Public sector employees are subject to some different labor relation laws. In this lesson, you'll learn about Executive Order 10988, Executive Order 11491, and the Civil Reform Act of 1978. A short quiz follows.
Executive Order 10988
Gary works for a federal agency in Washington D.C. He's also a member of a union. This probably doesn't appear to be a big deal to most. What may surprise you is that while private sector employees have had the legally protected right to organize into unions and collectively bargain with their employers since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, public sector employees didn't enjoy the same rights under the Act.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, entitled Employee-Management Cooperation in the Federal Sector, which was an important milestone toward the expansion of labor rights for civil servants.
Executive Order 10988 gave civil servants like Gary the right to form, join and assist labor organizations like unions. The Executive Order provides a three-level system of recognizing labor organizations:
- If a majority of Gary's co-workers designate a union to represent them, agency management must negotiate with the union as the employees' exclusive representative over the terms and conditions of employment. This is much the same as a private sector union.
- If a group of employees, called a unit, is not exclusively represented, the agency must still give formal recognition to all unions representing more than 10% of the employees in the unit. This means that the agency must consult with each of these unions when creating and implementing agency personnel policies and procedures that will affect employees' work conditions.
- Even if Gary's union represents 10% or less of the employees in the unit, the order does not permit the agency to ignore the union. The order requires that the agency informally recognize all unions, regardless of whether another union has exclusive representation. All unions that represent employees have the right to present the views and concerns of their members to agency management.
Executive Order 11491
President Nixon revoked Executive Order 10988 with his issuance of Executive Order 11491 in 1969. This order expanded upon the rights of civil servants under Executive Order 10988. It also developed a framework that regulated labor-management relationships in the Federal Government. Finally, it outlined specific unfair labor practices and permitted binding arbitration between unions and agencies in certain circumstances. An important distinction between the private sector and the public sector under the order was that public sector employees like Gary could not strike or picket their employers during labor disputes because it is considered an unfair labor practice under the Executive Order 11491.
President Nixon's Executive Order also established the Federal Labor Relations Council and the Federal Service Impasses Panel. The Federal Labor Relations Council was responsible for overseeing the entire system. It was responsible for interpreting the Executive Order, making policy decisions, handling appeals relating to unfair labor practices and responding to representation claims. The Federal Service Impasses Panel, on the other hand, has authority to help unions and agencies solve bargaining impasses.
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978
As a civil servant, Gary is subject to the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSA). The Act was an attempt to create a more productive and fair personnel management system for the federal government and help protect career civil service workers from undue political interference. It codified many of the principles and concepts found in the previous Executive Orders. Some of the key provisions include:
- The Act established the Office of Personnel Management (or OPM), which manages the federal civil service system. It handles federal job announcements and hiring procedures for employees like Gary. It provides training and develops personnel policies to which Gary and other government employees are subject. OPM also manages government pension programs.
- The Act established the Merit Systems Protection Board (or MSPB), which hears appeals from employees who believe their civil service rights have been violated.
- The Act established the Federal Labor Relations Authority (or FLRA), which replaced the Federal Labor Relations Council. It is focused on resolving unfair labor practices, union representation and collective bargaining issues.
- It provided expanded protections for whistle blowers, which are employees who go public about some wrongdoing within the agency.
- It established a formal performance evaluation system to not only increase productivity but also to establish a relationship between performance and pay for agency managers.
- The Act established a merit pay system of middle managers designed to provide financial rewards for performance.
- It established the Senior Executive Service (or SES). These managers are near the top of the food chain, right below presidential appointed officials. These high-level executives choose to leave a more secure civil service position in exchange for employment contracts that offer the possibility of higher pay, career challenges and flexibility. You can think of the SES as trying to use some private sector techniques to encourage productive upper-level public servants.
- Finally, the Act codifies unfair labor practices of both agencies and unions. Importantly for civil servants like Gary, unlike with private sector employees, it's an unfair labor practice for unions and employees to strike or even picket if the picketing interferes with the agency's operations.
Let's review what we've learned. Executive Order 10988 permitted many types of government employees to unionize and collectively bargain. It was revoked by Executive Order 11491, which expanded upon the rights articulated in Executive Order 10988, created a more formalized system for federal labor management and also outlined some specific unfair labor practices.
The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was a major revamp of federal personnel management. Its goal is to increase federal employee productivity while increasing employee rights. It codified many of the rights found in the previous Executive Orders. It also created several agencies to handle labor relations and personnel management, including the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
When this lesson is over, you should be able to:
- Identify Executive Order 10988 and the unionizing of federal employees
- Recognize Executive Order 11491 and the expansion and formalization of EO 10988
- Explain the key provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978