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Biography of NTEU National President Colleen M. Kelley

President Kelley

National President Colleen M. Kelley is the leader of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the nation’s largest independent federal sector union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 separate government agencies. As the union’s top elected official, she leads NTEU’s efforts to achieve the dignity and respect federal employees deserve. As spokesperson for the union, Kelley represents NTEU with the agencies, in the media, and testifies before Congress on issues of importance to union members and federal employees.

Kelley is a leader in the fight to rein in government contracting and to return contracted work into the hands of trained and accountable federal employees. In pressing for long overdue reforms to the competitive sourcing process, she has warned that excessive reliance on contractors, including those performing inherently governmental work, threatens the ability of in-house employees to meet their agency missions. Kelley has also been critical of the exorbitant cost of using contractors and has strongly advocated for sensible caps on the amount the government will reimburse contractors for individual employee salaries.

NTEU’s aggressive efforts on contracting out led to a 2009 decision by the Internal Revenue Service to stop outsourcing tax debt collection to private collection agencies. As a result, taxpayers were ensured the right to work with independent federal employees to resolve tax issues, rather than collection agencies that work on commission.

As president of the union representing 24,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kelley protected DHS employees’ collective bargaining rights that were under attack by Congress after Sept. 11. NTEU blocked legislation to eliminate those rights and led a successful lawsuit to declare agency efforts to limit those rights illegal. In 2006, NTEU won by a 2-1 margin an election covering more than 20,000 DHS employees previously in different bargaining units. And after a long, difficult battle, NTEU won an enhanced Law Enforcement Officer retirement benefit for CBP Officers and beat back congressional efforts to repeal funding for it.  

Under President Kelley’s leadership, NTEU has broken new ground in organizing and representing many agencies and occupations that traditionally have not been unionized. The employees include attorneys at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Patent and Trademark Office, bank examiners and accountants at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and many others. Kelley believes that employees have a lot of good ideas about how to do the work of the federal government better and works hard to ensure their voices are heard.

The NTEU leader also played a leading role in the effort to restore labor-management collaboration to the federal sector leading to President Obama’s signing of an executive order creating a variety of federal sector labor-management forums.

In these challenging times, Kelley stresses the need for fair treatment and competitive pay and benefits for federal employees.  Through her efforts, the Office of Personnel Management permitted federal employees to have Flexible Spending Accounts, a common private sector employee benefit.  Kelley believes that expanding federal workplace benefits is critical to improving the government's ability to compete with the private sector for the recruitment of the best and brightest of the workforce.

Kelley serves on the Federal Salary Council, the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, the Employee Thrift Advisory Council of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH), and the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) Board of Directors.
She also is a member of the Board of Governors of the Partnership for Public Service, which is committed to enhancing perceptions of public service and encouraging participation in the public sector.

A Pittsburgh native and certified public accountant (CPA), Kelley was an IRS Revenue Agent for 14 years and served in various NTEU chapter leadership positions, including chapter president of NTEU Chapter 34 in Pittsburgh. She was elected National President in August 1999 and was overwhelmingly re-elected to a fourth four-year term in 2011.

Kelley first joined the IRS upon graduation from Drexel University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She also earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Pittsburgh.

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