IS ALL FAIR IN LOVE, WAR AND BARGAINING?
As Congress tightens the budgetary noose around the Executive Branch of government, union negotiators need to prepare for tougher arguments from management when the union proposes an agency fund its institutional travel and per diem costs, office space needs, official time desires, attorney fee requests, etc. Looking down the road we see these bargaining conversations getting into very sensitive territory for the union. For example,
unions had better prepare for agencies to counter their institutional money demands with an analysis of the union’s financial situation. It would not be hard at all for an LR specialist to find the union’s annual LM-2 report and IRS 990 filing on the Internet. Those could be very helpful in identifying surplus funds the union has on hand, any excessive salaries it pays staff & officers in comparison to similarly situated unions, annual dues income, questionable expenses, and the comparative success of the union’s investment of the surplus funds. A resolute agency chief negotiator could make the union’s leadership feel very politically uncomfortable by walking the union’s team through a PowerPoint intended to spotlight things the average member might not know about the union. If the union has not wisely used its money in comparison to reasonable benchmarks or is sitting on plenty of money to cover the cost the question, the FSIP also is likely to listen very critically to proposals for the institutional funding of the union from an agency in budget crisis. And even if FSIP chooses to dismiss the two-way ability-to-pay data in favor of following its tradition on those expenses, that only boosts the odds that the merry band of union haters on the Hill will step in and shut the lid tight. Doesn’t anyone remember when unions could get employee home addressed from agencies. Is was right up to the point when a near midnight maneuver on the Hill made it illegal for agencies to give unions that information they were using to boost membership and campaign clout?
American labor history is filled with examples of how Congress stepped into union affairs when the unions did not reasonably police themselves. Given how polarized the political scene is right now and the likelihood of a substantial increase in the two parties escalating their war after Inauguration Day, now is the time for all good unions to rethink pushing the economic envelop solely for their own short-term institutional benefit. It is understandable that unions would want to gather in and hold on to every dollar they can, but some time they really need to look at the big picture, long game, total horizon or whatever else one calls the reality lurking just beyond the tip of one’s nose and/or self-defeating pride.