Federal Union Negotiates Historic Contract Provisions Extending Key Benefits to Federal Employees in Domestic PartnershipsWednesday, October 27, 2010
Contact: Mark Davis, NFFE Forest Service Council Negotiating Team
Washington, D.C. – The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), a national union representing 110,000 federal workers government-wide, including 22,000 in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), is proud to announce the negotiation of a new benefit extending FMLA-like entitlements to USFS employees living in domestic partnerships. Negotiated by NFFE’s Forest Service Council (NFFE-FSC) in its recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the provisions allow covered federal workers to take leave to care for their partner with a serious health condition. Covered employees may also take up to three months of unpaid leave and/or annual leave to care for a newly born or adopted child.
“This is a big step forward for the federal workforce,” said NFFE National President William R. Dougan. “Now, Forest Service employees living in domestic partnerships will have the right to care for their loved ones in times of need. This is an example that we hope other agencies will follow.”
Effective October 25, new contractual provisions put leave entitlements parallel to that of the FMLA in place for USFS workers with domestic partners. Though the provisions are modeled after entitlements found within the FMLA, it does not replace or alter the statutory framework of the law. FMLA provides leave entitlements that allow married federal workers to meet family challenges, such as the birth or placement of a new child in the family or a serious health condition of a spouse. The new CBA extends similar leave entitlements to USFS workers with domestic partners.
Since President Obama took office in January of 2009, the Administration has made a number of key policy changes regarding domestic partnership issues. President Obama’s June 17, 2009 memo to federal agencies, subject “Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination,” laid out a policy objective of extending to same-sex domestic partners benefits equivalent to those available to married employees, to the extent it could be achieved consistent with Federal law. On June 14, 2010, the Administration issued a new rule clarifying that domestic partners were covered family members for purposes of sick leave usage.
“It was the leadership shown by President Obama and OPM Director Berry that made this accomplishment possible,” said negotiations team member Mark Davis, who drafted the provisions. “It took the union to secure these benefits, but it was their statement of policy and definition for ‘domestic partner’ that opened the door.”
“We are proud to have negotiated this important benefit for our bargaining unit members and their families,” said NFFE-FSC President Ron Thatcher, noting that this family-friendly benefit will have no cost to the government. “This just goes to show how much workers can achieve when they do not allow themselves to be artificially separated by their differences, but rather stand together in solidarity. Now that NFFE-FSC and the USFS have shown the way, we hope that other agencies will implement policy to extend the same benefits to all federal employees.”