OMB employees split over labor representation

Professional employees at the Office of Management and Budget voted against forming a union Tuesday, while a smaller group of workers opted for representation, according to final results from the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Those workers in the "professional" job category voted 101-59 against joining the American Federation of Government Employees. Staff in the "nonprofessional" category voted 11-1 to create a bargaining unit affiliated with the union. Of the agency's 389 professional and nonprofessional staff, the Federal Labor Relations Authority determined that 243 employees were eligible to vote on union representation. Eligible professional staff included program examiners, policy analysts and employees in the budget review division, while eligible nonprofessional staff included administrative and support personnel.

Professional employees also voted 97-63 against forming a combined bargaining unit with nonprofessional personnel which led to the separate overall vote.

Employees cast their ballots on Oct. 26 and Nov. 1. Last spring, nearly 400 civil service workers from OMB approached AFGE about union representation.

OMB Director Jack Lew, who called the agency "a jewel in the civil service," expressed support for employees. "As I've said throughout this process, the administration is deeply committed to the rights of workers to organize," Lew said in an email. "Thus, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the vote, I have been -- and remain -- committed to working with the entire OMB team to create an agency that meets our highest standards, serves the president and the American people, and is a welcoming and productive place to work."

The OMB union movement's informational website cited a desire to create a sustaining partnership with agency leadership and proactive labor-management forum as a reason for representation. "OMB staff need a voice and need to be at the table when issues are being discussed related to our work and work-life issues," the website stated. "For far too long, management has taken OMB staff for granted."

The website identifies fair compensation for extra work hours, flexible schedules and less staff turnover among the top reasons for labor representation.

OMB has been focusing on ways to strengthen the leadership and management infrastructure within the agency, Lew said. "We also are striving to bring more balance to OMB's workload by evaluating the work requirements and priorities across the institution and making adjustments as needed," he said. A senior OMB staffer has met with political and career managers in each office to discuss the survey results from the 2011 Federal Viewpoint Survey, in which OMB ranked 30 out of 37 agencies in the job satisfaction category.

Offices must submit plans for areas of improvement to Lew in December.

In a separate action, more than 1,400 Army civilian personnel workers at the consolidated Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., voted late last week to join AFGE. The employees provide human resources services to soldiers, veterans, retirees and Army families.

The employees were transferred to Fort Knox from other areas as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, which recommended consolidating all of the Army's human resources functions at Fort Knox. Even though the employees already were represented by AFGE, the Federal Labor Relations Authority required a new election be held to determine if the transferred employees wanted to retain their union representation.

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