Legislation Aims to Reestablish Labor Relations Council

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to revive a national council on labor-management relations. Given the history, it is unlikely to go anywhere.

Legislation was recently introduced in both the House and the Senate to reestablish a federal labor-management relations council.


The council was originally established by an Executive Order from President Obama in 2009. It created the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. One of its primary objectives was to expand the number of topics on which federal employee unions can bargain without having to change the federal labor relations statute.

However, President Trump revoked the council via another Executive Order last year. He gave this explanation for canceling the labor-management councils:

The United States Government should spend tax dollars responsibly, efficiently, and in the public interest.  The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations (Council) and related agency-level labor-management forums have consumed considerable managerial time and taxpayer resources, but they have not fulfilled their goal of promoting collaboration in the Federal workforce.  Public expenditures on the Council and related forums have produced few benefits to the public, and they should, therefore, be discontinued.

As FedSmith.com author Ralph Smith noted in his article about the decision to revoke the council:

Federal employee unions are heavily involved in politics. They endorse and provide assistance to candidates during elections. They usually support Democrats who are running for office.

As might be expected, the fortunes of the unions go up when Democrats are elected. They supported Senator Obama in his quest to become president and again when he ran for a second term. One of the rewards to federal unions after the election of Barack Obama of was establishing the labor-management relations councils.

Federal employee unions also supported Hillary Clinton in her campaign to become president. Had Clinton been elected, their fortunes would have continued to prosper.

But, as Clinton did not win, their fortunes are waning—at least until the next election.

One of these “misfortunes” was having the labor-management relations council rescinded.

The Federal Labor-Management Partnerships Act

Some lawmakers want to bring the council back, however. Their new bill would override President Trump’s Executive Order and reestablish the council. It is sponsored in the Senate (S. 2340) by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and in the House (H.R. 4878) by Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

According to Schatz, “This bill is about supporting federal workers and promoting dialogue between federal management and the people who work to protect and serve our country. These advisory panels have helped the federal government create good policy for its workers for years, and our philosophy is, if it’s not broken, don’t disband it.”

The lawmakers say that the panels “allow agencies and employees to discuss challenges, review organizational initiatives, and solve workplace issues.”

The law would establish a National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations to advise the President on labor-management relations in the executive branch. It would be co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget and would be required to have key stakeholders, including members from federal-employee unions who meet quarterly.

The head of each agency would also be required to create labor-management partnerships, which would allow employees and employee representatives to have pre-decisional involvement in workplace matters, to the extent practicable.

The bill is symbolic in nature since it will likely go nowhere under the current administration. Even if it were to make it through Congress, President Trump would almost certainly veto it since he revoked the council once already.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.