Letter from AFGE National President John Gage

November 09, 2005

Dear Activists,

On Monday, Nov. 7 the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), along with the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, the United Power Trades Organization, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Association of Civilian Technicians, the Laborers International Union, the National Association of Government Employees, and the National Federation of Federal Employees filed a lawsuit in federal court that challenges new Department of Defense (DoD) work rules. An earlier suit that challenged the rules on a statutory basis, originally filed last February, also was filed for a second time.

The latest lawsuit challenges DoD's recent publishing of a new set of regulations that could have grave implications for safety of America's fighting men and women, and for safeguarding the public coffers. In its new National Security Personnel System (NSPS), also known as the Rumsfeld plan, the DoD has significantly narrowed employees' rights to collective bargaining and all but eliminated the due process rights that enable employees to speak with confidence when they see wrongdoing or mismanagement.

In defiance of the United States Congress, the DoD refused to consult with the unions that represent the department's employees, as called for in the defense authorization legislation that authorized the creation of the new personnel system. Instead, it went ahead and issued its proposed rule changes in violation of section 9902(m) of the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2004.

The new regulations for DoD personnel revoke most due process rights, render whistleblower protections moot, allow supervisors to punish employees in their paychecks, create a so-called "pay-for-performance" system that pits employees against each other for pay increases, and end all meaningful collective bargaining. Portions of negotiated contracts may be voided on the say-so of a political appointee.

When disciplinary actions are appealed to either the Merit Systems Protection Board or an arbitrator, neither will be able to substitute a lesser penalty unless the penalty was "totally unwarranted," a virtually impossible standard to meet. For some alleged offenses, even the manager proposing the discipline would not be able to propose anything short of removal.

Last month, a federal court found significant portions of similar personnel rules drafted by the Department of Homeland Security in violation of the law. Rather than heeding the warning sounded by the court in that case, the Pentagon has decided to mirror work rules that ultimately shortchange the American taxpayer.

AFGE is severely disappointed that instead of working with federal employees, DoD has chosen to work against them. As a result, AFGE will use every judicial weapon at its disposal to block implementation of NSPS in its current form.

However, we cannot do this alone. The lawsuit is one tool to stop NSPS and your voice is another tool. DoD deceived and defied Congress when it created a personnel system that will strip federal employees of their rights and gut worker pay. It is now time for Congress to see NSPS for what it really is before it is too late. Here's what you can do to make sure Congress hears from federal workers concerned about NSPS:

What Can You Do?

  • Email your Senators on your home email account from your home computer.
  • Call your Senators on your cell phone or the union phone.
  • Visit your Senators with other co-workers.
  • You can find your lawmaker's contact information at http://capwiz.com/afge/dbq/officials/

We are hopeful that once Congress hears from federal employees and examines these personnel regulations more closely, they will see that NSPS does a disservice to all American taxpayers as well as federal employees.

AFGE National President John Gage best summed up what will happen if NSPS is allowed to move forward:

"Have we learned nothing from our experience with Hurricane Katrina? If you want a preview of the ravages of rampant cronyism, one need only imagine appointees such as those who ran FEMA having the power to void contracts and cut the pay of employees who challenge them," he said.

NSPS is bad for workers and it is bad for America. Let your voices be heard on this important issue before it is too late.

John Gage
National President
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)