Yale Union-Management Partnership

Yale Union-Management Partnership | Human Resources & Administration

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the union-management partnership and Best Practice

Questions about Joint Departmental Committees (JDCs)

Q: Why did the University and the Unions decide to create a partnership?

A: In the 2002 labor-management negotiations, the University and the Unions agreed to find new ways to work together to improve the University’s overall quality, efficiency and workplace culture. Both parties recognized the value of working collaboratively rather than continuing a long history of labor strife.

Q: What’s in it for the University? The Unions?

A: When labor and management work in partnership, both parties benefit in several ways. The University gets the collective experience and creativity of its staff, so implementing a particular initiative is more likely to succeed. That means improved customer service and increased productivity so that Yale functions better. The Unions benefit by being recognized as legitimate members of the campus community and by having an opportunity to grow along with the University.

Q: How is Best Practices connected to Union-management partnerships?

A: The Union-Management Partnership is a commitment among the University and Locals 34 and 35 to work together on their day-to-day relationship, to use interest-based principles to negotiate contractual agreements that support a better work environment, and to jointly tackle improvement projects (Best Practices). Best Practices is an important part of that partnership. Its central premise is that, by working jointly on projects important to both union and management, the working relationship between them can also improve. The intent is to enable people at all levels to get involved in making change right where they work. Best Practices projects focus on creating improvements in three principle areas: operations, the work environment, and union-management relations. Projects can address a variety of specific challenges, including improving customer service, increasing productivity, addressing training and skill needs, preventing and resolving conflict, improving employee satisfaction, improving quality, addressing specific union-management conflicts, and so on. Given Yale’s uniquely decentralized culture and the wide variety of operations under one “roof,” the idea is to identify and propagate “best practices” so that departments can learn from each other’s innovations and adapt them to fit their own unique operating needs.

Q: What’s in it for the individual employee or manager?

A: Best Practices makes successful workplace improvements more likely and improves employee satisfaction. Managers get the experience and insight of front-line staff as well as their buy-in and commitment to quality improvement efforts. Employees get more rewarding work environments and career and leadership opportunities. Everyone benefits from a workplace culture that promotes communication and trust. For example, where Unions and Management are working in partnership, many potential problems are solved at the lowest, departmental level, rather than being passed up through the Union-management hierarchy.

Q: What sorts of activities fall under Best Practices?

A: Almost any issue can be tackled when a strong partnership is in place. Departments and groups of departments have considered a variety of challenges and opportunities like staff schedules, departmental communication, space planning, equipment and software needs, telephone coverage, the use of casual workers and planning for the delivery of health care in the future. Partners can tackle challenges through a joint project, a joint departmental committee or by getting involved in a campus-wide initiative. Your can see some real examples in these profiles of Joint Departmental Committees.

Q: Who is involved and how are they organized?

A: Best Practices is jointly “owned” by the University and Locals 34 and 35, and representatives from each party are involved at every level of the initiative. A Policy Board sets the direction and provides strategic oversight for partnership. A Steering Committee, with input from working subcommittees, provides oversight for the projects and more practical guidance on implementing the activities. The Policy Board supervises the program director.

Q: Under a Union-management partnership, what happens if the University and the Unions disagree about an issue or project?

A: Partnership training and facilitation are among the tools that we can use to resolve problems in a Union-Management partnership. We can dissect an issue or a problem, suggest how each partner’s needs can be met, and fashion creative, sometimes surprising, solutions. That being said, we must recognize that the parties will not always agree. They may be entrenched in their positions because of philosophy or history, or the issue might be of interest to only one party. We have a commitment to keep dialogue going and to reduce conflict. Our intent is to not revert to old behaviors but to acknowledge and respect our differences when we can not resolve them.

Q: What are JDCs and how do they work?

A: Joint Departmental Committees (JDCs) are small working groups made up of representatives from Union employees, at least one Union official and management within a department. The purpose is to set direction for Union-Management work in a department. They are designed to meet the unique needs of a department, so each one sets its own agenda and its own organization. Some have members only from that department, and some have outside experts sit in to advise. Some choose to meet regularly and some function as an ad hoc committee that meet to facilitate communication only when a specific issue arises. The most common way for a JDC to start work is by asking everyone in the department to identify challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed and then developing a work plan to address the biggest priorities. They often delegate a project to a joint Union-Management task force, making sure that the right people are part of developing a solution.

Q: My department has no JDC, and we’re not ready to proceed with one. What can we do to participate?

A: A key criterion for proceeding with Best Practices is a high level of communication within and between the Union and Management in the department. Speak to the leaders in your department and suggest that they sponsor regular forums, separately and together, to discuss the merits of a partnership within the department. Besides strengthening communication, these meetings can begin to focus on issues or problems of mutual interest that might be solved by collaboration. Encourage both Management and Union participation.

Q: How does the Best Practices Group work with a JDC?

A: Our mission is to support Best Practice efforts around the University. We “facilitate” making Best Practices happen. Facilitate is a Latin based word that means “to make easy”. Facilitators pay attention to both the meeting content (what gets done) and the meeting process (how it gets done).

We can provide support through a variety of ways:

  • Providing information on Best Practices.
  • Helping to set the stage for a Best Practice project for a successful launch.
  • Helping with forming a Joint Departmental Committee (JDC).
  • Supporting teams with planning meeting agendas, facilitating meetings and addressing obstacles that are impeding team progress.
  • Training co-chairs on use of interest-based problem solving tools, data collection and analysis tools and techniques for managing group dynamics
  • Helping teams to prepare. presentations and updates to sponsors. Also working with co-chairs to help bridge communications between key groups supporting or being impacted by improvement projects.

Q: How do members of a JDC get chosen?

A:Each partner (Local34/Local 35 and management) will select its own representatives. These representatives may include Union organizers, members of the department, or managers or employees with special expertise in an area.


Last Updated: April 14, 2009 (kp).