GAO, Union Come to Terms on Organizing Election

Posted July 19, 2007 at 9:30am

The Government Accountability Office and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers announced late Wednesday evening that they have reached an agreement providing for a representation election.

The election will decide if 1,500 analysts at the agency join the IFPTE. It will be completed by Sept. 19 and be overseen by the GAO’s Personnel Appeals Board, which is expected to issue a formal election agreement within days.

The two sides had spent weeks trying to hash out the potential makeup of a bargaining unit. GAO management had argued that analysts who are classified in a group known as “Band IIB” were ineligible for representation because they serve in supervisory roles.

The agency also fought to allow probationary employees to vote in the election, with the union arguing those workers should have their own separate arrangement.

They two sides compromised, and under the terms of the agreement all permanent and probationary Band I, IIA and IIB employees will be eligible to vote.

In a joint statement issued late Wednesday, both IFPTE President Gregory Junemann and Comptroller General David Walker praised the agreement “as being one that maximizes voting eligibility for GAO employees.”

“IFPTE is grateful for the diligent efforts of all the people who had a hand in bringing this agreement about,” Junemann said.

As part of the agreement, the IFPTE agreed to withdraw an unfair labor practice complaint against Walker. The union had alleged Walker had not remained neutral during the unionizing campaign.

Walker reasserted his support for any union effort.

“As I have consistently said, GAO recognizes and supports the right of GAO employees to organize if they choose to do so,” Walker said.

Headquarters employees will vote by manual ballot and field office employees will vote by mail ballot. Analysts were expected to hold a meeting this afternoon to discuss the election process.

A majority of the agency’s 1,500 analysts petitioned in May to hold a unionization election.

A pay restructuring process at the agency, which capped salaries for some workers and denied pay raises for others, is frequently cited by analysts as one reason why a union is necessary. Others have said analysts need a more effective way to communicate with GAO management.

Several Members of Congress voiced their support for the unionizing campaign, including Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

“I am pleased that the GAO Management and employees have reached an accord which will lead to an election which protects the rights of workers to organize,” Davis said in a release Thursday. “GAO employees provide critical services to the Congress and the public by conducting complex analyses of programs at other federal agencies on behalf of Congress and the American taxpayer.”

Added Wasserman Schultz: “It is our sincere hope that over the coming weeks leading up to the union election, GAO management will move forward to complete the election process cooperatively and with respect for GAO employees’ right to unionize.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) also were viewed as supportive of the effort.