GSA is evicting labor officials from federal building in Chicago

Giving thanks could be tough for Charles Paidock and his colleagues this week.

On Nov. 16, Paidock, the regional vice president and chief negotiator for the Great Lakes region of the National Federation of Federal Employees, learned that he and two of his labor union colleagues were being evicted from their Chicago offices due to an apparent clerical error by the General Services Administration.

The local NFFE chapter has occupied space in the basement of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago for 25 years, but GSA officials said they thought the office was vacant and recently found a new tenant. The union, which is challenging the eviction, must leave by Dec. 1.

Tamara Adams, a labor and employee relations officer in the Office of Human Resources for GSA's Great Lakes Region, explained in a Nov. 13 e-mail to Paidock and his colleagues that the decision was based on "unfortunate circumstances beyond our control."

"The property management division believed that the office was not being used and have secured a lease for this space," Adams wrote. "HR was unaware of this development and was notified in fact by you that the office had been made unavailable to you. Regretfully, this miscommunication concerning the office resulted in PMD prematurely reclaiming the space."

But Paidock alleged that the eviction was not a miscommunication. In recent years, the union representative has filed a bevy of unfair labor practice grievances with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on behalf of NFFE members.

"There's no way they could have made a mistake like this," Paidock said. "A trainee would not make this mistake. They wanted to boot us out of the building."

In a statement to Government Executive, GSA said the courthouse space was provided to the union "as a courtesy."

"Given the pressing needs for space in the courthouse, GSA recently assigned the subject space to another federal operation," the statement said. "The government's agreement with the union on providing a separate office states that one must be provided when there are 35 bargaining unit employees. Currently, there are six eligible employees in the Dirksen Courthouse, which therefore does not require GSA to provide a separate office space."

The agency said it already provides an office suite to NFFE on the 15th floor of Chicago's John C. Kluczynski Federal Building to serve the needs of all bargaining unit employees throughout the Chicago Federal Center.

"The 15th floor suite is newly remodeled in compliance with all union requirements and the union took occupancy of this space on Aug. 17," the statement said. "GSA continues to be in full compliance with the terms of this contract with NFFE."

Paidock has had other confrontations with GSA. In February 2008, he was reassigned from his role as a librarian and document archivist to filling staplers throughout the Kluczynski building, where he works as a GSA program operations clerk. Paidock filed a grievance and was recently successful in four out of five claims, he said.

NFFE first signed a contract with GSA's Public Buildings Service to occupy the office space in 1984. The union, like others throughout the country, does not pay rent for use of the facility. The contract, which has been extended every three years since it was originally signed, is set to expire at the end of 2009.

"It's an obscure space in the basement," Paidock said. "It's not prime real estate. It's not the 38th floor overlooking Lake Michigan."

In the e-mail to Paidock, Adams noted that the number of bargaining unit employees in the Dirkson building "has been significantly reduced to only 6 employees and since the [U.S.] Marshall's [sic] Service has restricted access through the basement, it is not very convenient for employees to access the office."

The union's contract with GSA states, "The employer will continue to provide office space where it has been doing so prior to the effective date of the agreement. In addition, if any of the union's national council officers do not have access to an existing office, the employer will provide one in those regions."

Paidock has filed a grievance with GSA over the eviction, but says the dispute will not be settled before the new tenant is scheduled to move in. It is unclear if Paidock and his colleagues will move to the 15th floor suite of the Kluczynski building.

Paidock plans to hold a Nov. 30 protest on the Federal Plaza in front of the GSA offices. The group will set up furniture, including a desk, lamp, couch and filing cabinets outside.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly characterized GSA's statement to Government Executive as saying the agency had failed to uphold its end of the contract for union office space in the courthouse. The article has been updated to correct the error.

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