After years of strife between management and employees, NFFE-IAM members at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took matters into their own hands to create a better work environment, save taxpayers money and deliver a better service.
With the help of HUD, local leadership chartered a Labor Management Forum (LMF) to help discuss and work through issues. Under the leadership of NFFE-IAM Local 1450 Vice President Charron Alfonso and HUD Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti, both sides were able to not only make for a more amicable working relationship, but help streamline work at HUD to make it more efficient and improve services.
The relationship mending between NFFE-IAM and HUD hasn’t gone unnoticed. The pair recently received the 2016 Margery Gootnick Labor-Management Cooperation Award for most improved relationship between the two. Alfonso and Coloretti were both honored for their efforts to improve conditions for workers, managers and clients.
“This is proof that unions are a positive force for not only the employees they represent, but also the people who receive HUD’s services,” said IAM International President Bob Martinez. “I’m proud of this group and the work they’ve done to improve their workplace and the services they provide.”
The gains for all those involved have been apparent and tangible. Both sides were able to reduce the number of disagreements settled by a third party mediator or arbitrator from eight to 10 a year to just one to two a year since the forum was formed. Having input in the process has saved a significant amount of resources for HUD and Local 1450.
“The successes that FL 1450 has had with their Labor-Management Forum demonstrates why it is important to give workers a voice in addressing workplace issues,” said NFFE-IAM National President Bill Dougan. “Our members are the best source of knowledge for how to improve the workplace, because they are there every day performing the work. Labor-Management Forums are a good tool to help tap into the experience and expertise that workers bring to their jobs.”
In an adversarial relationship, trust and cooperation isn’t gained quick or easily, so to overcome those trust barriers, the LMF set up a website to show transparency and posted the minutes of all their meetings for union members and managers alike to see what was being discussed.
NFFE-IAM members working for HUD are the front lines of homelessness, low and middle income home ownership, economic development, public housing, housing vouchers, ensuring fair lending and making sure FHA insured loans are legitimate.
“When front line employees have a better environment, they can focus on the client, rather than worry about workplace issues,” said NFFE-IAM Local 1450 President Elizabeth McDargh. “When we alleviate internal barriers, our members are free to put their heart and soul into the clients.”
Shortly after receiving the cooperation award, the top HUD representative stepped down from the LMF, potentially reducing the effectiveness.
“We can only hope the Labor Employee Relations Manager has a chance to see what we have been able to accomplish here, and see the value in what the forum has brought to HUD, our clients and the taxpayers in this country,” said McDargh.