Federal Times Op-Ed by William R. Dougan: Federal Labor-Management Partnerships can Solve Problems; Time to Move from Process to Real Dialogue


Federal unions greeted the December 2009 signing of President Obama’s executive order re-establishing federal labor-management partnerships with much optimism. After eight years of limited access and minimal dialogue between unions and agency leadership under the Bush administration, the promise of a National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations and individual labor-management forums throughout government was a breath of fresh air.

Such collaboration between unions and management could result in new and better ideas, increased efficiency of operations, cost savings and better resolution of workplace issues. More importantly, it signaled the potential for labor and management to work together effectively once again.

The national council was anticipated to be a vehicle for agency heads and labor leaders to engage in dialogue on issues of government-wide importance, and to provide guidance and oversight for ensuring that productive labor-management forums were implemented at appropriate levels. It was intended to foster an environment of cooperation between labor and management, with pre-decisional involvement serving as the foundation of this new way of doing the people’s business. Though some progress has been made, there is still a long way to go before this promise is fulfilled.

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