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Another Voice: Congress is union-busting

By James Dean

With all of the problems facing our nation today, Congress has decided it needs to attack the federal workforce with arbitrary cuts and loss of rights.

Right now, Congress is working on the most extreme union-busting, pension-stealing bills we’ve seen yet. These attacks focus on official time, one of our core union rights that the American Federation of Government Employees uses to help employees get fair representation in workplace disputes, and also eliminate the grievance procedure from employee contracts in the name of making it easier to fire employees.

Anti-government employee lawmakers are trying to rush through bills that limit our union rights and silence our voice in the workplace.

Please contact your representative and tell him to vote against H.R. 1364, H.R. 1259 and H.R. 1461. These bills take away rights of federal employees to be represented, steal pensions from union reps, eliminate grievance procedures and make it impossible for unions to stand up for federal employees and the public they serve.

These bills individually and collectively attack the ability of federal employees to have a union and totally disregard their rights and responsibilities under law. Congress apparently considers the rights of the federal workforce not only disposable but intolerable. We are Americans serving America. We are patriots. We deserve better.

From experience I know that being a full-time union representative costs an employee overtime assignments and promotion opportunities. It’s a sacrifice made for the opportunity to contribute more to the success of one’s agency and country. It’s incredible that Congress would even consider punishing employee representatives by, for example, docking their pensions for using more than a small amount of time for representation. To do so is to say that the union’s function contributes no value to the government. I know from experience this is untrue and that many good, productive employees would not have a career today if this had been the case when they needed their union.

These bills create a situation where employees who step up to oppose the actions of managers who take unfounded actions against employees or mismanage the agency do so at further cost to their careers and, ironically, the perpetrators are left untouched.

To those who say, “Oh, they can still have unions, just on their own time,” I say they know that is a false assertion.

When a supervisor takes a disciplinary action, will the supervisor meet with the union during off-duty time? No. When management changes working conditions, will it conduct and meet legal bargaining requirements while on leave? No. And so on. Many responsibilities and functions of a union representative are done after work or while on leave, but to say that representational functions they are bound by law to fulfill cannot be done in their role as federal employees, on the clock as intended, is nothing but union busting.

James Dean is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2930, AFL-CIO, representing employees of  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District.

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