Government Union Demands Major Upgrades to Taxpayer-Funded Research Facility

Newly completed water center at University of Alabama cost $18.8 million
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The labor union representing employees at the National Weather Service is demanding major upgrades to a new water resources facility at the University of Alabama, including that each employee have a soundproof office, receive a pay increase, and have access to a community garden.

The National Water Center will soon open on the University campus in Tuscaloosa, after construction was completed in December 2013. The National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) has submitted a list of demands to add to the $18.8 million facility before they begin their work.

A list of “National Water Center Proposals” submitted on May 28, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, reveal the extravagant demands made by the union.

“Cubicles will not be used in the building, each person will have their own office,” the union has demanded. The office walls will be a minimum of 3 inches thick and “insulated with ‘Quiet Batt 30 Soundproofing Insulation.’”

The offices will also be furnished with a desk from the Kathy Ireland Southampton Onyx Collection, have a “Freedom Task Chair with Headrest,” and a 51 inch Samsung television, with a cable package that includes all available news and weather channels.

Common areas will be painted the shade “marine” and all office areas will be painted in the shade “beeswax,” according to the document. The NWSEO also wants all artwork to be from “local artists within a 50 mile radius” of Tuscaloosa and the art is required to have a “water theme.”

Break rooms will also be furnished with Samsung TVs, a refrigerator, stove and oven, microwave, and an eating table that is “at least 18 square feet” as well as “10 Wynwood Garden Walk Arm Chairs.”

The union is also demanding that the break rooms be fully stocked with cleaning supplies before any employee starts working, and the women’s bathrooms be equipped with “personal feminine hygiene supplies.”

Outside, the union is requesting longleaf pine trees, water oaks, and camellias to be planted, and a minimum 100 by 100 foot plot for a “community garden.”

A congressional aide who provided the Free Beacon with the document said the “apparently serious” list of demands are laughable.

“I’m sure most Americans would like a private office with a 50” plasma TV, but maybe they’ll be able to derive some vicarious enjoyment from these government workers whose salaries they pay,” they said.

The union also wants perks at the University of Alabama, where the facility is located, including free parking permits.

“The NWS will negotiate with the University of Alabama to obtain a tuition discount of 75 percent for employees and their family,” the document said.

Employees demand access to all University facilities, at no cost to the employee, including “staff privileges” to the library, childcare center, staff restaurant, cafeteria, and “other facilities as decided.”

The university is leasing the property to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and “isn’t involved directly in the center,” according to Alabama Today.

The union also demands that any employee assigned to the Water Center after May 21 will “get an automatic 3 step pay increase,” and that high-level employees receive a $5,000 “relocation bonus,” a cost to be picked up by the taxpayers.

No Water Center worker will “be assigned to work full time at a ‘collaborative work station,’” and every employee will be able to telework, or work from home, “at least 50 percent of the time.”

The NWSEO union represents 4,000 employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including forecasters, technicians, and support personnel of the National Weather Service.

The National Water Center will be used to conduct reporting on floods and drought, and will be the home of a new national flood forecasting system, expected to cost upwards of $4 million.

Requests for comment from the NOAA and the NWSEO were not returned.

Elizabeth Harrington   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.