February 28, 2006 – In a major victory for federal workers and unions everywhere, a federal judge in Washington yesterday blocked the Bush administration’s attempt to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for 700,000 civilian Defense Department employees.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan follows a lawsuit filed in November by the IAM and a coalition of unions, challenging the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System (NSPS) as a violation of current labor law and a politically motivated assault on labor unions in the federal sector.
The union coalition also charged the government’s proposed NSPS rules violated Congress’s intent when lawmakers authorized changes to work rules in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Judge Sullivan wrote that the personnel system proposed by the Defense Department “fails to ensure that employees can bargain collectively” and does not provide for independent review of labor relations decisions or a fair way for employees to appeal disciplinary actions by managers.
The decision follows a ruling in a similar lawsuit brought by unions against the Department of Homeland Security, where a U.S. District Judge delayed implementation of rules that would have gutted collective bargaining rights for nearly 160,000 employees in the newly created federal agency.
“This ruling is a huge victory with implications that go far beyond the federal workforce,” said Frank Carelli, Director of the IAM’s Government Employees Department.
“The Bush Administration’s plan to use the war on terror as an excuse to hobble workers’ rights at home is not limited to federal workers. The next stop in their campaign was private sector firms doing business with the federal government. We won a key battle with this latest ruling, but the war is far from over.”
While Congress did approve changes to personnel rules governing federal workers in 2003 to allow for a more nimble response to the threat of terrorism, they specifically called for workers’ rights and union rights to be protected.