Linking Labor-Management Relations to Improved Agency Performance: Executive Order 13522 Imposes Significant Obligations on Agencies and Their Union Representatives

Article excerpt

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that more than one half of the union members in the labor force work for government. In fact, 41.1 percent of the government workforce is represented by unions, compared to just 8 percent in the private sector. In the nonpostal federal service, approximately 61 percent of the workforce was represented by unions in 2001 (the latest year for which data are available); about 80 percent of the eligible employees were represented by labor organizations.

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Most federal managers, therefore, must deal with a union-represented workforce. To improve labor-management relations in the federal service, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13522 on December 9, 2009. Reminiscent of former President Clinton's labor-management partnership edict of October 1, 1993, Obama's order links labor-management relations to the goal of improving agency performance.

Executive Order 13522

Titled "Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services," E.O. 13522 mandates the creation of such forums throughout the federal service to involve unions in making decisions to improve productivity and save money. The order has significant practical implications for federal managers and the union representatives in their agencies.

New Policy

E.O. 13522 consists of five sections. Section 1 sets the policy and its underlying rationale: "The purpose of this order is to establish a cooperative and productive form of labor-management relations throughout the executive branch." Eliciting labor's involvement provides "an essential source of frontline ideas and information about the realities of delivering government services to the American people." Cooperative forums "will promote satisfactory labor relations and improve the productivity and effectiveness of the federal government."

New Council

Section 2 of the order establishes the 17-person National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations (Council). Co-chaired by the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the deputy director for management of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), it includes seven union representatives, nine management officials, and one neutral.

It is charged to advise the president on labor-management relations; support the creation of labor-management forums in the various departments and agencies of the executive branch; develop measures and metrics to evaluate these forums; and develop innovative ways to improve government performance.

Labor-Management Forums

Section 3 requires agency and department heads to establish labor-management forums at appropriate levels in their respective agencies "to help identify problems and propose solutions to better serve the public and agency missions." It enables employees--through their union representatives--to pre-decisional involvement "in all workplace matters to the fullest extent practicable," regardless of whether the matters are negotiable subjects of bargaining under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS--Title VII of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act; U.S.C. 7106).

Agency and department heads are also required to submit plans on how they will conduct a baseline assessment of labor-management relations in their agencies; establish labor-management forums; and develop metrics "to monitor improvements in areas such as labor-management satisfaction, productivity gains, [and] cost savings."

These plans are to be submitted to the council for approval within 90 days of the issuance of the executive order. The council must review and approve or reject the plans within 30 days of receipt. Rejected plans need to be revised within the next 30 days. Thus, agencies and departments with union representatives must have certified plans in place within 150 days of the order. …