In a First, GAO Analysts Vote to Join a Union

By Stephen Barr
Friday, September 21, 2007

Analysts at the Government Accountability Office have voted to join a union, a first at the 86-year-old agency.

The analysts voted 897 to 445 to be represented by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. About 74 percent of eligible employees voted in the election.

The push for unionization began about a year ago after several analysts complained about the fairness of a 2005-06 restructuring of compensation practices at the GAO. As the campaign evolved, other analysts said they thought a union would give them a stronger voice on workplace issues, including the way managers conduct job-performance evaluations.

GAO analysts are dedicated to their jobs, but many think pay and management problems "are impeding their ability to actually do their work," said Paul Shearon, who headed the organizing drive for the union.

"They think the processes are broken, and they would like the opportunity to sit down with management and make a better GAO," he said.

The election was held Wednesday, and the final round of votes was tallied at about 11 p.m.

David M. Walker, the head of the GAO, said he was notified of the outcome yesterday morning and called the union's president, Gregory J. Junemann, to extend congratulations and suggest that the two meet and begin "a constructive working relationship."

Walker said he was surprised by the margin of the vote but pleased with the high turnout, saying that was important for the GAO. "As to why people voted the way they voted, I'm not in a position to speculate," he said.

The 2-to-1 show of support was no surprise to the union, Shearon said, adding that young GAO employees had expressed increasing interest in the organizing campaign in recent weeks.

As part of that drive, the union created a "band together" Web site for employees, its theme playing off a controversial 2005 decision by Walker to split a "pay band," or salary range, in two. Some analysts thought they were not treated fairly in the split. Others were angered when they did not receive a cost-of-living raise, the common practice across most of the government, in 2006.

With the site, the union created an "online picket line," union spokesman Jamie Horwitz said. The site linked viewers to YouTube, where GAO analysts and union members explained why the GAO needed a union to represent analysts. Shearon called the videos "a nontraditional union-organizing campaign" and predicted that "you will see a lot more of this sort of thing."

The GAO is an agency of Congress that audits federal programs and ferrets out waste, fraud and mismanagement in the executive branch. It is widely regarded as a prestigious place to work in Washington and was ranked No. 2 in a "best places to work" index this year.

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