Bipartisan Legislators Attempt to Reconnect Unions and Agencies

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) have introduced legislation to get labor unions, federal employees, agency heads, and the White House around the same table again. The Federal Labor-Management Partnership Act of 2019 would promote a partnership between these groups through mandatory advisory panels.

This legislation mirrors an executive order put in place by the Obama administration which was revoked by President Trump last year.

According to the September 2017 executive order, “The United States Government should spend tax dollars responsibly, efficiently, and in the public interest.  The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations (Council) and related agency-level labor-management forums have consumed considerable managerial time and taxpayer resources, but they have not fulfilled their goal of promoting collaboration in the Federal workforce.  Public expenditures on the Council and related forums have produced few benefits to the public, and they should, therefore, be discontinued.”

Reps. Cummings and Young have found this discontinuation disagreeable.

In a press release about their new legislation, Young explained, “By bringing these Councils back, we’ll ensure that the hardworking men and women in Alaska and the rest of America will have a voice as federal agencies develop and implement rules. When it comes to the administrative policies and regulations that impact the backbone of our workforce, an open dialogue to discuss changes is essential.” 

This legislation would recreate the council as a statutory requirement, preventing any president from removing it at will.

The council would be co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.  Meetings would take place quarterly.

Despite the bill’s ability to gain bipartisan co-sponsorship, it remains controversial.

Trey Kovacs of the Competitive Enterprise Institute praised the president’s dismissal of this council, saying “Disbanding the Council is a good step forward. And public policy should not bind agency officials with the demands of government unions more than they already are.”

Meanwhile, National Treasury Employees Union National president Tony Reardon argues, “Labor-management councils in the federal sector have a proven track record of making government agencies run more smoothly and efficiently, which is why NTEU strongly objected when the councils were disbanded by the president in 2017.”

When introduced at the end of last Congress, the legislation was endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, the Federal Managers Association, and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. 

Posted in From the Hill

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