WASHINGTON, DC—The president of the American Federation of Government Employees, John Gage is calling on members of Congress to question the release of Department of Defense proposals outlining a new personnel system that Gage says contradicts Rumsfeld’s own Congressional testimony. AFGE represents hundreds of thousands of workers at DoD.
Gage made the assertion during a news conference today held in conjunction with AFGE’s annual legislative conference which included AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, National Treasury Employee Union President Colleen Kelley, President, National Federation of Federal Employees, Rick Brown, Steve Lenkart, Legislative Director at the National Association of Government Employees and Dan Schemer, attorney, Association of Civilian Technicians. Dozens of DoD workers from all over the country attended the news conference.
“Despite our objections, Congress gave Secretary Rumsfeld broad powers to ignore federal law with regard to personnel policy, because the secretary told them he needed this authority to invoke in instances where national security was at stake,” said Gage. “At a hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Secretary Rumsfeld assured Congress that he would not use these powers to end collective bargaining. But in his list of proposals, he does just that.”
Last week, the Department of Defense sent to AFGE a list of “proposed concepts” for a new National Security Personnel System that include:
? The elimination of collective bargaining (to be replaced with non-binding ‘consultation’)
? The probable end of current contracts once the new system is implemented
(The proposal bars ‘roll-over’ of current contracts at the time of implementation
? A new hoop-jumping system for employees wanting to have a union
? Rules that overturn decisions made by federal courts—including the Supreme Court—that were made in favor of unions and public employees
The proposed rules would also exempt previously eligible employees from union membership, including “work leaders,” attorneys, “professional” employees (no definition is provided) and, given the ambiguous language employed in the document, most likely information technology professionals, firefighters, architects, procurement workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone whose work requires certification of any kind.
“What on earth does any of this have to do with national security? In fact, in times as perilous as these, sticking it to defense workers will only serve to disenfranchise a workforce that has served the nation honorably throughout its history, and continues to do so during the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Gage. “This is, without a doubt, nothing but flat-out union-busting by Rumsfeld and his cronies who know in many cases it is union members who are the watchdogs over private contract abuses,” he added.
“In the military, unit cohesion and strong morale are critical components of successful operations,” Gage continued. “As shown during the emergency response to the September 11th attacks, the cohesion fostered by union membership creates an ethos of acting for the common good—placing the needs of the many ahead of those of the individual. In going back on his solemn word to Congress, Secretary Rumsfeld offers a proposal that flies in the face of any code of honor.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.