WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Unless the sole purpose of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was to destroy its employees’ rights to union representation through collective bargaining, this effort is a dangerous case of putting the cart before the horse,” John Gage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) will tell members of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization at tomorrow’s hearing concerning the options for DHS’ new personnel system. The hearing will take place Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 10 a.m. in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Gage’s statement is in response to the insistence of representatives of DHS and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at recent public hearings to eliminate or dilute employee rights before new systems involving pay, classification, appellate procedures or collective bargaining are implemented.
The union leader will point out that there is tremendous anxiety among the employees of DHS. “They are concerned about political cronyism in pay, hiring and adverse actions if some of the options that were presented to the Senior Review Committee are adopted,” Gage will state. “They are concerned that they will be asked to continue to put their lives on the line every day for an agency that refuses to reciprocate their loyalty by paying them fairly and allowing them to exercise their democratic right.”
Critical of an option to elimination the outside administrative review process for adverse actions, appeal rights and due process rights, Gage will reiterate what the Honorable John Charles Thomas, former justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, emphasized to members of the Design Team. “As Justice Thomas warned, internal review is another example of trying to combine the prosecutor, judge and jury into one—an approach which is not only unconstitutional, but which makes a mockery of the constitutional approach to justice.”
Gage will also discuss proposed supervisory-controlled pay-for-performance options. “DHS employees know they must cooperate with their coworkers to be successful, not compete against them,” Gage will tell lawmakers. “They know that the mission of DHS is too important to cast aside in the pursuit of individual gain. And make no mistake—individual pay for performance makes looking out for oneself the highest priority, above teamwork, above mission, above the spirit of public service.”
“The authorities held by the president and the Secretary of DHS are extremely broad,” Gage will conclude. “It will be important to the employees of the agencies and to the taxpayers that the Congress maintain an ongoing oversight role with respect to the exercise of these authorities.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.