In fact, argues the report, conditions that hamper union elections do not match the rhetoric and claims the Bush administration makes about democracy and free and fair elections.
For example, in the State Department’s 2004 Human Rights Country Reports, the administration criticized sharply numerous countries for failing to provide unfettered access to the electorate by opposition parties, to provide access to the media, and for creating a legal structure that unfairly favors ruling parties.
The report argues that if the Bush administration applied similar standards to labor law and union elections in the US, workers would have a better chance to organize unions and have a say at work.
Unfortunately, Bush’s standard of democracy seems to apply only to countries that it doesn’t like or is trying to impose its agenda on.
Another important double standard is the Bush administration’s claim that it seeks to protect workers’ rights. According to the State Department, it supports “freedom of association [of workers] and the effective recognition of the right to organize and bargain collectively.”
Never has this claim been shown to be more utterly false than when it comes to the process workers have to endure when trying to organize unions in the United States.
During the process of forming a union, NLRB procedures fail to live up to the standards of US democracy and the standards the Bush administration claims to follow when judging election overseas.
According to the report, corporations enjoy a one-sided advantage in representation elections while employees must overcome hurdles that mock serious practice of the concept of “effective recognition of the right to organize.”
Employers have full access to employee information, control their schedules while they work, and have unfettered ability to threaten, harass, or cajole workers into voting against unions. Employers can visit workers at workers’ homes, send them anti-union mailings, and can hold mandatory “captive audience” meetings during which workers are warned and threatened not to support the union.
Employers regularly flout labor laws and commit unfair labor practices with impunity, especially under the Bush administration’s control of the NLRB.
The administration, for its part, has shown very little interest in practicing its claim to uphold “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to organize and bargain collectively.”
According to the AFL-CIO, in 2002, the administration threatened to veto the bill that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if Congress didn’t include provisions that dramatically scaled back the collective bargaining rights of DHS employees. Since then, Bush has threatened to go after contracts with air traffic controllers.
Bush denied the right to bargain collectively to airport security screeners who now enjoy long hours and low pay for the work they do.
When federal employees at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1827 in St. Louis, MO in 2003 started talking about safety and health along with racial and gender bias issues in the workplace, Bush terminated their collective bargaining rights with a stroke of his pen.
Bush intervened in California in 2003 to oppose a state law that ordered accountability for all taxpayer funds and states subsidies given to corporations and prohibited their us in anti-union campaigns.
The law also mandated the state’s neutrality in union organizing campaigns. The Bush-appointee controlled NLRB voted to support a lawsuit brought by the Chamber of Commerce to block the law.
Bush also revoked collective bargaining rights for Department of Justice employees.
In order to even the playing field and create an environment that ensures workers’ democratic rights as well as their right to collectively bargain, a new approach to labor law is needed.
The labor movement has endorsed a law called the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 842 and H.R. 1696). This law would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation. It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violation of the law when workers seek to form a union.
This law would give workers democratic rights that are the cornerstone of democracy in the political arena and in the workplace.
The Washington Times
Executives get ready for switch to merit raises
By Mike Causey
Published June 14, 2005
More than half of the federal work force will be under a very different civil service system by 2009.
The departments of Defense and Homeland Security -- two of the biggest federal operations -- hope to have some people getting raises based on performance, not on longevity, by January 2007.
If that happens, then this January's pay raise, which will range between 2.3 percent and 3.1 percent, will be the last across-the-board increase that most feds will get. Money that would have been used to give them automatic 3 percent time-in-grade raises will be put into a special merit pay pool. Raises will be based on the performance ratings that workers get from supervisors.
Until now, most members of the public and federal officials have assumed that opposition to pay-for-performance comes from powerful federal unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, or from timid bureaucrats afraid of change.
But it appears that some of the top bosses, the captains of agencies who will be running the new merit-pay systems, are doing some sweating of their own. They are members of the elite Senior Executive Service (SES).
The Senior Executives Association (SEA), which represents most of the top career employees, says there are a ton of problems with the SES pay-for-performance plan. For one thing, SEA says, many executives don't understand it. Other executives -- like rank-and-file workers -- are concerned with pay banding, in which several grades or levels are bundled together.
Federal agencies are revamping their executive salary structure. Those with certified plans can pay up to $162,100, and those without certification from the Office of Personnel Management still can pay up to $149,200.
Many rank-and-file feds fear that leaving a system in which raises are based on job ratings will lead to a return to the spoils system, under which raises were given to bosses' pet employees, buddies, romantic interests or political cronies. That is something the executives fear as well.
Most interesting to the troops is that the generals also are worried about quotas.
The SEA says it has seen "some evidence of an inclination ... to try to meet a perceived bias toward some sort of normal distributions and to avoid very many high ratings," which would result in larger raises.
In other words, in an operation where 90 percent of the executives are rated as "excellent," even if they are, some would have to get smaller raises because it would look bad if that many people get the equivalent of an "A."
OK, so your house in McLean, Potomac or Glover Park has doubled in value in the past few years. That's great.
But until it's sold, you haven't made anything that you can transfer from paper to the bank account.
Commercial real estate also is booming in the Washington area and other places, so this is the time to invest in real estate, right? The correct answer is twofold:
Either yes, or no. Check this space for the correct answer. In the year 2010.
Even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan talks about "bubbles" when he mentions real estate as an investment. But many federal/postal/military investors would love to park some of their tax-deferred planning-for-retirement money into real estate investment trusts, or REITs.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, has proposed allowing a real estate investment option, the R Fund, into the federal Thrift Savings Plan. It would join three stock-market indexed funds (the C, S and I funds), as well as the bond-indexed F Fund and the Treasury securities G Fund.
Critics warn that the R Fund would be too narrow an investment option for a retirement-building fund. Next, they say, would come demands for a gold fund, or a fund based on high-tech stocks.
Opposition notwithstanding, there is a better than even chance that Congress will approve an R Fund option for feds.
New EPA head defended study using pesticides around children
By Kim McGuire
Denver Post Staff Writer
Stephen Johnson, the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has defended a controversial study that would have exposed children to pesticides as "ethically and scientifically sound," agency employees said.
Johnson reportedly made the statement during a June 2 tour of the Denver-based EPA Region 8 headquarters.
The EPA administrator was pressured into canceling the study that almost derailed his appointment to head the agency.
In his Denver comments, Johnson reportedly said the cancellation was "an unfortunate result of public misunderstanding."
Johnson's statement led to a protest letter from the president of the local union representing EPA employees, who called it "offensive" and "damaging to EPA's credibility."
"To me it was a pretty striking thing to say," said David Christenson, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3607.
"I know a number of employees, both members and nonmembers, told me they really had to bite their tongue," Christenson said.
Johnson made the comments about the now-defunct Children's Health and Environmental Exposure Research Study, or CHEERS, which was designed to analyze the effect of pesticides on children.
As part of the study, the EPA planned to offer $970 and a video camera to low-income Florida families who used indoor pesticides and were willing to tape their children's behavior.
The study was the major sticking point during Johnson's confirmation, drawing criticism from some senators who accused the agency of paying poor families to expose children to harmful chemicals.
Johnson, who was acting EPA administrator, canceled the study in April. He was sworn into office in May.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who lobbied to have CHEERS canceled, said she was disappointed Johnson was continuing to support the study.
"I applaud the employees of EPA's Region 8 for speaking out," Boxer said. "Unfortunately, it appears that Administrator Johnson's 'nomination conversion' was as hollow as it is short-lived."
Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher issued a written statement saying: "It's unfortunate that Administrator Johnson's unprecedented internal employee outreach has been exploited by interest groups to further their agendas in the media."
On Monday, Johnson told the Western Governors' Association in Breckenridge that the EPA should encourage energy development rather than hinder it.
Those comments drew criticism from environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Northwest's safety in jeopardy
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Department of Defense's plan to "realign" the Portland Air National Guard base should concern every citizen in the Pacific Northwest. This isn't about budgets or jobs or even noise; it's about our security.
The war on terror has not ended, and unless I'm mistaken, America remains a target for terrorists. The idea of taking away 18 combat-capable aircraft, pilots and maintainers who are highly trained and dedicated to defending the Northwest and replacing them with only two aircraft sent in from another place is ludicrous.
I am president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2986, which represents both Army and Air National Guard employees.
The Department of Defense's proposal appears to be driven solely by politics and not military necessity. It doesn't even make sense from a budgetary standpoint. The Department of Defense is squeezing pennies here while bleeding dollars elsewhere.
The Bush administration has said on numerous occasions that homeland security is Job No. 1. This plan seems contrary to that message. If the 142nd Fighter Wing goes, so will our safety. It is something we should all be concerned about.
JOHN PETERSON Southeast Portland
Military presence is no solution
I am amazed at how naive people seem to be about air defense here in Portland. In case you haven't figured it out yet, the people who would do us the most harm are not so stupid as to take on U.S. fighter aircraft or any other sophisticated weapons.
These people have figured out that street-level terror is the best way to frustrate and defeat a superpower. All the tanks and jets and aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines in the world will not stop that level of terror.
These people are angry and will stop at nothing to enrage the United States. The best solution to make the world a safer place is not a military solution. Those glory days ended in 1945.
ROB APODACA Northwest Portland
Support bill to get kids moving
Your front-page piece on physical activity for kids was a good reminder of the importance of providing exercise for children ("Want to jump rope? Come to my club," June 7). Health clubs do not necessarily provide kids the right exercise, however, and some parents may be unable to afford the cost.
It's unfortunate that the article did not include information about the proposal in the Legislature that attempts to deal with the issue of kids and exercise. Senate Bill 228 is designed to address youth obesity by ensuring that students in elementary schools participate in physical education on a regular basis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, yet according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, less than 25 percent of the nation's schoolchildren are active for even 20 minutes daily.
A large coalition of health, education and sport-related organizations supports SB228. We urge the Oregon Legislature to do so as well.
ALICIA PHILPOT Executive director Oregon Pediatric Society Sherwood
Do away with Festival fleet
I would like to ask that the mayor, City Council and Rose Festival Association leadership not invite military ships to the Portland Rose Festival next year.
This last weekend, the Willamette River through Portland looked more like Vietnam during the war than the City of Roses, as Coast Guard patrols roamed the river with giant guns aimed squarely at the citizens of our great city. All it would have taken is one slip, one missed word, and we could have had a true disaster on our hands.
Children at the festival were frightened by machine-gun-wielding guards walking up and down the waterfront and the sight of the boats in the river. Is this what freedom is supposed to look like?
I personally was harassed by a Coast Guard boat. The boat approached me and a friend while we were standing on an Eastbank Esplanade dock. I asked, "What do you need all those guns for?" A Coast Guardsman yelled, "You're living in a fantasy world" and "Do you remember the USS Cole?"
Yes, I do remember the USS Cole -- a destroyer stationed in a volatile zone and a signal of American imperalism that loomed large over the Yemeni people, eventually inciting the more radical elements there to violence.
I don't want to see an incident like that in Portland. That is why I ask that the mayor and City Council not invite the Navy, the Coast Guard or any other armed forces to the Portland Rose Festival in the future.
MICHAEL VAN KLEECK Southwest Portland
Methadone itself not the problem
Thank you for your excellent review of the problem of methadone overdose deaths ("Methadone shows its dark side," June 13). The major reason for this problem is not methadone, but drug abuse.
The statistics you cite make this very point. In those cases, chronic pain was a common stated reason for methadone prescription (28 percent). However, drug abuse was a factor in the majority of the deaths.
Eighty-seven percent of those who died from methadone overdose had other drugs in their system at autopsy, 60 percent had a known history of addiction, and many (38 percent) obtained methadone through an illicit or unknown source. And many patients prescribed medication for chronic pain [also are substance abusers].
Physicians and other providers commonly fail to recognize substance abuse. If patients lose control of opiate use, they may overdose or resort to street opiates such as heroin. Patients and providers alike must be more aware of the addictive potential of opioid drugs; this is their most serious side effect.
In a methadone treatment program, the drug provides safe and effective treatment to those who have lost control of their opioid use.
JOSHUA BOVERMAN, M.D. Assistant professor Psychiatry and family medicine Oregon Health & Science University Southwest Portland
Note which drug did not make list
The number of drug deaths in 2004 reported by the state medical examiner's office ("Methadone shows its dark side," June 13) is quite telling.
There were 94 heroin deaths, 83 from methadone, 78 from methamphetamine and 66 from cocaine.
Anyone notice what's missing from the list? That's right, marijuana. Could this be one of the reasons the U.S. Supreme Court said in its decision on medical marijuana laws that the drug may be miscategorized?
JORDAN LUND Southeast Portland
Alcohol, tobacco also missing
I noticed on the state medical examiner's 2004 statistical drug death list that marijuana had been left off. Could we please have complete information and the number of deaths from marijuana? Or better yet, how about including alcohol and tobacco?
CATHY PACE Southwest Portland
Put number of deaths in context
In your feature on methadone deaths (June 13), you committed the No. 1 statistical reporting crime: no context.
Your chart shows the number of drug deaths in 2004 from heroin use (94), methadone (83), methamphetamine (78) and cocaine (66). Although any drug death is bad news, without knowing how many users there were of each substance, we can't determine how serious a problem each represents.
If 100 people are taking methadone and 83 die, that's terrible. If 10,000 are taking it, that's quite different.
JOY OVERSTREET Vancouver
Patel pursued as scapegoat
If Dr. Jayant Patel is extradited to Australia and proved guilty of murder charges by a kangaroo court, no other doctor in the world would be safe from similar homicide charges, as this case would establish a precedent. Dr. Patel, as a foreigner, would not get a fair trial in Australia.
The Australian government medical system is a Third World health care system [that has been] widely discussed in the Australian news media. However, The Oregonian has not reported [this].
The American Medical Association should take note of these politically motivated murder charges [and should] request that the U.S. State Department protect Dr. Patel from becoming a scapegoat of the Aussies' politically charged environment.
SHANTU SHAH Southwest Portland
Administration disregards facts
The outrageous disclosure that an unqualified Bush administration official altered reports of government scientists on global warming ("Bush aide downplays climate fears," June 8) sheds further grave doubt on an administration dogged by misinformed decision-making on most important policy matters (from the pre-9/11 terrorist threat to Iraqi nuclear capabilities, to privatizing Social Security).
The special-interest bias of the president's adviser [Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who is a lawyer with "no scientific training"] was uncovered only through solid investigative reporting by The New York Times. Thankfully, it was reported in The Oregonian. How much slips through?
Are gaps in the capabilities of presidential advisers rare, or is disregard for fact-based thinking administration policy?
How can we bolster our confidence that our president, so beholden to secrecy and apparently afraid of unscreened public dissent, is adequately advised in matters beyond his immediate training and expertise if qualified opinions are misshapen by biased special interests?
No wonder President Bush's policies seem so woefully misinformed. They are!
Inmates busing inmates around the Valley
By Eric Mayes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Cost-cutting measures at several Valley prisons have officials with the correctional officers union concerned about safety.
But officials with the Bureau of Prisons contend their procedures pose no danger to inmates, employees or the community.
A couple of officers with American Federation of Government Employees, Council of Prisons, Local 148, voiced their concerns recently to The Daily Item. Both asked that their names be withheld to avoid what they characterized as internal blacklisting.
Their concerns centered on a reduction in the number of employees, inmate overcrowding and new procedures designed, they said, to save money. All three concerns are related, they said.
For about the last month or so, according one union official, inmates have been transporting other inmates from Lewisburg to Allenwood.
Inmates with commercial driver’s licenses have been driving busloads of other prisoners from Lewisburg to work at the Allenwood camp, said the man, who has logged more than 25 years with the bureau.
About 40 inmates are transported twice a day in buses driven by an inmate and without any corrections officers aboard.
"It’s just ridiculous," said a second corrections officer, who also asked not to be identified. "You’re going to give a convicted felon keys and enough gas to drive to Atlanta, Canada or Chicago?"
A prison staffer does follow in a van, said the union member, but he worried that is not enough. Especially, he said, because there is no way to communicate between vehicles, neither of which have radios.
He also worried that this is not the end of the cost-cutting measures, he said.
Plans call for the elimination of officer following in the van.
"They want to go with no staff eventually," he said.
According to Stephanie Hollembaek, executive assistant at the prison, that has already happened.
"We’re no longer having a staff member accompany inmates on the route," she said. That was only done until drivers learned the route.
But there are security precautions in place, she said.
"(Inmates) are checked out at Lewisburg and checked in at Allenwood," she said.
Ms. Hollembaek also stressed the fact that inmates are supervised once they reach Allenwood.
On a smaller scale, the union official also worried that inmates are taking other inmates to and from doctor’s appointments.
Both plans pose a threat to the safety of inmates, surrounding communities, other drivers and the taxpayer, they said.
Prison officials acknowledge that inmates are driving other inmates, but said in every case only certified inmates are doing the driving.
"They are fully certified to do that," Ms. Hollembaek said.
Background checks are performed on all inmates participating in the program. They are all minimum-security inmates, the same type of prisoner who is already out in the community taking part in community service projects such as clean-up at local library or after a flood, Ms. Hollembaek said.
On those occasions, inmates are under the supervision of the group they are working for.
Speaking about the new practice of inmates driving other inmates between prisons, Ms. Hollembaek said there have been no problems so far, but if there were, the prison would investigate immediately.
"Should anything happen at that point we would investigate," she said. "If any community member brought us a concern we would fully investigate and take action as needed. So far there have not been any concerns."
Unsupervised inmates are always a danger, the corrections officers said. They cited problems that could arise during a trip, including a medical problem, a fight or someone overpowering the driver.
The community and other drivers are imperiled too, they said, because of the danger of escape or accident.
And should something unexpected occur, such as an accident, escape or injury, the taxpayer would ultimately foot the bill, they said.
Bureau officials pointed out that the inmates participating in the transportation programs are minimum-security inmates who will be released and this is a way to ease them back into society.
According to Ms. Hollembaek, all inmates who take part in the program are minimum-security inmates who meet certain qualifications for the job detail.
"Our minimum-security inmates are eventually going to be released back into the community," Ms. Hollembaek said. "This helps them seek gainful employment."
For the union officials, the reason simply boiled down to dollars. The plan helps save in two ways, they said.
First, inmates must be imported to work at the Allenwood camp because of a falling population there. Numbers there are down, union officials said, despite overcrowding at the Lewisburg camp.
Secondly, the move is a result of deepening cost-cutting measures within the bureau, he said, which are posing an increasing threat to the community.
"They are cutting costs everywhere," he said.
Though Congress has not approved the closure of the prison camp at Allenwood, it is effectively being closed by bureau officials who have simply moved inmates from one facility to another, both men reported.
Where there were once about 800 inmates at the Allenwood camp there are now about 70. On the other hand, the population at the Lewisburg camp has swelled to more than 520 at a facility designed for approximately 380 men.That has led to a situation at the prison camp at Lewisburg where three men are sharing an 8-foot by 10-foot cell.
"The amount of stress and pressure being placed on the Lewisburg camp is phenomenal," the corrections officer said.
With that amount of crowding and security procedures that are growing increasingly lax, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, the union official said.
"It’s not if," the union official said. "It’s when."
"The last situation that I experienced such a lack of safety procedures was during the Geisinger shoot out," he said, referring to an incident in 1987 when prison guard Robert Miller was shot and killed during an escape attempt at the Danville hospital.
Ms. Hollembaek said it’s simply the most efficient use of the taxpayer’s dime.
"The reason is to allow us to utilize staff resources in an efficient manner," she said.
View new personnel procedures
A new National Security Personnel System video is now available via Hill AFB’s IPTV network. This 17 minute video gives an excellent overview of the first phase of the Defense Department’s changes to the personnel management system that will eventually affect all DOD civilian employees.
NSPS will establish new rules for how civilians are hired, assigned, compensated, promoted and disciplined, and will address the department’s labor relations as well.
IPTV is available to all Hill AFB workers via the Hillnet webpage.