Lawmakers call telework protest ‘hypocritical’

Labor Department employees in Boston showing support for telework, get blasted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

  • Labor Department employees are facing criticism for protesting in front of their offices in Boston about the agency’s telework policy. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Scott Franklin (R-Fla.) called the decision by AFGE employees to show up at their offices to seek more telework privileges "hypocritical." In a letter to acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, the lawmakers are seeking answers to three questions by April 10. Among the details Ernst and Franklin want to know is how much official time did employees log in the four weeks preceding the March 19 rally and what did the protest cost the Labor Department.
  • Tensions over telework are affecting yet another area for the federal workforce. At least half of recent cases at the Federal Service Impasses Panel have to do with either return-to-office, or work-life balance. The panel, an independent branch of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, generally helps settle disputes between agencies and federal unions. Now, after agencies began returning employees to the office more often, the panel has found that issues like hoteling are commonly leading to impasses in collective bargaining.
  • Federal agencies face new requirements to vet artificial intelligence tools before putting them to use. The Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to publicly report on how they are using AI, the risks involved, and how they are going to manage those risks. If agencies do not follow those steps for a particular use case, OMB said that in most cases, they will have to stop using those AI tools. Vice President Kamala Harris said the guidance ensures safe, secure and responsible use of AI across the federal government. "When government agencies use AI tools, we will now require them to verify that those tools do not endanger the rights and safety of the American people," Harris said.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has released new and far-reaching regulations. CISA’s proposed cyber incident reporting rules will apply to about 316,000 organizations across 16 critical infrastructure sectors. CISA kept the definitions in the rules broad. The agency said it needs a lot of data to analyze cyber risks and share information quickly across sectors. The goal of the regulation is to prevent hacking campaigns and other incidents from spinning out of control. The new rules will not be finalized until the end of 2025. CISA is taking comments on the proposed rules through June 3.
  • Agencies will soon have more options to buy commercial products. The General Services Administration is expanding the number of providers under the Commercial Platform Initiative (CPI) from three to eight, including six new ones. Along with current platform providers, Amazon Business and Fisher Scientific, GSA awarded spots to a range of companies including Staples and Grainger and four small business e-commerce platform providers. The awards come as the use of e-commerce platforms by agencies has been growing. GSA said for 2023, 34 agencies spent $80 million through the three CPI platforms. That is double the amount of money spent in 2022.
  • Blue Star Families want to hear from military and veteran families about issues affecting their lives. The largest annual military family lifestyle survey is now open and all active-duty service members, veterans and their spouses are encouraged to tell their stories. The survey is designed to understand issues affecting military families, including housing, employment, access to health care and food insecurity. It remains one of the most comprehensive data sets for lawmakers, the Pentagon leadership, and community partners. You can find the survey by googling "Blue Star Families."
  • The Pentagon’s policy that allows service members to be reimbursed for travel when seeking reproductive care out of state, was used 12 times from June through December of last year. The department spent around $44,000 on transportation and lodging expenses for service members seeking such procedures as an abortion, in vitro fertilization, and egg retrieval. The policy was the reason Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) put a hold on military promotions for nearly a year.
  • Republican lawmakers said teleworking employees at the Small Business Administration are not making full use of their office space. SBA said about half of its workforce is in the office on any given day. But House Small Business Committee Chairman Roger Williams (R-Texas) and seven of his colleagues, said the agency's buildings remain underutilized and are wasting taxpayer dollars. Lawmakers are asking SBA about its return-to-office plans and why the agency is asking for a 30% increase in its rent budget for 2025.
  • The Treasury Department will work with the financial sector to make more fraud data available for training artificial intelligence models. A new report from Treasury on AI cyber risks, said a fraud data gap is one of the major challenges for the financial sector. The report also points to a lack of consensus across the sector on what exactly constitutes an AI system. Treasury said it will work with other agencies and industry partners to develop a common lexicon of AI terminologies most relevant to financial institutions.
  • Federal employees donated more than $68 million to this year’s Combined Federal Campaign. Each year, feds can contribute to the charitable donation program, which spans more than 5,000 different charities. The donations go toward programs that offer, among other things, housing, education, food supplies, and job training. The 2024 campaign wrapped up this week with an awards ceremony in the nation’s capital. Since its inception more than 60 years ago, the Combined Federal Campaign has raised over $8.6 billion. Next year’s campaign will begin this fall.
    (2024 finale and awards ceremony - Combined Federal Campaign)

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