NASCOE – The Early Years
Contributed by Cindy Peterson, Former NWA Executive
The Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee, 1:30 pm, May 23, 1959.
Those were the arrangements for the first meeting of what was to become the National Association of ASC County Office Employees. Actually a tradition started that morning or in reality the night before. ASC employees were so excited and ready to work those employees arriving early joined together the evening of May 22 and again at 9 am the morning of May 23. The first official meeting is what started at 1:30 pm.
The states represented at this meeting were – Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Georgia, Michigan, North Dakota, North Carolina and Tennessee. Mississippi’s Ted Norris, in the role of temporary chairman, called the meeting to order and Arkansas’s Jack Gipson served as temporary secretary. One of the first items that needed to be addressed was the number of votes each state would have since some states had only one representative while other states had several. It was determined that each state would have one vote.
An organizational plan was adopted at that first meeting including:
• An annually meeting of the board of directors
• Authorization of the executive committee to make administrative decisions
• Number of directors from each state set at 2
• Executive committee to contain 1 member from each area and the National Officers
• Dues set at $3 payable each July 1st
• Annual meeting to be held each September
• Budget estimate prepared
• Standing Committees determined – Membership, Legislation, Publicity, Benefits.
This first meeting adjourned at 10:30 pm. Another tradition started – business meetings that last through the evening especially if you are on the Board!
As the 1950s turned into the 60s NASCOE focused its efforts on prioritizing the items its membership requested, and then getting those items included in legislation. Among these legislative accomplishments were life insurance and health insurance. A major victory occurred in 1961 when Congress amended the Civil Service Retirement Act to allow ASCS employees to make deposits to the government retirement fund for their years of service prior to recognition as federal employees.
1962 brought the signing of the first Labor-Management Relations Agreement between USDA/ASCS and NASCOE. Among the items included in this agreement were:
• Exclusive recognition of NASCOE
• NASCOE’s agreement to represent all county office employees without discrimination and without regard to membership in NASCOE
• State recognition of NASCOE when 51% of a state’s employees were members
• NASCOE members would not strike
• Negotiation/Consultation rights
• Sit in on employee disciplinary actions
• Use of office space for meetings held during non-duty hours.
In 1964 approximately 100 bills affecting ASCS employees were introduced by Congress. The topics addressed in these bills included retirement, sick and annual leave, survivor annuities, disability retirement and many more topics. One topic that might be of particular interest was the bill encouraging elimination of discrimination against married female employees.
In 1965 ASCS went looking for a symbol to represent the agency. The Administration approached NASCOE about a contest to gather suggestions. The winning entry was chosen by a panel of judges from various parts of ASCS and an arts and graphics specialist. Dorothy Gromaski of Bay County, Michigan, designed the winning entry. This was quite an accomplishment since 538 entries were submitted!
Well, the 60s soon turned into the 70s and NASCOE continued to grow. Each year NASCOE worked for pay increases and expanded benefits for all ASCS employees. In 1971 NASCOE President Robert Scales testified before the House Sub-committee of the Post Office and Civil Service just as previous NASCOE representatives had several times before. This year NASCOE was supporting House Bill 9620 to bring more equitable treatment in the amount Federal Employees pay for their health insurance premiums. Some of the items upon which NASCOE testified in the 70s included:
• Increase government’s contribution to health insurance premiums
• Salary adjustments
• Increase government’s contribution to health insurance premiums
• Increase annuities for federal retirees
• Provide 5% increase in annuities for persons involuntarily retired
• Full annuity to a retiree who is not married but whose annuity was subject to reduction to benefit a surviving spouse
• Provide Civil Service retirees at least the minimum benefits as social security would pay
• First $3000 of retirement annuities to be exempt from income tax
• Invasion of privacy prevention for federal employees
• Permit civil service retirement credit for work performed from other federal sources
• Revision of Federal pay Comparability Act of 1970.
In 1974 there was a battle over the effective date of salary increases – whether they should be affective October 1, 1974, or January 1, 1975. In the pre-email days, NASCOE occasionally resorted to sending telegrams to Congress. Below is a copy of the telegram sent by NASCOE to every member of Congress.
The National Association of ASCS County Office Employees (NASCOE) representing county ASCS employees in practically every county in the United States respectfully requests support of proposed action in the Senate to make the salary increase for federal employees effective October 1, 1974.
An effective date of October 1, 1974 for salary increases is a necessity for federal employees to enable them to be competitive in purchasing power with non-federal employees. The governments figures reveal federal employees salaries are presently less than salaries in private industry. A delay in the salary increase for federal employees will only cause further discrepancies.
The 80s arrived and could arguably be call the best of years so far for NASCOE and FSA. We were expanding and changing. To accomplish this we were hiring new employees. The arrival of the COMPUTER and the additional employees to load data ushered a whole new era. Although most of these employees were hired as “temporaries” to be let go after initial data entry, many stayed and that whole generation has become known as “PIK babies”.
The 1983 Farm Bill came with the Payment in Kind (PIK) tool of the day for marketing commodities. The first level of payment was made by check but higher levels were made in PIK. Participants could “play the market” and, done correctly, receive more money for their grain.
In 1986 PIK turned into “Commodity Certificates”. A portion of each program payment was issued in Commodity Certificates. The certificates were for a specific amount and could be bought and sold many times over. Ultimately these certificates were used to pay off a producer’s commodity loan or purchase government owned grain. At times producers walked into county offices with a shoebox full of certificates. What a workload!