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We Want a Voice Too

Majority of Employees Responsible for Internal Operations at the Government Accountability Office File Union Election Authorization Cards

WASHINGTON – A majority of the 500 professional support specialists responsible for maintaining the Government Accountability Office (GAO) internal operations at the agency’s Washington headquarters and field offices filed authorization cards today with the GAO Personnel Appeals Board calling for a union election. This election, which the professional support specialists hope will take place in the near future, will give these employees a voice and the ability to collaborate with their analyst colleagues’ union, the GAO Employees Organization, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 1921, in their efforts to ensure that GAO remains a model agency.

GAO, often referred to as the “Congressional Watchdog,” is an independent, nonpartisan Congressional agency responsible for investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

“After seeing the improvements our colleagues within the GAO Employees Organization have made at the agency through collaborative coordination with management, we realized that we needed to take responsibility to become a part of those efforts given our unique position within the agency,” said Lorene Sarne, an educator within GAO’s Learning Center. The professional support specialists at GAO include accountants, educators, executive assistants, human capital specialists, information technology specialists, librarians, paralegals, visual artists, and other professional staff. “We are professionals who strongly believe in our agency’s mission to support Congress and in holding the federal government accountable to tax payers,” Lorene added.

"The professional support specialists are the unsung heroes at GAO. We create and maintain the structure that allows the analysts to be successful," said Diane Blake Harper, Ph.D., an IT Specialist in the Information Systems area. "Working together is more important than ever as we face tight budgets and the development of a new performance appraisal system."

“We are honored that our colleagues, the professional support specialists, have chosen to join us in solidarity in our continued efforts to collaborate with management on improving GAO for all employees,” said Ronald La Due Lake, President of the GAO Employee Organization, IFPTE Local 1921. “Our situation has changed dramatically since analysts and specialists voted to form a union in 2007. We have worked hard and demonstrated our commitment to the agency, assuring that employees are at the table in a productive and substantive way.”

IFPTE, historically known for representing engineers, has in recent years become the union of choice for many professionals in the private, public, and federal sectors. Today IFPTE represents not only engineers and technicians, but also administrative law judges, attorneys, researchers and scientists, to name a few. IFPTE members understand the value in collective bargaining, a process through which employees working within a democratic structure negotiate with their employer over working conditions, pay and benefits. They see it as a way to find workplace solutions democratically and professionally.

“We’re thrilled the professional support specialists at GAO have chosen IFPTE,” said IFPTE President Greg Junemann. “Professional employees are increasingly looking for a collective voice on the job, and a union such as ours guarantees them a voice and greater influence in decision-making in the workplace.”

Across the nation, IFPTE represents approximately 80,000 highly-skilled, white-collar workers in the public, federal, and private sectors. IFPTE is the fastest growing union in the United States. The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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