Bush takes parting shot at unions
In a final-days attack on workers' rights, President Bush on Dec. 1 issued an executive order that denies collective bargaining rights to about 8,600 federal employees who work in national security, law enforcement and intelligence.
Nearly 1,000 of the workers currently are represented by a union, and some have been for more than 30 years. The biggest group affected by the order is the 5,000 employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is now part of the Justice Department.
Peter Winch, national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, says the union is determined to fight the executive order. "Bush's actions are within his legal discretion, but he has abused that discretion," Winch said. "There is no reason for this action. Nothing has happened from yesterday to today to change the national security situation to require such a change.
"We're asking President-elect Obama when he takes office to review all exclusions (from collective bargaining) since 1978. Several exclusions by this president were not done for national security reasons, but to stop unions."
In the executive order, Bush said it would be inconsistent with "national security requirements" to allow the employees to engage in collective bargaining over the conditions of their employment.
This is the same rationale the White House used in 2003 to deny bargaining rights to workers at the Transportation Security Agency, in one of the first shots in the Bush administration's war on federal workers.
- James Parks, AFL-CIO
Most Americans approve of unions
Despite the best efforts of corporate-backed anti-union groups, the Bush White House and anti-worker politicians demonizing unions on the campaign trail, most Americans continue to approve of unions, as they have for the past seven decades.
The latest update from Gallup on union support shows 59 percent of those surveyed back unions, while 29 percent disapprove of them. According to Gallup:
"Americans have generally held a favorable view of unions for decades - with no less than 55 percent of Americans saying they approve of labor unions in Gallup polls conducted from 1936 to 2008."
Not surprisingly, most of the support comes from Democrats and independents. Seventy-two percent of Democrats approve of labor unions, compared with 63 percent of independents but only 38 percent of Republicans.
Also, most respondents said unions should have more influence (35 percent) or the same amount of influence (28 percent), while 32 percent want to see less union influence.
The results reflect what other pollsters have found about public support of unions. More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) support strong laws, such as the Employee Free Choice Act, that give employees the freedom to make their own choice about whether to have a union in their workplace without interference from management. Also, some 60 million workers say they would join a union today if they could.
- Mike Hall, AFL-CIO