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Speeches & Remarks National Treasury Employees Union Legislative Conference

Remarks of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta

National Treasury Employees Union Legislative Conference

February 28, 2014

As prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon NTEU. Thank you Colleen for inviting me to speak at your legislative conference. I'm so excited to be with all of you. I'm really looking forward to working closely with you over the next few years.

First and foremost I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the work you do every day. I also want to thank you for taking on the added responsibility of representing the 150,000 Federal employees that you represent at Treasury, DHS, Commerce, Agriculture and throughout the Federal government.

I've only been at OPM since November. But I'm not new to public service. And I know times have been hard, especially for the Federal workforce.

There's been a sequester, pay freezes, furloughs, a government shutdown. I can only imagine the strain this has put on you and your families.

I am hopeful that we are on a new path.

This week the President proposed a 1 percent pay increase for 2015.

The President's proposal will reflect the tight budget constraints we continue to face.

But it will also mean two years of pay raises and continues to move us away from pay freezes. This is important.

I believe this does put us on the right path.

But I do want you to know that I see this is an ongoing conversation about the challenges we face and how we can confront them together.

I don't believe all the American people understand how hard Federal employees work. They don't see that so much of what Federal workers do affects their daily lives.

Federal workers protect the safety of the food supply. They stand guard over our security. They keep watch over our environment.

We must continue to educate the American public. Many of them came to understand the value of the Federal worker during the 16-day shutdown.

That's why the theme of your public service campaign is so perfect: They work for us.
Every day, dedicated men and women such as yourselves come to work to meet the many complicated missions of the Federal government.

I recognize that we do a better job because we do it together.

Of course, I know there are going to be some things we agree on and some things we don't.
But what I can promise you is that as Director of OPM, I care deeply about the work we can do together.

I am here for you. And I want to hear from you.

You know that my ties to labor are not new.

The Archuleta's are a union family.

My father's first job was with a union shop cutting carpets. Union work helped my parents provide for me, my brothers and my sister.

As a schoolteacher in Denver, I was a member of the NEA. My sister was an NEA rep in her school.

My brothers are in the Pipefitters and Plumbers union in Denver.

That history and those experiences are very important to me. They are at the core of who I am. I bring that with me as the tenth Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

I believe that together, we can lay the foundation for collaboration, for respect and for trust.
Labor-management collaboration leads to success. I have no doubt about it. Let me give you a couple of concrete examples.

I have the honor of chairing the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, along with Beth Cobert from the Office of Management and Budget.

Colleen, you are a very valued member of this Council and I want to thank you for the insights you have brought to the table.

At the Council's January meeting, we heard from your NTEU colleagues and management representatives about the collaboration between labor and management at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, or PTO.

Through this effort, the PTO reduced its trademark application processing time from 13.4 months to 10 months, even as the number of applications continues to increase.

At the same time, employee satisfaction with their jobs soared, according to the results of our Employee Viewpoint Survey.

That's not the only example.

At the Federal Aviation Administration, labor and management representatives working together successfully implemented a new computer system that replaced a 40-year-old one used by air traffic controllers nationwide.

Results like that do not just happen by accident. These are successes that I would love to see repeated at every agency in the Federal government, including my own.

Another challenge we face is how to provide employees across government with the tools they say they need to do their jobs better. And we need to improve morale in the workplace.

The most recent EVS results showed that we have room for improvement when it comes to employee satisfaction.  But it showed us something else.

It showed us that 90 percent of Federal employees continue to be willing to put in extra effort. You believe your work is important. And I do too.

From resume to retirement we need to have the people and the processes in place to support our Federal workforce.

We must make sure that from the moment someone applies for a Federal job that they are engaged, included and have the tools to develop to their greatest potential.

And when a Federal worker applies for retirement, we have to process that retirement efficiently and without delay.

Federal employees must see a clear career path. And we must make sure that we provide training, mentoring and processes that support career development.

The President's budget proposal will include measures to improve Federal employee training and support an exchange of training ideas across government.

We need to learn from each other what works and how to share our successes.

I have asked the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to work with the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations Council to see how we can improve employee engagement across government.

I am focused on that at OPM.

Most mornings I make phone calls to employees to learn first-hand what they like and frankly, don't like about their jobs. I also do brown bag lunches with OPM employees. I ask them what makes them get out of bed in the morning and come to work.

I ask them what we can do to help them do their jobs better.

The employees I call talk to me about how they value the work they do.

They talk about their colleagues, how they appreciate and rely on them. They talk to me about how they want more tools and training to help them succeed.

Finally, one of my major challenges – and a priority I know you share – is to increase the diversity of the Federal workforce. This is something labor and management can work on together.

When I talk about diversity, I don't just mean ethnic and racial diversity.

I'm not just referring to gender. I also want to make sure people of all ages have opportunities.
Whether we're recruiting students from colleges and universities or looking for senior executives who can bring incredible skills to the workforce; these are efforts that are very, very important to me. And I want to work closely with you, my brothers and my sisters, my labor family, to make that happen.

These are the messages I am bringing to Federal workers all across the country.

Those of us inside the Beltway often forget that the vast majority of Federal workers don't work in our Federal city.

We need to remind Americans that so much of what is helpful, necessary and important in our lives is administered, handled and taken care of by the legions of Federal employees who show up for work every day with one thought in mind – how best to serve the American people. And that these Federal workers are our friends, they are our family and they are our neighbors.

So thank you again for inviting me to share my thoughts with you today.

I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to make sure the American people understand what a talented, dedicated and loyal Federal workforce is on the job.

I ask you to join me in that effort. Together, we are the champions of Federal workers.  Thank you.

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