Labor-Management Teams Attend New Harvard Executive
Program Promoting Cooperation
By Laura Ginsburg, Linda
Kabolian and Roger E. Dahl*
Public sector labor and management teams from 27 cities, counties and states attended a two-and-a-half day executive program on labor-management cooperation held April 29 through May 1 at Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government. Cities participating included: Seattle, Detroit, Portland (OR), Madison, Aurora, (IL), Cincinnati, Honolulu, Pasadena, Ft. Lauderdale, Modesto, Phoenix, Riverhead, (NY), San Francisco, and Santa Clara.
Teams, made up of union representatives, city officials, department heads, supervisors and other administrators, learned how to create and sustain their respective labor-management initiatives through problem-solving and team-building methods. Teams also shared innovations and experiences with other jurisdictions on how they have improved services and morale through a joint program.
Labor-management Partnership Is the Only Way to Go
Among the participants were Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). "When I took office in 1994, union leaders and managers in Detroit city government were not focused on common goals, we had no unifying vision," explained Archer. "As mayor, Im convinced that a labor-management partnership is the only way to go for a local government. I have placed high priority on improving employee training, eliminating bad equipment and inefficient processes. The partnership has resulted in better services and a better quality of life for Detroit residents and we havent privatized one job."
Saving Taxpayers Money and Creating a Better Working Environment
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, head of the largest public sector union, explained why it was important for public sector unions to participate in joint partnerships. "Union members, working with management, have been coming up with innovative solutions to make government work for the people through a joint process where they are involved in decision-making. They have saved taxpayers money and created a better working environment at the same time. They have done this with political leaders of both parties," said McEntee, referring to the Quality Service through Partnership program developed by former Republican Governor George Voinovich and the Ohio AFSCME affiliate, OCSEA Local 11 and continuing under newly elected Governor Taft.
A panel on the leadership qualities needed to maintain a partnership program featured union and management leaders from the city of Seattle and the state of Ohio. Bruce Wyngaard, operations director of OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11, emphasized the need for unions to be clear about their interests and expectations in a joint partnership program. He described how the union role evolves while working in a collaborative effort to one of problem-solver and advocate for change. "The union leader goes from being adversarial with management to being an advocate for change and a visionary in seeing what direction the agency needs to go in. He or she then has to convince the membership that this is in their best interest for job security and for career enhancement," Wyngaard said.
Speaking on the highly structured program in the city of Seattle with a coalition of 25 unions, Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon spoke about the administrations vision for improving Seattle services. This includes "involving employees and their unions in shaping and changing the organization and making sure we all have the same definition of success. To make the vision a reality, weve focused on results. Every department has defined goals and measures for assessing those benchmarks."
Diana Douglas, union representative of IFPTE Local 17 and labor co-chair of the Seattle citywide labor-management committee, talked about the importance of the coalition of unions working together. The city and unions settled all but one contract in late 1998, extended the contracts for one year so that they have the remainder of a four-year period to work on the partnership program. "The unions are deeply involved in the partnership program from the work unit up to the highest policy level in changing the way the city operates," said Douglas.
The Ford Foundation funded the Executive Program on Labor-Management Partnerships in State and Local Government, which was limited to 75 participants. The next institute will take place in fall of 1999. For more information please contact Roger Dahl at the Conference.
*This was the first joint project of the State and Local Government Labor-Management Committee (SLG-LMC), of which the Conference of Mayors is a member, and Harvard University. Twenty-nine national unions and public employer organizations as well as Harvard University comprise the SLG-LMC. Professor Linda Kaboolian is faculty chair of the program and Laura Ginsburg is committee staff director. Conference staff Roger Dahl is the Management Co-Chair of the Committee.