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Report offers fresh ideas for labor-management cooperation

A new report from the Jobs With Justice Education Fund shows that tough times haven't undermined an important principle in the public sector: The community wins when employees are brought into government decisions.

The report, "Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity," profiles how public employees and their unions are working with management to improve the way government runs. The report explores five areas where collaboration or employee involvement is making a meaningful difference: finding efficiencies, improving or maintaining customer service, reducing healthcare costs, training a quality workforce and responding proactively to major policy shifts. It focuses deliberately on recent examples of labor-management cooperation, updating the existing research and offering new ideas for areas where locals can work together with management to improve public services—or present new strategies to try when facing privatization threats.

"While the topic of labor-management collaboration in the public sector is well-trodden territory for research, many of the examples of such efforts are now outdated and fail to capture the experiences of government agencies that have been under extreme pressure to cut costs in the wake of the Great Recession," the report observes.

Several examples highlight work that involves enterprising AFT affiliates. In Washington County, Utah, bus drivers found ways to improve communication and student safety through ideas generated in an employee survey. In Charlotte County, Fla., the district partnered with school support personnel to launch an onsite health clinic to help keep healthcare costs down. The district and union also collaborated to implement a professional development program to help support staff develop skills such as working with developmentally disabled children. The national union also lauded these efforts last year when the Charlotte County Support Personnel Association received honorable mention and a $5,000 prize in the AFT's inaugural Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism.

Also highlighted was Colorado WINS, which represents members of the AFT Public Employee division. The union partnered with the state to implement a law that required that people with developmental disorders be transitioned from institutional settings to community-based care. [Allison Lupico, Mike Rose]

The report is available online.

January 23, 2014