October 18, 2002
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

Republicans Block Passage of Homeland Security Bill

(Washington, D.C.)—“It should be crystal clear to the American people that the White House and Senate Republican leaders are the real stumbling block to passing critical legislation to create a Homeland Security Department,” stated Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

“When given precisely what they’ve been demanding for weeks, Senate Republicans refused to agree on a straight up-or-down vote on the Gramm-Miller amendment which mirror’s President Bush’s legislation.

“It’s obvious Senate Republican leaders as well as the White House are holding up passage of this bill in an “Alice in Wonderland” attempt to blame Democrats for the delay in hopes of winning over voters on Election Day.

“Over the past several weeks, Senate Republicans have consistently voted against cutting off debate on the Homeland Security bill. Recent election ads on television have used misinformation to bash incumbent Democratic Senators like war hero Max Cleland (D-Ga.), claiming he voted against the Homeland Security bill, when, in fact, he voted numerous times to stop the endless debate and move the bill forward for a vote on the Senate floor.

“No matter the sound bites, spin or hype used by the White House and Republican leaders, no one should be fooled. This is a purely partisan fight to bust public sector unions. The White House has maintained that unless it has the authority to take away the union rights that employees now have, it will never agree to a Homeland Security bill. Indeed, since the President adamantly opposed such a bill until early June (election session), the question surfaces as to whether the President actually became a convert or simply staged a fight to create another issue for partisan politics.

“This is not a genuine dispute between political parties to create the very best homeland security for the American people. If that were true, the White House and Republican leaders would never have given a serious thought to doing away with critical rights and protections which actually enhance the ability of frontline federal employees to keep our homeland safe.

“Future Homeland Security employees are not ‘special interests’ as the White House has tried to negatively spin. Federal employees, charged with the responsibility to protect our nation and its citizens, serve the public’s interest. This is a fight to stop the White House and Republican leaders from stripping democratic rights and freedoms from the same employees who are charged with protecting the American public’s democratic rights and freedoms.

“This is a fight to stop the wholesale revocation of a system established to keep politics out of the hiring process, attract highly-skilled and experienced workers and permit employees to speak out when mismanagement and system failures that threaten our security are witnessed.
“The Nelson-Chafee-Breaux amendment allows federal employees to carry over their union representation to the new department. These employees have enjoyed union representation for some 40 years. They should not be denied union representation, for performing the same work, simply because they are transferred to a new department.

“This bi-partisan compromise allows the President to remove collective bargaining rights and protections from those employees whose jobs substantial change and their primary job duty is intelligence, counterintelligence, or investigative work directly related to terrorism investigation. It’s a fair compromise and should have been passed by the Senate weeks ago.

“Union membership has never been inconsistent with national security. The union members who will become part of the new Homeland Security Department are among our nation’s most patriotic, dedicated and selfless public servants—just like union civilian workers in the Defense Department, the Defense Industry, and the fire fighters and police officers who gave their lives on September 11. These employees have worked tirelessly before, during and after September 11 to protect our homeland. They deserve our support to preserve their collective bargaining rights.

“AFGE and its members thank those Senators who recognize the urgent need to maintain federal employee rights and protections for those who will be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security.

“This fight is not over, just postponed. I urge union members across the country to remember the insulting half truths and fictitious examples used over the past several months by both the White House and Republican leaders in the Senate and House to justify their attempts to deny federal employees the right to belong to a union. And then make sure to vote on Election Day.”

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