United States of America


In the Matter of





Case No. 03 FSIP 152


    Local 3172, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (the Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (the Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Social Security Administration, Daly City Field Office (DCFO), Daly City, California (the Employer).

   Following an investigation of the request for assistance concerning whether DCFO employees would be permitted to consume food and beverages in the Interactive Video Training (IVT) room, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through single written submissions from the parties. The parties were advised that, following receipt of their submissions, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the matter, which may include the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.1/


    The Employer's mission is to administer retirement, Medicare, disability, survivor, and supplemental security income programs. The Union represents 15 employees in the DCFO who are part of a nationwide unit of approximately 50,000. They typically work as service representatives, claims representatives, clerks, and technicians, at grades GS-5 through -11. The national agreement (NA) covering these employees is due to expire on April 6, 2004.


    The parties disagree over whether employees should be permitted to consume food and beverages in the newly-constructed IVT room.


1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

Employees may use the [IVT] Room for breaks, lunches, etc., when the room is not otherwise being used. Food or beverages may only be used or consumed by employees (in the IVT room) during unit meetings, staff meetings, or training, such as CRT, SRT, etc. (Only the highlighted wording is in dispute.)

This proposal should be adopted because it addresses potential damage that may be caused by spilling liquid onto delicate computer equipment. For example, computer keypads will be located at each desk to accommodate training sessions, which increases the likelihood of damage to these keyboards if food and beverages were allowed in the room. Further, the IVT room will be carpeted, which may make it difficult to clean up spills and may show stains. To reduce problems relating to clean up, employees whose permanent work location is the DCFO, should use the lunchroom, which is also being renovated, or they may eat and drink at their normal workstations.

    Allowing employees to consume food and beverages during long-term training would not pose a problem because each training group will have a mentor assigned to them who would oversee cleanup. Since the DCFO is not the permanent work location for many of the trainees who will use the IVT room, they do not have the option of eating or drinking at their workstations. To address any perceived unfairness, these employees’ training desks would be designated as their workstations. They would be asked to limit their food and beverage consumption to snacks and beverages, however, and urged to eat their meals in the lunchroom.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes the following wording:

Employees may use the [IVT] Room for breaks, lunches, etc., when the room is not otherwise being used. However, all food and beverages must be removed from the room after usage. In other words, no food or beverages will be stored in the room. (Only the highlighted words are in dispute.)

The parties' past practice has been to allow employees to consume food and beverages in all non-public areas of the DCFO.2/ The Employer's justification for changing the past practice is "illogical," and inconsistent with its agreement to allow all employees to utilize the IVT room for breaks and lunches when it is otherwise not in use. If its concern were spillage, then it would have proposed "no consumption of food or beverages at any time." In fact, the Employer has failed to articulate "any adverse impact that would occur by allowing consumption of food or beverages at all times in the IVT room," and its proposal would serve no purpose other than to treat certain employees disparately. In addition, the Employer's proposed change would have a negative impact on the Union by prohibiting employees and Union officials from consuming food and beverages during Union meetings, grievance discussions, negotiations, and unfair labor practice investigations.


    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties on this issue, we are persuaded that the Union’s proposal provides the better approach for resolving the dispute. The Employer’s argument that its proposal is intended to prevent damage to delicate computer equipment is undermined by its willingness to allow employees attending long-term training and unit/staff meetings to eat and drink in the IVT room. In our view, accidents could happen regardless of whether monitors or management officials are present in the room, and the availability of these individuals to oversee clean up would not prevent damage from occurring in the first place. The Employer’s proposal also is confusing because the preceding sentence, which is not in dispute, permits employees to take breaks and lunches in the IVT room when it is not otherwise being used, which presumably includes the consumption of food and beverages. The Union’s proposal, on the other hand, can be applied consistently to all employees using the IVT room, and is no worse than the Employer’s in preventing accidental damage to computer equipment. Therefore, with the understanding that the Employer continues to control access to the IVT room to ensure that the accomplishment of its mission is given top priority, we shall order the parties to adopt the Union’s proposal.


    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations, hereby orders the following:

    The parties shall adopt the Union’s proposal.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky
Executive Director

March 23, 2004
Washington, D.C.

1/  On February 20, 2004, the Employer provided the Panel with an unsolicited document containing a proposal different from the one that previously had been established as its final offer.  The Union submitted its unsolicited response to this document on March 1, 2004.  Since both documents were received after the Panel’s January 16, 2004, deadline for submitting final offers and statements of position, neither were considered by the Panel in reaching its decision in this case.

2/  This will be the parties’ first IVT room.  Prior to the expansion, the lunchroom space was used for training sessions, unit/staff meetings, as well as for breaks and lunches.