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Collective Bargaining Rights at DoD:

Did the FY 2004 National Defense Authorization Act authorize the Defense Department to temporarily curtail the collective bargaining rights of the Department's civilian employees? Yes. At least that was the conclusion reached by a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in American Federation of Government Employees v. Gates.

By its terms, the Act authorizes DoD to curtail collective bargaining through November 2009. But after November 2009, with certain specified exceptions, DoD again must ensure collective bargaining consistent with the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion of the court. he was joined by Senior Judge Stephen Williams. Judge David Tatel dissented.

JosephSlater (mail):
I've written about this issue, and I used to work with federal employee unions. IMHO, this is a poor opinion and poor policy. As to the merits of the decision, Tatel's dissent is generally spot-on. Also, the majority's opinion seems oddly inconsisent with the D.C. Circuit's holding that the DHS personnel system went further than the statute authorizing it allowed. As Rosemary Collyer (former Reagan NLRB general counsel and thus no particular friend of unions) opined in a related case, "Collective bargaining" that allows one side to unilaterally abrogate any and all terms of a "contract" entered into is not "collective bargaining."

As to the underlying policy, I know that unions, and especially unions of government employeesm are the bete noirs of certain types of conservatives and libertarians who frequent this blog. But there is no valid reason to deny employees of the DoD (or DHS, or other federal agencies) the right to bargain collectively, especially under the limits that the generaly federal statute already puts on such bargaining. Unionized public employees -- police, firefighters, EMTs, air traffic controllers, etc. -- performed heroically on 9/11, and the idea that some collective bargaining rights interferes with public safety work is a partisan hackery at its worst.

The fact that Bush administration has spent so much time and energy trying to eliminate basic workpace rights of federal employees (the DHS has still not come up with a new personnel system that passes legal muster) is yet another example of how ideology trumps competence and basic effectiveness as values for government in this administration.
5.21.2007 11:40am
JosephSlater (mail):
Yikes, two typos in second paragraph above: "employeesm" should be "employees,"; and "generaly" should be "general." Must remember to drink that first cup of coffee before posting. . . .
5.21.2007 12:55pm