New Report Highlights Innovative Labor-Management Partnerships in the Public Sector

Ori Korin,
202-393-1044 x126

Washington, D.C. – As the 2014 state legislative sessions commence, an increasing number of elected officials have declared open season on public employees and their unions. Yet examples abound of productive labor-management relations in the public sector—even in the wake of government agencies reeling from the Great Recession.

A new report released by Jobs With Justice Education Fund, “Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity,” profiles how public employees and their unions are working collaboratively with management to improve the way government runs. From the Federal Aviation Administration to Ohio State University to the City of Phoenix, public managers at all levels of government are turning to employees for innovative solutions to vexing problems.

“The labor and management representatives featured in the report are tackling a wide range of issues, from reducing health-care costs and implementing complex new technologies to addressing policy shifts in mental health care,” said report author Erin Johansson, research director at Jobs With Justice Education Fund. “Through joint efforts, these teams are getting results—saving taxpayer money, improving the delivery of government services, and expanding training opportunities for employees. These government agencies are the antidote to those who keep demonizing public employees to score political points or privatize government services.”

Other key findings include:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration and National Air Traffic Controllers Association worked together to successfully roll out new technology at 17 of 20 air traffic control centers, saving millions of dollars in software development costs.
  • The Naval Sea Command and AFL-CIO Metal Trades Council implemented a successful system for improving productivity and reducing inefficiencies at naval shipyards.
  • Charlotte County Public Schools partnered with its unions to tackle rising healthcare costs by creating a self-funded health plan with a free clinic for employees and their families.
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Patent Office Professional Association developed a new system for managing patent examiner time. Despite a steady increase in unexamined applications every year since 2009, examiners reduced the backlog of applications by 20 percent between 2009 and 2013.
  • The State of Michigan and the United Auto Workers Local 6000 adapted efficiency techniques from lean-manufacturing auto plants to reduce lobby wait times for social services clients from over three hours to just 30 minutes.
  • The Cleveland Public Library and Service Employees International Union District 1199 developed a system for transferring library employees to avoid layoffs and maintain library hours during a recent budget crisis.
  • The City of Phoenix worked with a coalition of unions to create an Innovation and Efficiency Task Force, which has saved the city nearly $60 million annually since it began in 2009.
  • Ohio State University partnered with the Communications Workers of America Local 4501 to encourage employee participation in a wellness program, which led to a quadrupling of union member participation.
  • Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions, a union representing Colorado state mental health employees, is convening state and community representatives to proactively address changes to the provision of mental health care.

Interviews with the report’s author as well as several of the unions and employers profiled in the study are available upon request. To view the full report, please click here: