NFFE Attends White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility


This week, the White House held a first-of-its-kind forum on workplace flexibility, inviting leaders from business, labor, government, advocacy groups, and average working people to share their ideas on how to build a better workplace for the 21st century. NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin was in attendance to represent the union’s ideas and concerns.

Over the past 30-40 years, economic and demographic shifts in the American home and workplace have reshaped our society. Since 1968 the percentage of women in the workforce has doubled, now representing over 48% of the total labor force. Today, two thirds of households are led by working parents or a working single parent. This paradigm shift has spawned a number of unforeseen consequences. With two-incomes becoming more and more essential for middle class families, the White House brought all of the stakeholders together to search for solutions.

The forum kicked off with remarks by Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and First Lady Michelle Obama, who emphasized the urgent need for new workplace flexibilities to address the new work, family, and personal responsibilities that are confounding America’s workers. Sharing personal stories of how they have struggled to juggle both their work and family obligations, both concluded that the federal sector must be a leader in adopting new, more flexible, workplace policies. They were followed by a panel of experts who discussed possible solutions, such as telework, flextime, and helping with child/elder care, among others.

Following the opening session, the forum separated into break-off groups where leaders from various backgrounds brainstormed ideas to address the new work-life dynamic. During his session, moderated by White House Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer, Erwin emphasized the importance of telework, paid parental leave, and expanded collective bargaining at the VA as ways that the federal government could significantly enhance flexibilities by supporting legislation already under consideration in Congress.

“These are common sense solutions that will increase worker morale and productivity, while simultaneously reducing costs to the American taxpayer,” said Erwin. “By promoting these flexibility policies, the Administration could make an immediate, positive difference in the federal workplace.”

In his closing remarks, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to use the ideas presented at the forum to promote workplace flexibilities across the nation. To do this, he intends to make the federal workplace a leading example for private sector employers to follow. NFFE will continue to work with the White House and Congress to ensure that our members have a voice in this important discussion.

“I am pleased that the Obama Administration is so focused on advocating workplace flexibilities,” said Erwin. “We hope that this focus will lead to more accommodating policies for federal workers.”