Hello. We’re FEDSMILL, we’re glad to join you, and we hope we can help. FEDSMILL is designed for union representatives and the employees they represent. It will present tips on how to enforce and expand their rights, highlight new developments in law and practice, and challenge some of the accepted wisdom, legal and otherwise, about how unions, federal employees, and management should interact. Most critiques will be aimed at areas of the law that the courts and FLRA have made too complicated for the thousands of union-management practitioners to administer. (If managers and HR specialists also learn how to engage with employees and their unions more productively that will be gravy.)
The driving force behind FEDSMILL is the observation that representing employees is a far more complicated job today than it was 50 years ago when American unions were at their peak. Back then, the contract was the source of virtually all rights and they were enforced by grievances, slowdowns, picket lines and strikes. Now, thanks primarily to wave-after-wave of union supported legislation, there are laws, regulations, precedents, and processes that provide rights never addressed in a negotiated contract. The more the union representatives know about these the more powerful they are. Over the last 50 years Americans have fallen in love with professionalism. When they need help they want professional assistance–whether it is help with their health care, finances, automobile, children’s education, hair stylist, or even lawn care. Unions have to step up their game or continue to be dismissed by the modern employee. The work force has not lost interest in representation; it simply has turned to attorneys for help. One web site estimates that over 20,000 attorneys earn a living specializing in labor or employment law.
In an ideal world, the public educations system would teach all of us about our rights as employees. After all, most of us are going to spend over 40 years as employees after school. Sadly, that does not happen. Nor does the media help educate the work force about rights; it seems to prefer the salacious stories about strikes, lockouts, large jury awards, and workplace violence. And employers are not going to do it because they see it as against their self-interest. So, it is up to those who know a great deal about those rights to help others learn.
That is what FEDSMILL is about.