GAO analysts vote to form union
‘Ecstatic’ employees turn their focus to setting bargaining priorities
- By Richard W. Walker
- Sep 21, 2007
In the Government Accountability Offices 86-year existence, its employees, who conjure images of green eyeshades and sleeve garters, have never been represented by a labor union until now.
By a large majority, GAO analysts voted Sept. 19 to join the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents other highly skilled federal workers, including employees at the Congressional Research Service, NASA scientists and federal judges.
Jacqueline Harpp, a senior analyst and one of the unions four official election observers at the vote count, said employees who supported the union were ecstatic about the results. Our slogan for this campaign was band together, and thats exactly what we did, she said.
Another analyst, Lise Levie, said the overall feeling among employees after the election was as upbeat as Ive ever seen it.
Others employees agreed.
In the last day or two, a number of people have come up to me and been excited and pleasantly surprised, said John Vocino, a senior analyst who has worked at GAO for 20 years. It hit us that its a new world and that we have an opportunity to really take part in it.
In a statement, Comptroller General David Walker, who leads GAO, thanked employees who took the time to vote and promised that GAO management will bargain in good faith with the union.
Levie said the employees were looking forward to a great working relationship with Walker. After the election, he left us a very nice phone message, she said. It was a very positive sign. I think were going to be a great team.
Next, the employees will elect a council, write a constitution, determine bargaining priorities and negotiate a first contract with GAO management.
Levie said union leaders would seek input on bargaining priorities from all of GAOs analysts, regardless of how they voted in the election. We will be asking people in a systematic, methodologically rigorous way what they want.
IFPTE president Greg Junemann said involvement of the national union in the employees next steps likely will be limited. The analysts at GAO are experts at creating efficient organizations. You can bet that their bargaining surveys and their research will be data-driven.
IFPTE filed a petition in May to form a union after more than half of GAOs analysts endorsed a vote for unionization. In seeking to unionize, GAO analysts voiced concerns on a range of issues, mostly related to the agencys two-year-old pay-for-performance system.
A major point of contention was the agencys pay-banding system, which eliminated cost-of-living increases for some workers and categorized other analysts as overpaid in terms of prevailing market rates for similar positions.
Levie said its premature to identify the unions bargaining priorities, but she said they would be much broader than something regarding pay banding.