Claiming A Government First in Openness, FLRA Provides Six Numbers

“Openness in government” may be a matter of form over substance in some cases. Here is what author Bob Gilson found when searching through the new datasets posted by the FLRA in its attempt to meet the President’s commitment “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”

There’s a huge new banner on the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) website. It is reproduced below:
So I clicked where I was told to and got another page on which it was claimed that:

“The FLRA is committed to collaborating with the public and other government agencies and industry to find innovative ways to accomplish its mission.  The FLRA will continue to reach out to these parties in the same manner it did in the selection of the best open source web framework — which resulted in the FLRA being the first to implement an agency-wide open source website.”

So I took them at their word and clicked on the data sets they claimed demonstrated their openness. I got the following at the three locations to which I was directed.

What FLRA Wants the Public Industry and Other Agencies to Know

The First Location titled Agency Cases claimed to provide:

 “This dataset represents the pending case inventory and closed case output from our new case management system. Currently these numbers include only cases of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP).  As the FLRA continues to develop its case management system, the case data of other FLRA components will be included.  The agency anticipates that all case filing and closed case data from the new case management system will be available by September 2010.”

What you get when you go there is:

“This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.”





The Second Location titled Agency Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Cases claimed to provide:

“The FLRA received and processed several FOIA cases in FY 2009.  This dataset represents the number of FOIA requests received and processed, and those that remained pending at the end of FY 2009.  In the future, this dataset will reflect current as well as historical data.”

What you get when you go there is:

“This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.”






The Third Location titled Agency Human Resources Data claimed to provide:

“This data represents a current snapshot of employees working for the FLRA.”

What you get when you go there is:

“This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.”




Come on FLRA, get a grip.
Do you really thing providing six numbers that are all but meaningless gets you the right to crow about openness or the superiority of your website. The FLRA “snapshot” at the third location may be evidence of some Bible reading or imbibing at FLRA but it certainly is a picture taken “through a glass darkly”.

Case Decisions Database a Disaster as Well

The Agency’s claim to an improved website appears just as bogus.
Changing fonts and including morphing banners and shaded data boxes is only a good thing if these pretty things actually frame a useful product. Now the FLRA’s job is writing decisions and letting the labor relations community know what the law means, fight? You would think their decision data base would be helpful and informative, right? So I took a look at the “Authority Decisions” page. On the right, you get:

Authority Search

Use the blocks below to search the FLRA volumes



The FLRA authority search is in a “Beta” status and currently only displays decisions 55 thru the most current.The Authority adjudicates disputes arising under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, deciding cases concerning the negotiability of collective bargaining agreement proposals, appeals concerning unfair labor practices and representation petitions, and exceptions to grievance arbitration awards. To purchase FLRA Volumes and/or subscribe to the Reports of Case Decisions, contact the Government Printing Office (GPO) at 202-512-1239 for information.

I defy anyone to locate a case using this system. The previous version of the website offered “Recent Decisions” and “Cases by Volume”. This system makes you scroll through 346 screens to find a case. So the FLRA has gone backwards instead of forward. It is so incredibly useless that if you input Volume = 60 and Case Number = 60, you get 60 FLRA 063.
So I tried inputting Volume= 60 and case Number = 60 FLRA 063 and got “No matching decisions”. The FLRA then has the sheer gall to tell you that paper decisions can be purchased from GPO. They’d better ‘cause ya ain’t gonna get ‘em on the website.
I would venture a guess at what the FLRA is first in but electron management is not it. Whether you are a union or Agency practitioner, the FLRA is creating nothing useful or practical and, in fact, screwed up what useful stuff was on its website if in less pretty of a look. FLRA, your website is an incredible testament to form over substance. Again FLRA, shame on you.
The above except for the EXACT quotes or copied information from the FLRA website is my opinion and does not reflect those who I work with or for or who publish this.

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.