Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Public Employees Are Leading the Way on Making Government Work Better

January 26th, 2014 | Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth-Quinnell_smallDespite being one of the most frequently cited boogeymen of right-wing extremists and the target of bipartisan policies that cut their pay and benefits, government employees are very frequently part of the solution and are leading the way in innovating on new and better ways to work with management and improve services and costs. A new report released by the Jobs With Justice Education Fund, Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity, written by Erin Johansson, research director at Jobs With Justice, provides plenty of examples of this very phenomenon.

The report focuses on examples of government employees at the federal, state and local level who have found innovative ways to find efficiencies, improve or maintain customer service in the face of fiscal woes, reduce health care costs, train a quality workforce and proactively address major policy shifts. Several of the examples detailed in the report include:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration and National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) working 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 Systems Command and AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department implementing a system for improving productivity that proved successful enough at reducing inefficiencies that it was expanded to all four shipyards.
  • Charlotte County Public Schools partnering with its unions to tackle rising health care costs by creating a self-funded health plan with a free clinic for employees and their families.
  • The state of Michigan and the UAW employing “lean techniques” to reduce lobby wait times for social services clients from three hours to 30 minutes.
  • The Ohio State University partnering with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to encourage employee participation in a wellness program, which led to a quadrupling of union member participation.

The report’s authors conclude:

“All of these cases give us hope that we are entering a new era in which labor-management relations lead the way to both improved public services and improved work-life experiences for public servants. The status quo is no longer sustainable for workers, employers and taxpayers. We urge all government officials and union leaders to read these cases and catch the wave.”

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on January 23, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

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