Bush slashes union rights for more feds

AnexecutiveorderthatBushsignedDec.1alsoremovedthepossibilityforemployeesat36otheragenciesandoffices—mostlyintelligence,investigativeornationalsecurityagencies—tojoinaunion.ThoseagenciesareintheHomelandSecurity,Justice,Treasury,TransportationandEnergydepartments.
“It’sarealslapintheface,”saidTerriRosen,laborrelationsspecialistfortheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees.“Ifanybodydoubtedthisadministrationhasbeenanti-union,thisisjustonemoreveryblatantindicationthisisthewaytheyfeel.”
Theorderalsowoulddenyexistingunionrightstoaboutfivebargaining-unitemployeesattheTreasuryDepartment’sAlcoholandTobaccoTaxandTradeDivision.
Thebargaining-unitemployeesattheTreasuryDepartmentofficeandatJustice’sATFarerepresentedbytheNationalTreasuryEmployeesUnion.Theotheragenciesaffectedbytheexecutiveorderdonothavebargaining-unitemployees.
TheWhiteHousewasunavailableforcomment.HouseMajorityLeaderStenyHoyer,D-Md.,pledgedtoopposeBush’smove.Hoyerblastedtheorderasanunjustified“powergrabbytheexecutivebranchtounderminetherightsoffederalemployeesandworkersthroughoutthecountry.”
“The1,500positionsaffectedbythisnewexecutiveorderhavebeenrepresentedbyacollectivebargainingunitforover30years,”HoyersaidinaDec.2statement.“If,astheadministrationasserts,thatactivityconflictswiththeirnationalsecurityresponsibilities,theseemployeesdeservetoknowhow.”
EmployeeassociationsarealreadytryingtogetPresident-electBarackObamatooverturntheorderwhenhetakesoffice.
TheFederalLawEnforcementOfficersAssociation(FLEOA)metwithRachanaBhowmik,amemberofObama’snationalsecuritytransitionteam,Dec.3andaskedthatObamareversetheorder.
FLEOAPresidentJonAdlersaidBhowmikdidnotexpressanopinionontheorderduringthemeeting,buthesaidshewasreceptivetohisconcerns.Bhowmikwasunavailableforcomment.
AdlerandfederalunionssaytheyexpectObamawilloverturntheorder.ObamaisastrongsupporterofunionrightsandhaspledgedtoexpandcollectivebargainingtoagenciessuchastheTransportationSecurityAdministration.
TheBushadministrationhasoftensoughttolimitcollectivebargainingrightsforemployeeswhoperformnationalsecurityduties.Foryears,officialshaveopposedgrantingcollectivebargainingrightstoTSAscreenersbecausetheysaytheywouldhavetonegotiatewithunionsbeforemakingworkplacedecisionsinresponsetofast-emergingterroristthreats.Officialshavesaidtheymighthavetodisclosesensitiveorclassifiedthreatinformationwhennegotiatingthosedecisions.
Unionsdisagree,andsaytheywouldnotstandinthewayofmovesneededtocounterterroristsorotherthreats.Theaffectedbargaining-unitemployeesatATFandtheTaxandTradeDivisionhavenotonlylosttheirunionrightswithBush’sorder,butalsothegrievanceprocedurestheirunionshadnegotiated.
“Bylosingthegrievanceprocedurewhichculminatesinbindingarbitration,ATFemployeesloseaneffective,efficientwaytoenforcealloftheirworkplacerights,from[FamilyMedicalLeaveAct]rightstounfairtreatmentrights,”NTEUNationalPresidentColleenKelleysaidinastatement.
Rosensaidaffectedemployeeswillhavetousetheirdepartment’sinternalgrievanceandappealsprocesses.SomecasescouldgototheMeritSystemsProtectionBoardorfederalcourts.ButRosensaidmostemployeeswillnotbeabletohaveanoutsideneutralpartyheartheircomplaints.
KelleyalsosaidthecollectivebargainingcontractNTEUandATFsignedinAprilisnullified.It’sunclearwhetherATFwillmaintainteleworkandalternativeworkschedulepoliciestheunionnegotiatedforthatcontract,shesaid.“ThisisinsultingtoATFemployees,”Kelleysaid.“Theiremployeristellingthemtheycannolongerbetrustedtoexercisecollectivebargainingrightsconsistentwiththeirjobresponsibilities.”
FLEOA,whichisnotaunion,agreed.
“Someofthemostpatrioticpeopleinthecountryareunionmembers,”Adlersaid.“It’ssooffensivetoevensuggestthataunionwouldexploitcollectivebargainingtopreventaproperresponseinanationalcrisis.Ithasnologicalorhistoricalbasis.”


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