NTEU vows to fight for better labor/management relations

Restoring a spirit of cooperation in labor/management relations will be a 2008 legislative priority of the National Treasury Employees Union, its leaders said today at the opening of NTEU’s 2008 Legislative Conference in Washington.

NTEU hopes that the 2008 presidential election would end nearly eight years of conflict and struggle between administration leaders and federal employees, and would “reintroduce partnerships as a word we’re allowed to say,” said Colleen Kelley, NTEU’s president.

Kelley said NTEU supports legislation that would restore better workplace relations, which she said President Bush ended by rescinding an executive order on partnerships and labor/management relations 10 days after he took office in 2001.

The president’s action “sent a very clear message to managers and federal employees that communication, collaboration and cooperation were strongly discouraged and, in fact, were prohibited,” Kelley said. “With one unmistakable action, he set the tone of labor relations and employee relations in the federal sector for the next seven years.”

Legislation to create better working relations between labor and management is unlikely to be enacted during the current administration, Kelley said. The president has vowed to veto it. A Democratic president would likely issue an executive order soon after taking office that would restore more collegial relations between the White House and the federal workforce, Kelley said.

However, NTEU, representing more than 150,000 federal employees, would prefer to see a partnership law enacted so it would be more difficult to change than an executive order, Kelley said.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) introduced the Federal Labor/Management Partnership Act of 2007, which would establish a Federal Labor/Management Partnership Council to advise the president on labor/management relations in the executive branch.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation. Co-sponsors of the House bill include Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

In addition to codifying improved labor/management relations, NTEU’s 2008 legislative agenda calls for what union leaders termed fair federal pay, opposition to alternative pay systems, adequate agency funding, opposition to privatization and improved health benefits for federal employees.

NTEU has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, but Kelley said both Democratic contenders — Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)--have “a 100 percent voting record on our issues.”

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