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Resolutions & Amendments

30th International Convention - Las Vegas, NV (1992)

Restructuring and Delivering Quality Services

Resolution No. 135
30th International Convention
June 15-19, 1992
Las Vegas, NV


In times of economic and fiscal crisis, many state and local government leaders frequently resort to layoffs, furloughs, freezes and even contracting out to balance their budgets; and


Politicians, columnists and others often blame public sector workers for the inefficiencies in state and local government. Frequently wages and benefits are criticized with little or no attention focused on the underlying reasons for the economic distress and fiscal horrors; and


Public and private non-profit and health workers are too often frustrated with inefficiencies on their jobs and bureaucratic policy decisions made by people removed from the day-to-day work and want to participate in positive ways, through joint decision-making, to improve the jobs they do for their customers — the citizens of the state and community; and


Citizens across the nation voice complaints against government. People are angry at unfair taxes and at government's inability to solve problems and the lack of commitment to make it possible for all Americans to share in the American Dream; and


There is now a growing understanding among politicians and government administrators that government must work better, that services must be delivered more effectively and that taxpayers and other citizens are in fact the customers of government. This recognition has focused a debate on restructuring government service delivery to be quality and customer driven; and


Unfortunately, in the current economic, fiscal and political environment some restructuring schemes emphasize privatization, competition and downsizing and unfairly and inaccurately portray public workers as the major problem. In these situations workers who deliver the services and their unions are the last ones consulted about quality. It is therefore understandable that workers have real fears that restructuring or other efficiency programs may result in the loss of their jobs and the deterioration of public service; and


Enlightened and forward looking elected officials and managers understand that workers and their unions are closest to the consumers or customers and are best equipped, given their skills and experience, to improve the quality and effectiveness of their work. They understand that autocratic top-down management often inhibits worker input to the detriment of customer satisfaction; and


Some AFSCME Councils and Locals have been successful in working cooperatively with progressive public and private management on programs which call for the changing of management structure and redesigning jobs and service delivery. Some programs improve productivity as well as the quality of work life. Other forms of labor-management cooperation, such as Total Quality Management (TQM), may call for even more fundamental change while at the same time guaranteeing job security; and


These endeavors have taken a variety of forms: in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin AFSCME members participate in a Total Quality Management (TQM) project. In 1991 alone, in Washington State, 82% of the new ideas in state government were supplied by state workers, while in Iowa AFSCME members developed more than 100 quality and efficiency ideas and presented them to the legislature. Workers in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington State have developed model state-operated community-based services for mentally ill and mentally retarded persons with no layoffs and no adverse job consequences for employees. At Harvard University, the HUCTW has pioneered joint councils with the management for better decision-making.


That AFSCME will foster and support innovative approaches to restructuring that are committed to quality service delivery, job security, joint decision making and no contracting out. AFSCME will support programs that involve union participation on an equal basis with management from the outset and that are designed to eliminate excessive layers of managers; that continue to recognize collective bargaining as the primary mechanism for addressing the needs of members; that provide the necessary investment of time and funds for training members to participate as equals; and that will upgrade the wages of employees in recognition of their higher skill levels and knowledge; and


That AFSCME will engage in a multi-faceted campaign to emphasize the value of the work performed by public and non-profit health workers. The International Union will coordinate this activity with the work of councils and locals to provide information and resources needed to develop structures, including various forms of labor management cooperative efforts, to maximize the skills and knowledge of AFSCME members; and


That AFSCME will continue to fight contracting out and other forms of privatization, not only through traditional methods but also by taking the initiative to force positive change, calling for greater worker input into delivering higher quality services to the entire citizenry.