Lawmakers push labor-management partnerships

Two Democrats unveiled legislation on Thursday to re-establish the National Labor-Management Partnership Council established by President Clinton in 1993 and dissolved by President Bush in 2001.

The Federal Labor-Management Partnership Act, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., would require the formation of a council with representatives from agencies and employee groups.

"It is essential that both management and labor work together to address issues facing the federal civil service," Akaka said. "This partnership will help workplace changes earn employee acceptance and be more effective."

The agencies would be represented by the director of the Office of Personnel Management, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, chair of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and two officials with agencywide authority chosen by the president.

On the labor side, the council would have six union representatives, two of whom would be required to be from the largest and second-largest federal employee unions. It would also have one member from the largest organization representing senior executives, and one person from the largest entity representing federal managers.

The council would advise the president and local labor-management partnership councils, and would be responsible for promoting the formation of partnerships throughout the executive branch.

Advocates of the bill say that the partnership councils, which President Bush abolished less than a month into his first term, helped not only to ease relationships between labor and management but to keep civil service work attractive to prospective employees.

"Collaborative efforts involving labor and management are essential to the prosperity and growth of the civil service," Davis said.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said incorporating employee feedback can also improve agencies' overall operations.

"Labor-management partnership fosters the predecisional involvement of front-line employees," Kelley said. "Such involvement is critical to an organization's success in carrying out its mission, whether that is in the public or private sectors."

She cited a cooperative effort between the then-Customs Service and NTEU called Operation Brass Ring. The effort, which took place during the Clinton partnership years, resulted in the seizure of substantial quantities of narcotics and contraband money.

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

The bill's co-sponsors include Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Albert Wynn, D-Md.; Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; James Moran, D-Va.; William Jefferson, D-La.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

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