The team of officials briefing Department of Education workers yesterday in their Southwest building about an upcoming reorganization and reduction-in-force (RIF) got a little lonely about midway during their pitch when most of the folks they were briefing walked out of the session.
At least two units of the department, which was reorganized and hit with RIFs last year, are due for another shakeup that will mean pink slips and a trip to the unemployment office for some workers.
Units under the RIF and reorganization knife are the Vocational Education Division, with about 140 employes, and the Office of Secondary and Elementary Education, with just over 300 workers.
RIF jitters are common in both offices. Many employes (how suspicious can you get?) think the Reagan administration, which has been blocked by Congress from plans to kill the department, is now trying to reorganize it to death.
At yesterday's briefing, a top personnel official of the department was joined by a RIF expert from the Office of Personnel Management. If they hoped to pour oil on the department's troubled waters, they were disappointed. So were a lot of people in the audience.
Angry and frightened workers complained that the answers they got were vague and full of bureaucratic pap that didn't add anything to what they already know, which is very little!
Midway during the afternoon briefing about 250 of the 300 people attending simply got up and walked out of the regional office building auditorium. Management types remaining on stage and in the audience seemed stunned, according to witnesses.
A spokesman for the active American Federation of Government Employes local at the department said the walkout was "not planned. It was amazing. People just stood up and walked out on their own. It probably wouldn't have worked that way if we had tried to plan it."
Later in the afternoon the department said that 58 positions will be eliminated in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, and 19 RIFs are expected in the Vocational Education Office, along with 52 RIFs in 10 regional offices. Specific RIF notices will go to employes by Aug. 15. The unlucky ones will be out the door by Sept. 15.
There will also be downgradings and reassignments because of the always-messy RIFs.
No wonder the department didn't want to give out that information at the briefing. It might have triggered a walkout!