FORMER EXECUTIVE VP PROPOSES NTEU CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Frank Ferris, former National Executive VP of NTEU, spent 38 years with NTEU operating under a union constitution put in place in the mid-60s. The 60’s were very different times for NTEU. It did not even represent all of IRS in the 60’s and IRS was the only agency it represented. Today, NTEU represents all of IRS and over two dozen other agencies. It had one office and less than a half-dozen staff 50 years ago. Today, it has offices in seven locations, more than 130 staff, and tens of millions in financial assets. Labor relations back then were merely an executive branch program, grievances could not go to binding arbitration, and contracts were typically local ones and just a few pages long. Now there is a labor statute, grievances can go to the Supreme Court if needed, and NTEU contracts are generally hundreds of pages long covering thousands from coast to coast and in other countries. In the 60s the President and Congress considered feds valuable assets, not political targets to be penalized at nearly every opportunity as they are now. Back then few federal employees knew anything about running a union whereas today thousands of federal employee union leaders have a good grasp of labor/employment law, the organizational mechanics of running a union, and what works and does not work. Most importantly, the current NTEU constitution was put in place to change it from a fraternal group focused on half dozen issues operating under the heavy influence of IRS executives into a legitimate labor union that would represent all of IRS. Thankfully, it did all those things—and more. It also enabled NTEU to create a strong national office that determines which cases go to arbitration, which staffers service each local and unit, who gets appointed to most committees, and almost all policy formulation. However, having been with NTEU for most of those changes, the former VP is positioning the delegates at the upcoming convention to have an opportunity to reconsider what they need to have another 50 years of success. Given that NTEU is about to change its national leadership for only the third time in those 50 years, this is an especially good time to focus on the near and far future.
The changes Ferris proposes were just printed in the union’s national newspaper, giving members a several months to consider them before the August convention—or even propose modifications. Here is a brief summary of the non-technical ones:
- Reflecting its 75-year tradition/policy of not organizing in the Department of Defense, NTEU would commit itself to specialize in those federal employees outside the Defense sector rather than compete against the more than one dozen other unions that already represent DOD employees.
- All past National Executive Board resolutions would be reviewed by the current Board and chapter leaders at the outset of any new administration to clarify and announce which still apply.
- The National President would be required to give the Executive Board more advance notice before trying to organize in a new agency, reorganize NTEU, or make formal interpretations of the NTEU Constitution.
- Local elected chapter leaders would be allowed to simultaneously serve as members of the National Executive Board.
- National Executive Board members would receive a $2,000 annual stipend for their work.
- Failure of a local chapter to timely file DOL or IRS reports would be grounds to discipline the chapter after a short grace period.
Do not expect to see the Former Executive VP disparage NTEU or current constitutional provisions when addressing these proposed amendments. The proposed amendments are focused on a future where union resources may very well get tighter, major policy decisions need be made, compliance with union legal obligations will be scrutinized for flaws, and pre-decisional involvement of an organization’s stakeholders will continue to rise in importance.