Pink slips weren't the only things flying yesterday when the Housing and Urban Development Department handed a layoff list to union officers representing many of HUD's 4,000 workers here.
Tempers flared, a cigar got snuffed and guards were called in to a meeting where union and HUD brass were huddling -- too closely, it turns out -- over an upcoming RIF that will cost as many as 95 workers their jobs and mean transfers or demotions for 200 others.
One of the union representatives, Gregory Holman, learned he is to be demoted from a GS 12 investigator to a clerk-typist. Holman said management then added injury to insult by yanking him across a desk by his hair and punching him.
Hillard Harrison, 40, the HUD official who was conducting the briefing, says the only part of Holman he touched was his cigar.
Harrison says the union folks, who know he has sinus problems, filled his office with smoke. He says he asked Holman to put out his cigar or move away. Harrison says he finally took the stogie into his own hands, from Holman's mouth, and put it out.
The HUD official says the union (American Federation of Government Employees) official then swept everything off his desk and moved toward him. He says an aide stepped between them, and then two guards arrived and restored order.
The union side said more than Holman's cigar was hurt. They said Harrison also knocked Holman's hat off his head, grabbed him by the hair and arm and dragged him over the desk.
Although union and management score the "fight" differently, both agree that Holman and Harrison would be classified as heavyweights if they turned pro.
Their confrontation comes at the end of year-long fight between HUD management and AFGE over the planned RIFs. (That struggle, by the way, is chronicled in an article today on the Federal Page, A21.)
HUD finally made the RIFs a reality yesterday, issuing specific RIF notices to 187 workers. While up to 95 employes will be reorganized out of a job by Oct. 31, more than 200 people will be affected by the RIFs, either by being bumped out of a job by a more senior worker, transferred or demoted.
HUD says the RIF is necessary to streamline the department.
Critics of the RIFs -- AFGE and the task force headed by Rep. Mike Barnes (D-Md.) -- charge that the RIFs are unnecessary, politically motivated and designed to get rid of people and programs that help low-income people find and stay in homes.