February 02, 2003
Diane S. Witiak
John Irvine
(202) 639-6419

Statement of AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage on NIMA's Decision to Terminate the Collective Bargaining Rights of 1,322

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The decision by the Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), James Clapper, to immediately terminate the collective bargaining rights of 1,322 workers on January 30, 2003, falls in line with President Bush’s anti-union policy.

Last year, President Bush took the collective bargaining rights away from workers in the U.S. Attorneys’ offices—rights they had for over two decades—in the name of national security. Bush then pushed for legislation to eliminate collective bargaining rights for tens of thousands of dedicated federal workers in the new Department of Homeland Security. This month, Bush backed the directive to prevent 56,000 airport screeners at the Transportation Security Administration from joining a union.

If Bush can’t strip hard-working federal employees of their collective bargaining rights, then he’ll privatize their jobs. Over the last several years, NIMA has engaged in reckless privatization, including a massive $2 billion, sole-source, sweetheart contract to a start-up Native-American firm that generated bipartisan Congressional opposition as well as unfavorable headlines. Earlier this week, it was actually reported on Government Computer News’ Web site that “Clapper said NIMA is moving away from quality control of their contractors to increase its emphasis on what he called a trusted cadre of contractors.”

NIMA workers, who are represented by AFGE Local’s 1827 (St. Louis) and 3407 (Bethesda, Md.), are performing the same jobs they have performed for years. About ten years ago, Congress specifically grandfathered in the collective bargaining rights of hundreds of NIMA employees. At the time, Congress clearly said the Director could not strip them of their rights unless their roles were modified to include intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative or security duties not previously assigned, and that the performance of the newly assigned duties directly affected national security.

NIMA’s mission has not changed. Clapper insists that the need for NIMA employees to obtain security clearances makes it necessary to bust the union. However, NIMA employees already have significant security level clearances. In fact, employees in NIMA’s collective bargaining unit often have to shepherd contractors around the agency’s installations because they have security clearances and the contractors do not.

Like other Bush Administration officials, Clapper also invokes the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to cloak this union busting with a respectable cover. We are here to remind Clapper that the fight against terrorism, in which federal employees have always been on the frontlines of the homeland, is about preserving our freedoms—including our right to organize—not destroying them.

It is worth noting that AFGE Locals 1827 and 3407 were aggressively helping NIMA employees pursue concerns about safety, promotions, performance pay (bonuses and base pay increases), as well as serious allegations of gender and racial bias. Clapper’s decision to bust the union now leaves these employees at a severe disadvantage during a crucial time.

Clapper must meet with AFGE officials and provide detailed explanations of why the collective bargaining rights of 1,322 employees were stripped.

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