NTEU convention delegates elected Tony Reardon today to be the next National President of NTEU, giving him more than 85% of the vote. For the past decade or so Tony has managed the union’s finances, accounting, real estate, information technology, meeting management, investments, human resources, payroll, and capital acquisitions. He does not have the background in representational matters that some other staff and chapter leaders do, but that just might be what helps NTEU turn around some troubling internal trends in membership, bargaining clout, political involvement, and even representation.

NTEU is known as a tightly controlled, centralized organization with most everything being run out of the union headquarters, if not the president’s own office. The President decides who sit on term and most mid-term bargaining teams for every one of the more than two dozen units NTEU represents. The president also controls which grievances can go to arbitration for every unit, who gets appointed to committees, what is printed in its national newsletter, which staff are assigned to which chapters, when training can be scheduled, what the media is told in press releases, what lawsuits get filed, etc. As with any executive who spends most of his/her time controlling the stuff that can be easily delegated, there is little time left to strategically lead the organization. People in that situation often look like and feel like they worked a long hard day, but all they typically do is work that the union already pays lots of other people to know more about. The president can easily wind up not much more than a super chief steward for the entire union rather than the future-focused leader.

Those of us sitting around the FEDSMILL editorial boardroom table are betting that Reardon’s background suggests he will focus more on the big picture, big data, and the future of not just NTEU, but federal sector unionism. NTEU has been uniquely positioned for years to make major moves that could help a lot of people inside and outside NTEU, but nothing big happens anywhere unless the leader devotes him/herself to the four or five things no one else on the staff is in a position to do. Here’s hoping that without a deep background in representational stuff Reardon will not be tempted to focus on representational work because he is comfortable with that.  Given the NTEU Constitution, it will not be easy. It has structured the national president job along paternalistic lines to take care of everything so that local leaders do not have to wrestle with anything bigger than drafting local grievances, a few local bargaining demands, and getting new members.

Welcome, Tony. We are so glad you are here–and we suspect we speak not just for other union leaders but also a bundle of agency executives looking for help for federal employees and employment.

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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