Revival of Labor-Management Council Proposed

Legislation (HR-4878 and S-2340) newly offered in Congress would revive the National Council on Federal-Labor Management Relations, a main Obama administration initiative regarding federal unions that the Trump administration abolished.

The council was designed to encourage cooperation between management and labor with the goal of heading off formal conflicts that often are lengthy, bitter and costly for both sides. The effort also focused on giving unions a greater role in agency policies in their developmental stages–“pre-decisional involvement,” or PDI–for the same reason. The national council met about every other month during the Obama administration and produced a number of reports reciting a positive impact of its work and that of local “forums.”

Federal unions praised the new bill, which would reinstate both the national council and local partnerships, saying they contributed to a positive labor-management relationship and improved agency operations during their time and that they would do so again.

However, the Trump administration has taken the opposite view. The council never met during the administration’s first nine months and then an executive order last September abolished it, saying the council and forums “consumed considerable managerial time and taxpayer resources, but they have not fulfilled their goal of promoting collaboration in the federal workforce. Public expenditures on the council and related forums have produced few benefits to the public.”

Followup guidance from OPM said that agencies should use PDI “only to the extent that the cost of doing so brings tangible benefits to the agency,” rescind any agency-wide and local labor-management partnership forums created under the Obama order, and renegotiate any contracts or other agreements with unions providing for them.