By Dan Gephart, December 6, 2022

As she nears completion of the first six months of her tenure as a Federal Labor Relations Authority member, Susan Tsui Grundmann is very optimistic about the agency. We caught up with Member Grundmann a couple of times over the past several weeks, and she was eager to discuss the issues that have her enthused about the FLRA’s direction.

  1. Formalization of a relationship with FLRA’s internal union.
  2. Re-establishment of the Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (CADRO).
  3. FLRA’s return to the top 10 of the Best Small Agencies to Work list.

The FLRA union

“We meet on a regular basis,” Grundmann said about the agency and its union. “We have to lead by example. The people on the ground have great ideas. Look to the people who do the work as well as those who do it through other people. Give everyone a voice at the table.”

The agency and the union are working closely on returning employees to the physical workplace. They agreed to a return after 14 straight days with a reduction in transmission rates recorded in all regions followed by a 30-day notice provision. During our conversation with FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester back in April, the hope was for a mid-May return. Months later, the virus still has different plans.

Speaking of Chair DuBester, one of his first acts was to reinstate CADRO, which once again is led by Michael Wolf.

“CADRO is back,” Grundmann said. “They have an astonishing resolution rate of nearly 100 percent in negotiability appeals. Now when you file a ULP, you have an opportunity to go to CADRO.”

During the 18-month period since CADRO was restored in 2021, it has fully resolved 35 negotiability petitions containing 414 language disputes, according to Wolf. A 36th case was partially resolved.

As of Oct. 31, CADRO has handled 127 ULP cases. So far, per Wolf, only three cases required a hearing and 11 were resolved on motions for summary judgment. The rest of the 113 cases were fully resolved through the settlement conference process.  That’s a success rate just under 90 percent.

A best place to work

In 2020, the agency ranked 23rd among small-size agencies with a score of 64.6. The scores are calculated based on three questions in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS):

  • I recommend my organization as a good place to work.
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?

In 2021, that score jumped to 78.4, vaulting the agency into 7th place in the list just behind the Farm Credit Administration. Why the sudden jump?

“Our employees have always had a strong sense of purpose towards the agency mission, which is to protect rights and facilitate stable relationships among Federal agencies, labor organizations, and employees while advancing an effective and efficient government through the administration of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute,” Grundmann said.  “Because we didn’t have a General Counsel for several years, ULP complaints couldn’t be issued and regional employees couldn’t do a significant part of their jobs.  I think the President’s appointment of Charlotte Dye as Acting General Counsel, which enabled this important work to start up again, likely had a positive effect on employees’ morale.

“Additionally, as an agency, we recommitted to our mission by redeveloping a robust training and education program and restoring CADRO.  We also demonstrated to our employees that we will engage with them by once again recognizing their exclusive representative and re-establishing our own labor-management forum.”

Grundmann thinks it’s important not just for FLRA employees, but for all Federal employees, that FLRA is viewed as a good place to work.

“If we are in the business of addressing issues between agencies, its unions, and its employees, we should be viewed by our own employees as embodying the core principles that the employee viewpoint survey measures: employee engagement and satisfaction,” she said.

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