Organizing around the National Weather Service Employees Organization began after the Environmental Science Services Administration was renamed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Weather Bureau became the National Weather Service (NWS) in 1970.
Faced with burnout and minimal control over their daily lives, employees first organized around shift schedules. Front line employees’ schedules were often ad hoc and difficult to predict, allowing management to change shifts on a whim. This disregard for worker well being pushed employees to ensure they had a voice in their lives, both in and outside work hours.
The union’s foundation was a nationwide grassroots effort, starting small with local branches and then expanding to regional and national offices. In 1976, NWSEO was officially recognized as an AFL-CIO affiliate under the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (MEBA). By the early 1980s, NWSEO hired its first employee, Peter Nuhn, as well as attorney Richard Hirn, who still serves as legal counsel and NWSEO’s legislative representative today.
Now, nearly 50 years later, NWSEO is no longer an AFL-CIO or MEBA affiliate and stands alone as an independent union. It represents 4,000 NOAA employees and is the only organization with the ability to lobby Congress and the Administration to preserve jobs, promote better working conditions and career promotions, and participate in collective bargaining for NWS, NESDIS, AOC, OGC and AOML employees.