OPM does it.  The Department of Labor and a number of federal Labor Relations shops do it too. So why don’t unions provide the same simple automated service to its local leaders?  Here is a good example of why it is needed.  Suppose you are a local union president who has a question.  Perhaps it is as simple as what kind of questions do law, regulations and the contract allow a promotion interview panel to ask BQ candidates about their alternative work schedule preferences?  You call the regional/national staff member assigned to your local, but she is out, tied up, or otherwise unable to return your call the same day.  When she doesn’t call back the next day you call her supervisor, but he says he needs to talk to her before he can give a reliable answer. The next day the staff member calls you, but leaves a message because you were in a grievance meeting. You call her back the following day, but that is her AWS day. In short, all too often local union reps cannot find staff as quickly as they prefer to get questions answered.  That would almost never happen again if unions…

created a web site that listed dozens of the most common issues local union reps call about and posted the advice for them to access any time they wish.  These are often called a “site index” or are identified by an “A Thru Z” icon on the home page.  Check out the OPM, DOL, and Department of the Army sites.

It is not unusual at all for the leader of even a mid-size union local to encounter questions during the year about crediting of sick leave, advance sick leave criteria, sick leave substitution rights, sick leave abuse letters, sick leave documentation, privacy of medical information, FMLA and sick leave, FFLA and sick leave, ADAAA and sick leave, sick leave and communicable diseases, sick leave and bereavement, sick leave and adoption, sick leave on days the office is closed, etc.  Very few contracts address each of those issues and as far as we know none of them fully addresses each topic.  Consequently, you have to wonder why unions have not assembled their own “A Thru Z” indexes to identify information potentially helpful to local union reps or even inexperienced staff. Here is an example of what we have in mind for the Sick Leave issue of Communicable/Infectious Diseases fleshed out.




  • Topics
  •                 Abuse Letter Restrictions
  •                 ADAAA Relationship
  •                 Adoption Relationship
  •                 Advance Sick Leave
  •                 Bereavement
  •                 Communicable/Infectious Disease
  •                                 Arbitration Precedents
  •                                 CHCO Advice
  •                                 OPM Pandemic Q&A
  •                                 Regulatory background
  •                                 Union Advice/Comment
  •                  Crediting/Earning Sick Leave
  •                 Documentation
  •                 FFLA Relationship
  •                 FMLA Relationship
  •                 Office Closures
  •                 Privacy
  •                 Substitution
  •                 Uses

The point is that there is a lot of information out there already sitting on some web site that could answer the local union rep’s question about a topic as specific as “sick leave for communicable diseases” in a few seconds.  The union could supplement those web site links with any arbitration decisions relevant to a particular contract addressing the topic and comments or additional tips from the union about how local reps should approach the matter.

The all-too-common, current-day method of having local union reps track down union staff to get an answer is very old-school.  It is a relic of the days when information was closely held in order to be traded for something in exchange.  It is also a great way to retard the development of local union leaders. Surely someone in the larger, multi-local unions should be familiar enough with federal statutes, regulations, case law, advice memoranda, and union precedents to assemble a list addressing 500 or so common local rep questions.  All the unions have web sites and servers, and they should be used for more than word processing services and public relations image building. Sorry to be harsh, but this is a long overdue change.

And this is only one of a dozen ways unions should be using automation to improve their representation and other member services.


About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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1 Response to

  1. It’s a great idea, and I’ve certainly pushed for union’s I’ve worked with to automate a whole range of items, but there needs to be a culture shift throughout the labor movement to embrace digital solutions, because even if a union listed stuff like this article suggests on a website or in a manual, many members and local leaders would not bother to look at it, and would end up calling their rep anyway.

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