Election Day is sought as an unpaid holiday


Another federal holiday is in the offing. But federal workers shouldn't get too excited because it'll be an unpaid holiday.

The House Post Office and Civil Service Committee meets today to complete work on legislation that would designate Election Day a national holiday.

The measure, designed to boost voter turnout, would make the first Tuesday in November in even-numbered years Democracy Day.

Lawmakers say making Democracy Day a paid holiday would be too expensive.

New agreement

The Social Security Administration and the American Federation of Government Employees recently signed an agreement that expands employees' rights and mandates improvements in working conditions.

The memorandum of understanding will affect thousands of employees at all SSA field offices and teleservice centers.

Under the agreement:

* Management must make "reasonable efforts to protect employees from abusive and threatening clients" and prevent such abuse.

* Employees will be allowed to personalize their work stations "within reason and good taste."

* Management will make an effort to supply all claims representatives with computer terminals at their work stations.

* Claims representatives in each office will be provided with equal working space.

* Visually disabled workers must be provided with Special Terminals and Adaptive Resources, which is commensurate with software used by sighted employees.

* Visually impaired and hearing impaired workers must receive technical training and updated software at the same time as non-disabled workers.

* Management will be required to remind employees of the federal VDT/Eyeglasses program and advise them on filing related medical claims.

* Management and the General Services Administration must "actively pursue . . . corrective actions" when a health or safety problem stemming from heating, ventilation or air conditioning is found in the workplace.

* Computer screens that have problems, such as flickering or blurring, must be removed from use.

Under the agreement, SSA has budgeted at least $500,000 for the purchase of anti-glare screens, foot rests, wrist rests and other adaptive devices for employees who request such equipment in order to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other occupational hazards related to using computer terminals.

Group created

The Federal Labor Advisory Group has been set up by the Office of Personnel Management in order to give unions a greater role in developing personnel policies.

Sheila Velazco, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said she is hopeful that the group "will give labor a voice at the start. Then when we begin the negotiating process, we will be negotiating from a position of more strength."

Ms. Velazco said federal labor union leaders had been seeking a role in developing personnel policies and "OPM is responding."

The group will comprise representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the National Association of Government Employees and the AFL-CIO.

New postmaster

Deputy Postmaster General Michael S. Coughlin took over as acting postmaster general yesterday.

Mr. Coughlin was named to manage the agency while the postal governing board conducts a search for a permanent postmaster general.

Mr. Coughlin, who joined the agency in 1967 and has been its top operating manager for more than five years, is considered a candidate for that post.

Anthony M. Frank, who became postmaster general in 1988, left the Postal Service on Monday to return to private business. A search for a successor began in January when Frank announced plans to depart.

Clerk pleads guilty

A former clerk at the House Post Office pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to embezzling more than $10,000 from the facility.

Yvonne M. Welborne, 41, of Oxon Hill, is the third postal clerk to plead guilty to embezzling funds from the House Post Office.

Ms. Welborne admitted stealing the funds between November 1988 and July 1991, said U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens. She also agreed to assist in the federal investigation of alleged criminal activities at the House Post Office.

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