Gov Careers

By Phil Piemonte

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Do federal employee unions earn their keep?

The weakening leverage of unions in the private sector was apparent this week when Ford announced that over the next several years it would begin to hire about 2,000 new workers—under a 2007 union-negotiated contract—at $14 an hour, about half the wages of current workers.

While a number of factors—including foreign competition, a succession of less-than-labor-friendly administrations, and most recently, an anemic economy—have weakened the effectiveness and reach of unions in the private sector, unions continue to wield significant influence in the federal workforce.

Of course, many of the forces that pressure unions in the private sector are less of a factor in the public sector. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, cannot squeeze concessions from its workers by threatening to move VA medical centers to India. On the other hand, federal employee unions must deal with varying levels of resistance from certain agency executives, antagonistic legislators and unsympathetic administrations.

Judging from the compensation, benefits and job security enjoyed by most union-represented feds, the majority of casual observers outside government would conclude that federal employee unions are doing a bang-up job.

Is the perception is the same from the inside? We’d like to find out here….

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Aug 06, 2010 at 12:13 PM

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Fri, Sep 3, 2010

'As a member of the Labor Department now retired and former union president, I must say these nay sayers never change. Same ole song. They want, no demand, advise and or union representation but never, ever ask for a small monthly dues payment to cover expenses' If and only if the dues went for expenses for direct representation of bargaining unit members, I would happily pay dues. I WILL NOT pay for the political component and support of far-left causes I do not agree with. Unions should go back to being unions, not a quasi-political-party.

Thu, Aug 26, 2010

Our agency union has never been a strong one and now that two officers of the union are under investigation for misuse/theft of union funds it will only be discredited by the agency and agency staff.

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 Chicago, IL

As a member of the Labor Department now retired and former union president, I must say these nay sayers never change. Same ole song. They want, no demand, advise and or union representation but never, ever ask for a small monthly dues payment to cover expenses.
I suggest they all go to work for WalMart for a year or so, and then come back to give their "opinion" in the value of unions. Ignore the cry babies and work for the membership. It's rewarding and a help to those members who realize we're all in the same boat without a paddle. It pays to have a friend in court!

Thu, Aug 12, 2010

Unions are doing a GREAT job. When you hear federal employees complain about not being allowed to use maxiflex or work at home, they are probably not organized. The differences between employee rights for bargaining units versus non-bargaining units are astounding. The unions are key to management accountability for providing safe working conditions, fair performance evaluations, proper payments, and so much more. I love my union, NFFE! Paying dues is the LEAST I can do.

Thu, Aug 12, 2010

So many people complain about the unions because they personally do not belong or have not needed them for their own problems. They complain about the dues and wonder why the unions might work harder to carry forth a fight for union members. Wise up people. It cost money to fight. Lawyers are expensive and if you think it is cheaper to hire an outside attorney, good luck. I am tired of slackers wanting union representation without paying their fair share and riding on the backs of the members. Let me tell you that they would be the first to run to a steward if things weren't going well for them. You can arbitrarily state the unions are ineffective but that is because many people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Unions work hard for the employees they serve. It is a thankless job and they continue to represent with little praise and always lots of criticism (usually by non-members). Join your union. Become a steward and then see what the unions are all about. Until then, put your money where your mouth is.

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