The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 25, 2007

Unionized Homeland workers would 'negatively impact' U.S. security, Bush Administration says

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON - President Bush has promised a veto of a Democrat-backed bill that would allow 125,000 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workers to operate under a collective bargaining agreement.

Bush's stance is that allowing those workers to unionize would be a threat to national security.

The new Democratic-run 110th Congress repealed the personnel system Bush tried to impose at DHS, but which two federal courts in D.C. have overturned. The personnel system gives DHS officials virtually unlimited power over workers. It yanks whistle-blower protections and the workers' right to bargain over just about everything.

"Management must strike a careful balance between the flexibility needed to defend against a ruthless enemy and the fairness needed to ensure employee rights. This legislation threatens that balance," Bush's Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. Eliminating that flexibility would "negatively impact the security of the nation."

American Federation of Government Employees official Beth Moten was not surprised by Bush's veto. She noted that as a result of his system, morale at DHS is among the worst in the federal government. "DHS has had 4-1/2 years to take this extraordinary and unprecedented authority it got" over personnel "and come up with something that could meet the needs of both the employees and the American public. They blew it," she said.