Obama FLRA Transition Team Meets with Agency Representatives: Indications of a Paradigm or Pendulum Shift?

There was apparently a lively discussion last week at OPM which hosted a meeting between agency labor relations representatives and the FLRA transition team. The author highlights the gist of the meeting and provides bios of transition team members.

Last Wednesday, December 3, the Obama transition team dealing with the Federal Labor Relations Authority met with Agency labor relations leaders to get input on the directions the FLRA should take in the future.

Chairing the meeting was a familiar face, Joe Swerdzewski, former Clinton FLRA General Counsel.The other team members present were Phyllis Segal, former Clinton FLRA Chair and Julia Clark, IFPTE’s General Counsel.

Attendees at the meeting said that there was a lively discussion over whether "partnership" in some form should be re-instituted. In addition, there was apparently a lot of discussion over the current FLRA and FSIP decision processing time which attendees criticized as too slow even in simple, pro forma matters, often taking years to issue. Attendees complained that this was encouraging arbitration of a number of issues prompting inconsistent results. Agency representatives also pushed for a return to settlement efforts they believed were less emphasized by the Bush authority.

We understand that there was also criticism of FLRA’s website, a problem you’ve been reading about on Fedsmith for some time.

Readers might find the team’s bios of interest. They are bios these folks wrote themselves, so don’t expect anything critical (in the literary sense or otherwise).

Joseph Swerdzewski – Managing Partner, JSA Consulting

Mr. Swerdzewski obtained his law degree from Fordham University Law School in 1975. In 1993 President William J. Clinton appointed him General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority after confirmation by the United States Senate.

He was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate for a second term in 1998. He is the only General Counsel to have been appointed for a second term. He is well known for his advice and policy issuances on labor relations topics for the federal sector, which he issued while General Counsel. His creative approaches to dispute resolution led to a significant reduction in case filings during his tenure. He left the FLRA in 2001 to become President and CEO of FPMI Solutions, a federal government human resource and training contractor. While leading FPMI through a period of significant expansion of its federal business, he also acted as a labor relations consultant to federal agencies and performed numerous speaking engagements nationwide. He is a much sought-after speaker, having presented over 200 speeches and seminars on labor and employment subjects throughout the United States and abroad. He started Joseph Swerdzewski and Associates (JSA) in July 2005.

Source: On-line Bio from JSA Consulting (Current Employer)

Julia a. Clark- General Counsel, IFPTE, AFL-CIO & CLC

Julia Akins Clark serves as general counsel of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO & CLC (IFPTE). The union represents engineers, scientists and technicians employed by private, federal and public employers in the United States and Canada, primarily engaged in the aircraft, aerospace, airline, defense and energy sectors of the economy. Ms. Clark received her B.A. (summa cum laude) in political science from Oklahoma Baptist University, and her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law, in Washington, D.C. Following graduation, she served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, specializing in the banking, finance and communications industries. In 1985, Ms. Clark joined the private antitrust practice of Blumenfeld & Cohen.

In 1987, she became counsel for the National Coalition for the Homeless, which she had previously represented on a pro bono basis. In 1988, Ms. Clark became counsel for federal labor relations and legislation for the IFPTE, and was named general counsel of the union in 1995. Ms. Clark serves on the Lawyers Advisory Panel of the AFL-CIO, is a member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, and is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, State of Maryland, and the United States Courts of Appeal for the First, Ninth, District of Columbia and Federal Circuits.

Source: On-line Bio from Chicago Kent College of Law Continuing Education Seminar (No bio on IFPTE website or at least not accessible without password)

Phyllis Segal – Vice President, Civic Ventures.

She has led organizations and practiced law in the public, nonprofit and private sectors during a career spanning more than 30 years. Since 2001, she has focused on teaching, dispute resolution and consulting in the fields of collective bargaining and organizational development, and expanded the time she devotes to nonprofit service. She is on the faculty of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and a Research Associate at the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research.

She also serves as Board Chair of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a Trustee for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, and a Forum Leader for The Commonwealth Institute. From 1994 through 2000, Segal was Chair of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the independent quasi-judicial Federal agency with jurisdiction over the Federal labor relations program.

She was the FLRA’s Chief Executive Officer; chair of a panel that decides cases arising under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute; and a member of the President’s National Partnership Council. Prior to this appointment, she was Deputy Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; General Counsel & Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs, Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction; founding Legal Director, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Associate Attorney (Civil Litigation), Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York. She also taught at New York University Law School, and was a mediator with two national firms. Segal served as a nonprofit trustee for organizations including the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, and the National Institute for Dispute Resolution.

She has her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Source: On-line bio from Civic Ventures (Current Employer)

Closing Thoughts

President Elect Obama has promised change. If that change involves replacing Bush philosophies and appointees with former Clinton approaches and appointees, then it’s "ho hum" time in D.C. again and business as usual. Real change is not only harder to accomplish but may not be politically correct for the first real "labor" president since John F. Kennedy, but one can hope.

As always, any opinion is mine and mine alone.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.