Know Your Rights
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Access to Information

You have filed a grievance alleging a contractual violation. How do you get information to support your grievance? File an information request. The FAA has recently proposed a change in conditions of employment. As the NATCA representative, you have to draft proposals to address the change. How do you get information related to the change to help you draft proposals? File an information request.

As the exclusive representative of bargaining unit members, a union may request information on behalf an employee from the agency pursuant to 5 USC 7114(b)(4). 

5 USC 7114(b) of the Federal Labor Management Relations Statute discusses the duty of an agency and an exclusive representative to negotiate in good faith. Part of the obligation requires the following from the agency under 7114(b)(4):

In the case of an agency, to furnish to the exclusive representative involved, or its authorized representative, upon request and, to the extent not prohibited by law, data – (A) which is normally maintained by the agency in the regular course of business; (B) which is reasonably available and necessary for full and proper discussion, understanding, and negotiation of subjects within the scope of collective bargaining; and (C) which does not constitute guidance, advise, counsel, or training provided for management officials or supervisors, relating to collective bargaining;

When drafting a request, you must state a “particularized need for information.” The FLRA has stated that a union must articulate with specificity: (1) why the information is necessary, (2) the uses to which the union will put the information; and (3) the connection between the uses and its role as exclusive representative. IRS Kansas City, Missouri, 50 FLRA 661 (1995). 

You must be sure to explain the need for the information in connection with the union’s representational role – why you need it and how you will use it. Remember, a union may request information to determine whether to file a grievance, to pursue an active grievance, or to engage in negotiations on behalf of the bargaining unit. Merely saying that the information is needed to fulfill representational obligations is too vague. The agency must respond to the request and also inform you if the information does not exist. If the agency denies all or part of a request, it is also required to articulate with specificity its reasons for nondisclosure. If the agency does respond but won't provide the information for certain reasons you should respond once and attempt to meet those concerns. If the agency is still refusing to provide the information after this second effort, and if you believe the agency has improperly denied information, contact your regional vice president or the NATCA LR office to determine whether an unfair labor practice or grievance alleging an unfair labor practice charge should be filed. 

Sample items of information to request:

Disciplinary action: e.g., evidence relied upon; sanitized disciplinary actions for similar offenses to see if penalty was consistent; past discipline of the employee, performance ratings of employee, letters of appreciation and counseling records to address mitigation; relevant agency policies/orders, statements given by managers or employees regarding the allegation; investigation reports/notes

Performance rating: e.g., work evaluated by the employee, performance plan/standards, documents of feedback or counseling from manager, sanitized ratings of comparative employees to determine if treatment was disparate, agency policies/orders applicable to the job

Negotiations over a change: all documentation regarding the change: e.g., nature of the change, number of employees affected, rationale for the change