2011 February 10 Thursday
Unions Oppose Federal Employee Cuts
A 270,000 US federal government employee union is uniting with other government unions to drum up opposition to cuts in the federal workforce. Government employees should not be allowed to form unions and work against the interests of the rest of us.
"We're acknowledging that it's our union that has to carry the story of federal workers," John Gage, the outspoken president of the American Federation of Government Employees said Wednesday as the four-day legislative conference wrapped up.
"We're going to energize and activate 2 million federal employees and their families," Gage said, "to let their representatives know these attacks will destroy [federal] agencies." AFGE has joined forces with other federal unions to fend off the targeted cuts.
What motivates these union workers? See my post US Government Counties Highest Paid.
The federal budget certainly needs to be brought under control. But where to start?
The Department of Education. Since this department started operating in 1980, student test scores haven't budged. Current budget is $69 billion. Abolish it.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development. This bureaucratic swamp did nothing to prevent the housing bubble and probably made it worse. Current budget is $44 billion. Abolish it.
The Department of Commerce. Current budget is $14 billion. Abolish it.
The Department of Energy. This wasteland has done nothing to enhance our energy independence or prevent disasters such as the Gulf oil spill. Current budget is $28 billion. Abolish it.
In reading through these department's current reports and budget requests, I note lots of jargon, bureaucratese and rah-rah language. The Department of Commerce is going to enhance the competitiveness of American industry. The Department of Energy is going to promote "green energy" and energy independence. The Department of Education is going to make our schools better and help our students to learn. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to improve neighborhoods and make affordable housing available to all Americans. Yeah, sure. The best thing that could happen to to reach all these worthy goals would be for these giant, money-sucking bureaucracies to just go away. If we did away with all of them, we'd save about $150 billion and be much better off. No one would ever notice that they were gone.
As a federal retiree, I would say that federal Govt unions are actually pretty weak. as negotiators. The bargaining that takes place is minimal. Wages, fringe benefits and staffing are set by congress. In this case, the union is acting as a lobbyist, not a bargaining agent. Under the first amendment, you could not deny employees the right to join together and petition their representatives.
What you say is true, sort of. I used to work in a management position for a federal agency, so I have had some experience with these unions. In my experience, their major function was to protect marginal employees. But here's how it really is:
It is true that in 1962 President John Kennedy's Executive Order No. 10988 gave certain (but not all) federal employees the right of collective bargaining. However, the federal agencies were not required to bargain in good faith which resulted in the employees having the terms of their contract dictated to them.
In 1969 President Richard Nixon (a conservative and Republican) corrected this when his Executive Order No. 11491 required federal agencies to bargain in good faith.
With both Kennedy's and Nixon's Executive Orders, bargaining was (and is) limited to working conditions and work rules. Salary and benefits are, and as far as I know, always have been determined by Congress.
Now this country got along just fine until Presidents Kennedy and Nixon allowed many federal employees to form unions. And it is true that salaries, benefits and staffing levels are set by Washington. Unions are not allowed to bargain over these issues. And they can't strike, or, at least, they're not supposed to. But inquiring minds might want to know why federal (or state or municipal) employees need unions, when they are already covered by extensive civil service protection. What, exactly, is the union supposed to do? If staffing is going to be cut or salaries reduced (rare events, to be sure), the union is not allowed to do anything about it, at least as far as bargaining. No, the purpose of these unions, aside from protecting worthless employees, is lobbying. Now political activity by federal employees is restricted by the Hatch Act (http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm). But this doesn't cover unions. Of course, federal employees have the same right as other citizens to contact their elected representatives and "petition for a redress of grievances." They could even form a voluntary association to do so. But it's the unions that gives them the clout. Look at what the AFGE president said - two million federal employees and their families. That's a lot of votes. But the question is - how do the taxpayers benefit from all these government unions? And the answer is - they don't.
What happens when the shit hits the fan?
How much technology have the lost the ability to create in the US? How far down the shit-heap will we have to slide?
The Department of Energy got a lot of the weapons-related functions of the Atomic Energy Commission, and it would certainly be noticed in military circles if that stuff went bye-bye. We'd also have noticed if we'd had several more TMI-style mishaps instead of just the one.
The Department of Education hasn't done squat to improve education, but it has done a fair amount to show just how bad things are. Paring it back to a psychometrics outfit would benefit the country; give it the pure mission of measurement (so that it's got no responsibility for the results of schools) and let it embarrass the failures into improving.