U.S. Mayor Article

Best Practice: Washington DC Mayor Holds Managers Accountable for Improving Labor-Management Cooperation

April 16, 2001


District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams has challenged his city's employees, both management and front line employees, to "become fully engaged in labor — management cooperative effort to improve the way work is performed and public services are delivered."

The mayor is driving cutting-edge change with performance contracts for management employees. The District of Columbia had put the meeting of goals and objectives from agency labor-management steering committees as part of the performance criteria in D.C. management's performance contracts. Measuring results and holding key managers accountable is critical to breaking down obstacles that move government along the continuum of the high performance workplace.

This fall, The District of Columbia government also established a full time Office of Labor-management Programs, staffed by employees jointly approved by labor and management.

Features of DC Labor Management Activities

D.C. government officials and a number of unions including AFSCME, AFGE, SEIU and others have been engaged in improving the capital city's government for several years. Currently there are labor-management partnership councils or steering committees operating in several city departments such as Public Works, the Department of Human Services, Health, Commission on Mental Health Services, DC Public Library, Motor Vehicles, Insurance and Securities Regulation. Others are in the early formation stage. Labor-management collaboration in D.C. City government is spreading from department to department.

Many of the initial efforts have been focused on employee morale. An example of these morale — building activities is the annual labor-management symposium. This labor-management event is to celebrate achievements from labor-management collaboration and promote continuous learning. At this year's Third Annual Labor-Management Symposium, the Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation and three teams from the DC's library system were among those highlighted. These teams worked to improve space/use planning, update procedure manuals and improve employee recognition resulting in the creation of a new employee lounge and annual employee recognition ceremony. Also recognized was Fleet Management. The Fleet Management labor management committee is currently developing new avenues for employee training and meeting customers through continual outreach. The fleet management project has saved $500,000 in costs.

At the conference, labor and management representatives from other City agencies brainstormed ways to improve services. The City's Police Department examined methods to improve citizen service; the Department of Motor Vehicles, to improve customer service, inspections and adjudication; the Emergency Management Agency, to educate the public on disaster safety measures and develop a volunteer coalition to support emergency/disaster operations, and the Department of Health, to improve availability of training and develop new communication strategies.

Lessons Learned from Other Cities

Several other labor-management initiatives from around the country shared their success stories. A labor-management team from Baltimore explained that by working together in the solid waste division of Baltimore's Department of Public Works they were able to show that Baltimore was spending three times less than the lowest private sector competitor. Baltimore's team has also worked to improve customer service and made recommendations for an automated service to respond to consumer complaints. The City of Seattle and the Coalition of City Unions Labor Management Partnership described a process whereby the Committee develops an annual action plan to address the objectives listed in the city charter. Varieties of labor-management teams in Seattle provide recommendations that will lead to measurable results such as dollar savings, reduction in injuries or other tangible benefits. Finally, Ft Lauderdale Florida, a labor management partnership, CALM, made a presentation. The Ft Lauderdale team dealt with mounting financial pressures and increasing customer demand together. Some of the results included saving $400,000 by eliminating redundant city equipment and $750,000 to $1,000,000 annual savings in city clean-up services.

For more information about the District of Columbia effort, contact: Office of Labor-Management Partnership, Eugene Brickhouse: (202) 727-3846

Return to Previous Page.

U.S. Mayor
Home Search jwelfley@usmayors.org