When I ran four years ago, I pledged to institute monthly conference calls between the National President and Chapter Presidents. This election year, I promise the same. Many Chapter Leaders, whether they supported me before or not, like the idea. But when it was raised again this past February, the incumbent shot it down.
In a February 28 meeting between the current President and IRS Service Center Chapter Presidents, including me, the consensus of the Chapter Leaders was that more communication—between the National Office and local leaders, and between Chapters—was necessary. During a long conversation on the subject, both the National President and the National Executive Vice President gave no ground on the issue, and made no new proposals to address the leaders’ concerns. So the question remains: Is communication a real issue? Or is it—as the incumbent contends—just talk?
There are two driving forces behind the proposal. Number one, the issue of transparency, and number two, improving communication is just a more efficient use of resources.
Transparency is an end in itself. Transparency provides more confidence in our leadership; it states that our union has nothing to hide, especially to those on the frontlines.
As for efficiency, it is obvious from recent history that our leaders need to hear the views of the rank and file—again and again. The mistakes our union has made—reflected in our negotiations, our slow membership growth, and in misplaced priorities—stem from not heeding the clear voice of the people we represent. Top down management has been a failure in every federal agency where it has been practiced—which is most of them. Top down management at NTEU is no better, and for the same reasons.
In addition, there are many instances of Chapters fighting the same battles at different sites. Each Chapter is isolated from the rest, and even Field Offices are oblivious to cases filed by other Field Offices. In fact, there are countless examples of one Field Office winning an arbitration, while another loses the same case at another site. It might be months, or even years, before everyone is on the same page.
Also, while Chapter Presidents are granted access to information involving other Chapters within their own agency, access to leaders from other agencies is blocked. The result is that cross-agency communication and cooperation is discouraged. As National President, I will end this policy.
Finally, I will embrace developing technology to increase direct communication between Chapters struggling with similar issues. The greatest inspiration for best practices comes from motivated Chapter Leaders sharing their experience, not from memos from HQ. Whenever new methods become available to promote communication, I will take advantage of that technology. The future demands no less. – Eddie Walker, June 21