Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is a co-sponsor of the bill to require partnerships.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is a co-sponsor of the bill to require partnerships. Becky Bohrer/AP

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Lawmakers From Both Parties Seek to Revive Agency Labor-Management Councils

The Trump administration’s decision to dissolve groups designed for collaboration between unions and agency leadership drew outcry in 2017.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is pushing to permanently reinstate councils aimed at improving collaboration between federal employee unions and agency leaders.

Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Don Young, R-Alaska, on Monday introduced the Federal Labor-Management Partnerships Act (H.R. 1316), a bill that would re-establish a National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, as well as similar advisory panels at agencies throughout the government. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

In recent decades, labor-management councils, where agency officials meet periodically with labor leaders to discuss workforce issues, have been something of a political football. President Bill Clinton first established them via executive order, but President George W. Bush disbanded them after taking office. The Obama administration revived the councils, but in 2017 President Trump dissolved them again.

Union officials and former government officials insist that such councils can be useful in developing a collaborative relationship between labor groups and agency management, and they can help to resolve disputes before they reach the point of a grievance, unfair labor practice complaint or litigation.

“President Trump’s order disbanding labor-management panels was short-sighted and ill-advised,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our bill ensures that front-line workers and managers engage in constructive dialogue to provide a well-managed federal workforce.”

The bill would establish a national council, where top administration officials would consult with the national leadership of federal employee unions of varying sizes, as well as the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association. And each agency with a unionized workforce would be required to establish a similar panel to discuss workplace matters and seek feedback on proposed workforce policies.

“These dedicated public servants deserve a seat at the table as workplace rules and policy changes are discussed and implemented,” Young said. “This legislation helps create open dialogue with the men and women in our federal workforce, and I am proud to support it.”

The bill already has the endorsement of the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and other labor groups.

“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,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “We commend Reps. Cummings and Young and Sen. Schatz for their leadership in this effort to once again try to reopen the lines of communication between our federal workforce and their managers in order to better serve this country.”