Obama Pledges Support for Defense Department Workers
September 29, 2008
Department of Defense unions that have been locked in a protracted conflict with the Bush administration over its union-busting National Security Personnel System have received a strong pledge of support from presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill.). The coalition includes the IBEW, with 12,000 members at the department.
In a letter to Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Obama takes issue with the defense department’s draft of final regulations implementing the personnel system. It follows several court challenges by the unions and a March 2007 vote by the House Homeland Security Committee to deny funding for the program because it undermines collective bargaining and eliminates scheduled salary increases.
“I cannot and will not support a pay system which ultimately is designed to suppress wages for civilian DoD employees over time,” says Obama. “It is clear to me that the intention of Congress was to reinstate collective bargaining. Yet DoD is still moving forward with a personnel system that prohibits most collective bargaining,” says the candidate.
The Defense Department sponsored focus groups of employees to discuss the NSPS in early 2007 (See “IBEW Aims to Knock Out Anti-Union DoD Rules,” IBEW Journal, January/February 2007). But, according to the Washington Post, a recent Government Accountability Office report says “employees who had the most experience under NSPS showed a negative movement in their perceptions.”
The GAO reports that much of the dissatisfaction is driven by managers who are classifying a majority of the employees at the lower end of a new rating system.
Responding to the Defense Department’s rationale that collective bargaining rights could undermine national security, Obama says, “I am fully aware that DoD’s civilian employees are the Department’s backbone, without which our troops would never be able to conduct operations in an effective manner.”
“I want to assure you that if I am elected President,” says Obama, “I will substantially revise these NSPS regulations, and strongly consider a complete repeal.”