(Washington, DC)—Ten unions today joined together to file suit in federal court against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Dan G. Blair, acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The unions claim that Rumsfeld and Blair circumvented the will of Congress in the design process for the proposed new National Security Personnel System for the Department of Defense. The defense authorization legislation that allowed for the creation of a new system to replace the current civil service structure called for the agencies to engage in active collaboration with unions and employees’ representatives. It also called for OPM to play an active role in the system’s design.
“Instead, DoD has unveiled a plan that is has created unilaterally,” said John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). “In the 10 meetings we had with DoD officials, we were never permitted to go beyond the superficial, resulting in a personnel system that will compromise national security, and which has grave implications for safety of America’s fighting men and women.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), together with the Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT), the International Association of Firefighters (IAF), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), the Laborers International Union of North America (LIU), the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and the United Power Trades Organization (UPTO) filed their suit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
In defiance of the United States Congress, the Department of Defense refused to consult with the unions that represent the department’s employees, as called for in the defense authorization legislation that sanctioned the creation of the new personnel system. The unions claim that in issuing its proposed rule changes without their involvement in the system’s design, both DoD and OPM have violated section 9902(m) of the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2004.
“The solidarity displayed in the filing of this law suit by these 10 unions shows that we mean business,” said AFGE General Counsel Mark D. Roth. “No one, not even the secretary of defense, is above the law.”
In its new National Security Personnel System (NSPS), also known as the Rumsfeld plan, the Department of Defense has significantly narrowed employees’ rights to collective bargaining and all but eliminated the due process rights that enable employees to speak with confidence when they see wrongdoing or mismanagement.