April 05, 2006
Kurt Gallagher
(202) 639-6491

FEMA Workers Union Fights to Protect Whistleblower

Union Requests Investigation Over Threat of Termination

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has filed a Whistleblower Protection Act complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel because of threats to terminate an agency employee who recently leaked an internal agency memo to Congress. Last month AFGE Local 4060, which represents employees at FEMA headquarters, provided members of the House and Senate with an internal FEMA memo indicating racial bias in the agency’s hiring and promotion practices. A senior FEMA official subsequently told AFGE that the person who leaked the memo would be fired.

“Harassment and intimidation of whistleblowers is a violation of federal law. AFGE is a protector of those courageous government employees who step forward to challenge wrongdoing and hold our government accountable to the people,” said AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Andrea E. Brooks.

AFGE Local 4060 President Leo Bosner called the threats “shameful” and “wrongheaded.” Bosner long has been an advocate for decisive action to correct problems within FEMA and reestablish deteriorated capabilities. Following Hurricane Katrina last year, Bosner worked as a whistleblower himself, providing the public with an invaluable perspective on what went wrong with the preparation for and response to Katrina.

“FEMA’s problems must be corrected, not covered up. FEMA needs to promote the most capable employees to key positions and hire experienced emergency management professionals to reduce the number of vacancies. Personnel decisions must be based on merit, not on connections and irrelevant factors. Didn’t we learn from Katrina that competence and ability matter?” said Bosner.

Bosner says the union also will file charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. AFGE represents the largest constituency of DHS employees, including personnel comprising Customs & Border Protection, Border Patrol, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, FEMA, TSA and U.S. Coast Guard.

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