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Obama Establishes Federal Labor-Management Council

December 21, 2009

An executive order by President Obama creating a National Council on Federal Labor-Management offers the IBEW and other unions representing federal workers a format for resolving some long-standing problems. The council, which will terminate in two years, will oversee the development of cooperative bodies in each government department and agency. Says IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill:

We are pleased that this administration respects the experience and skill of rank and file workers as a key ingredient in solving problems dealing with the delivery of federal services to taxpayers.

Unions had hoped that the administration would mandate that permissive subjects of collective bargaining will be discussed under the new format. This would provide the ability to engage in mid-term negotiations to win improvements and clarifications on contractual understandings.

The executive order supports such negotiations on a voluntary basis. Such voluntary action exceeds the scope of similar committees that were established by former president Bill Clinton and then allowed to fold by former president George W. Bush. Says McGill:

Government workers want to be consulted on decisions before they are made by federal managers. If these new bodies make that happen, we will take a step toward eliminating needless conflicts and improving the performance of workers and managers in the federal sector.

The national council will include a total of seven labor organizations, whose seats will be held by national union presidents. Four seats will be reserved for the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. The other three presidents will rotate every two years between presidents of other unions representing workers in the federal sector, including the IBEW.

There will also be a seat for the Federal Managers Association, the Senior Executive Association and for officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

The IBEW has 75,000 members working in the state, municipal and federal sector, including workers in Navy shipyards and those employed under the Service Contract Act.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user wallyg