The Electrical Worker online

July 2018

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Federal Union Busting

More than half a century ago, President John Kennedy issued Executive order 10988, which recognized the right of most federal employees to representation on the job, including joining a union.

For Kennedy, giving federal workers the right to come together in a union was not just the right thing to do for employees. It was crucial for building a productive labor-management relationship based on respect and commitment to public service.

Today more than 60 percent of all federal employees are union members.

For Kennedy, collaboration and respect for the right of government employees to collectively bargain was the best way to manage a modern federal workforce.

Not so our current president. In May, Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders which eviscerates 56 years of federal worker rights.

They force agencies to renegotiate union contracts to squeeze as much out of federal employees as they can while making it harder for union representatives to do their jobs and fairly represent every employee.

Federal unions have never been just about themselves. They have tackled issues such as sexual harassment, health and safety problems and protecting whistleblowers.

They have helped our federal government become a more efficient and productive workplace, and that is in the interest of every taxpayer.

Without unions, federal employees have no voice at work, and no way to improve their workplaces.

These orders are not just an attack on the rights of federal workers, including members of the IBEW's government branch. They are an attack on the rights of all working people.

Because when you take away the voice of one set of workers, every working person suffers.

Just look at Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker initially defended his attack on state workers by saying he would never come after private-sector unions. Only four years later Walker and the Wisconsin GOP went ahead and passed right-to-work legislation. By 2016, unions went from representing 14 percent of all Wisconsin employees to under 10. And you better believe that put downward pressure on wages and benefits.

The Trump administration has already racked up a record of hostility to private-sector unions and workers' rights as well, from appointing union-busting judges to federal courts, to overturning rules protecting workers from wage theft.

Trump's latest actions are a reminder of how important it is that we vote this November and get a pro-worker majority in Congress that can hold this president accountable.

Private sector or public, the IBEW will never shy away from its commitment to fighting for the rights of all working people.


Also: Stephenson: Thank a Lineman Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer