(Washington, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), issued the following statement in response to House approval of legislation to take away the rights of federal employees who will work for the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
"The White House with their pro-corporate, anti-worker House Republican leaders worked together to overturn the work of the House Government Reform Committee, which had voted to keep civil service and collective bargaining protections for employees of the new Homeland Security Department.
"Republican leaders have made a grave mistake in voting to take away civil service and collective bargaining rights from those federal employees who will be transferred to the new department. The Administration’s philosophy of allowing political managers unregulated freedom to mismanage government agencies is the same freedom-from-rules approach that brought America the unprecedented crash-and-burn corporate scandals of Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Andersen.
"The current civil service rights and union protections provided to federal employees are indispensable in ensuring an effective, efficient and reliable civil service. For consolidation to make things better, not worse, our homeland security efforts need a secure workforce. Only with a workforce protected from politics and guaranteed basic rights can our homeland be secure.
"Before, during and after September 11, federal employees have worked to protect the freedoms that Americans hold dear. To deny these employees the same rights and protections that we are fighting to preserve is reprehensible.
"Have the Administration and Congress forgotten that it was union members—firefighters, police officers and emergency medical teams—who rushed into the Pentagon and World Trade towers on September 11, many making the ultimate sacrifice for their nation? How can House leaders and the Administration justify their claims that union membership in some way disqualifies employees from the critical task of defending this country and its citizens?
"Federal workers are among the front-line guardians of homeland security. They support a rational consolidation of the disparate agencies charged with protecting the nation’s safety. But homeland security requires a secure workforce, employees who can be certain that they, too, will be protected from politics and favoritism and from punishment for speaking out against any mismanagement they witness.
"Americans are best protected by a highly-skilled, well-trained, professional workforce, guaranteed the freedom to speak out when systems or procedural failures threaten the ability to protect our homeland and its citizens."