WASHINGTON - Following a federal court ruling that blocks the implementation of proposed DHS personnel regulations for Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today called on Congress and DHS to scrap the entire plan, which Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said “fails to comply with the direction of Congress.”
When, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, it gave the new agency broad latitude in designing a new, more flexible personnel system than it contended existed in other agencies. But Congress insisted that the agency maintain collective bargaining, the process through which working conditions and other regulations are arrived at, as well as due process rights for DHS employees. Such protections have been in place for decades to keep the federal workplace free of partisan politics.
"Rather than afford a right of appeal that is impartial or disinterested, the regulations put the thumbs of the agencies down hard on the scales of justice in their favor," wrote Judge Collyer in her memorandum opinion. She also expressly ruled that the DHS regulations “fail to ensure collective bargaining.”
“It is imperative that Congress—which mandated the regulations—go back to the drawing board and start over where the DHS regulations are concerned,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “This time, however, it would behoove DHS and the Office of Personnel Management to truly collaborate with the unions. DHS and OPM chose not to do so the first time around and look where it got them.
“This ruling confirms what AFGE has been saying all along,” Gage continued. “This roll-back of rights amounts to nothing less than a power-grab by the executive branch. It is in the best interest of the American public to have a Homeland Security Department in which employees can do their best work in safeguarding the nation without fear or favor.”
In January, AFGE and four other unions filed suit against DHS on the basis that its regulations were a violation of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. “This decision is not just a win for AFGE,” Gage said. “It’s a victory for federal employees across the nation, as the administration has already made moves to implement similar new rules government-wide.” The Department of Defense is proposing similar personnel regulations, which AFGE has also contested.