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AFSCME Council 62 and the State of Indiana

Indiana State Employee Labor-Management Project

Background

The Indiana State Employee Labor-Management Project was established in 1994 by the Office of the Governor and the two unions that represent state employees—AFSCME Council 62 and the Unity Team (Local 9212, UAW/AFT)—through an eighteen-month grant from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). The project’s mission is to establish a consensual process for addressing issues affecting the overall work environment at specific worksites. The mission statement clearly states that it is neither an extension of nor a replacement for the collective bargaining process.

At the outset, the project operated at six worksites—two welfare offices, two prisons, a center for the developmentally disabled, and the state mental hospital. After the FMCS grant expired, the state and the unions agreed to continue the project using their own funds, with $50,000 being contributed by the state and $18,000 from the unions in 1997. The program has added seven more worksites, bringing the total to thirteen as of May 1998.

Structure

The project is managed by a nine-member Statewide Leadership Team (SLT) that has three members from each sponsor (the state and each of the two unions). The full SLT has quarterly meetings with an executive committee that meets monthly. It is staffed by a full-time director and part-time secretary. Labor-management committees conduct monthly meetings at each worksite, with fifteen members split evenly between the three parties. A three-member executive council oversees the operation of the committee (agenda, minutes, and so forth).

Either labor or management (actually, any employee) may bring any issue not covered under the collective bargaining agreements to the local labor-management committee. The only conditions of committee action are that all three parties must agree to discuss the item (typically, to ensure that the issue pertains to the larger workplace community) and that any decisions are to be reached by consensus. Each local committee has the power to resolve any issue or problem brought before it, provided that the actions taken do not violate the law, agency policy, or collective bargaining agreements.

Accomplishments

At the outset of the project, a needs assessment survey was conducted on matters such as employee views of labor-management issues, workplace problems, and training needs. In addition to establishing benchmarks to measure the success of worksite projects, the results confirmed what the parties knew when they chose the initial six sites: the labor relations climate was far from ideal.

Seminars have been conducted for stewards and supervisors on the grievance process and "managing in a union environment." This has helped improve labor-management relations at the worksite level.

The committees have made numerous improvements in the design and application of local-level personnel policies, addressing issues such as scheduling, work assignments, overtime, and sick leave usage.

Several sites have established health fairs, wellness programs, scholarship funds, newsletters, and employee recognition programs as a result of committee actions.

Through the improved training of supervisors and stewards as well as an improved labor relations climate, the participating facilities have seen a decline in the number of grievances proceeding to the higher stages of the grievance procedure.

Overall, the project's best achievement has been the improvement in communications and problem-solving at the participating facilities. According to the project director, the participants have ìfound ways to resolve workplace issues that had previously been given up on, or were thought to be beyond resolution at their level of operation and decision making.

Recognition

In 1995, representatives from the Indiana State Employee Labor-Management Project testified before the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government through Labor-Management Cooperation. The project was one of 53 case studies that were included in the final report of the Task Force, entitled Working Together for Public Service (May 1996).

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