NTEU Supports Bills Returning Partnership to the Federal Workplace


10/18/07: NTEU National President Colleen Kelley today welcomed legislation in both the House and Senate that would reinstate the partnership concept that served federal labor and management so well before it was abandoned by this administration very early in its tenure. “The Federal Labor-Management Partnership Act of 2007 holds great promise for federal employees, their agencies and our country,” she said.

NTEU was an early and strong backer of such partnership efforts, which were successfully implemented under an executive order issued by former President Clinton; that order was rescinded by President Bush less than a month after he took office in 2001.

The new legislation that would reinstate national and local labor-management partnership councils was introduced in the House by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, and in the Senate by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management. The councils would be balanced groups that strive to improve the federal sector and better serve the public.

“Chairmen Akaka and Davis have shown outstanding leadership in proposing this well thought out bill that has the promise of bringing labor and management together again. I commend them on their foresight which promises to be good for the entire government workforce and the people it serves,” President Kelley said. “Labor-management partnership fosters the pre-decisional involvement of front-line employees,” she added. “Such involvement is critical to an organization’s success in carrying out its mission, whether that is in the public or private sectors.”

She noted that in 1991, the General Accounting Office reported that federal labor-management relations were “too adversarial, and bogged down by litigation over procedural issues and minutiae.” Seven years later, however, under the partnership concept, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) concluded that there “has been a sizeable shift toward labor-management cooperation and away from the mutually destructive, adversarial relationships common in the past.”

During that period, NTEU was a strong advocate for partnership, Kelley said, noting as just one example the considerable success the former Customs Service, working closely with NTEU, realized in seizures of illegal drugs and contraband money during a six-month program nearly a decade ago known as “Operation Brass Ring.”

“Partnership works,” the NTEU leader said, “and approval of this legislation would be a major step forward in addressing a number of serious problems now impacting the federal workplace.”

The Akaka-Davis measures would establish the Federal Labor-Management Partnership Council, made up of officials from a variety of government agencies—including OPM, the Office of Management and Budget, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and others—along with representatives of federal unions, the Senior Executive Service and the Federal Managers Association.

Its primary goals would be to support local labor-management partnerships that would work toward consensual dispute resolution, and foster cooperative efforts aimed at improving agency performance as well as customer and employee satisfaction.

“Frontline employees have good ideas on how to do things better for the public and the taxpayer. Labor-management partnerships provide a process for them to participate in helping their agencies better accomplish their missions,” President Kelley said.