The Washington Times

February 17, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 923 words

HEADLINE: Revolt in the bureaucratic ranks;
'Partnership' union push

BYLINE: James Bovard

Vice President Al Gore is preparing to increase pressure on federal agencies
to more fully cater to government unions as "partners." Partnership, in the
Clinton-Gore lingo, often seems to amount to little more than kowtowing to
unions and issuing annual proclamations about the reinvention of government.
And because Mr. Gore is depending on government workers as shock troops for his
presidential campaign, the latest "partnership" push guarantees more material
for stand-up comedians.
The Washington Times February 17, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition

In 1993, Mr. Clinton issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to
"create labor-management councils to help involve employees and their unions as
full partners." Federal unions now have far clearer status as "partners" than do

Shortly after the partnership councils were launched, union officials
effectively took over the employee side and have made sure that the councils
don't overserve the people. The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled in 1995
that unions could restrict membership on the partnership councils to their own
members. Since fewer than 30 percent of federal civilian employees are members
of unions, this effectively ensures that the partnership councils will routinely
scorn the interests of federal employees as a class. At the Labor Department,
according to one DOL official, the partnership councils blocked any
departmentwide reorganization until union activists received promotions.

Federal employees I spoke to at other agencies are embittered that the unions
seem concerned almost solely with protecting their most incompetent members,
rather than safeguarding the interests of federal employees as a class.
Washington Post columnist Mike Causey noted that "many local union officials
have gotten to spend a lot of time hobnobbing with top management or going to
meetings, rather than working at their desks. Their officemates in 'overhead
jobs' get to take up the slack. For them, partnership means a lot more work."
The Washington Times February 17, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition

The partnership councils have been especially effective at the Social
Security Administration (SSA). Two-thirds of SSA field managers interviewed by
the General Accounting Office said managing day-to-day functions is more
difficult because of the Partnership Councils. John Reusing, a 25-year SSA
employee and 15-year American Federation of Government Employees union officer
and steward, testified to Congress last July: "There is virtually no supervision
of union officers and stewards by management or union officials. . . .
Employees have observed union activists selling real estate, working at Camden
Yards Stadium selling hot dogs and doing home maintenance while on official time
time which the union rep. can spend lobbying for higher pay or other union
business ."

Edwin Hardesty, a Social Security Administration district manager in
Oklahoma, testified at the same hearing that "a union official can simply
designate a person to be a full-time union official, and the person can abandon
their workload the following day. They are not required to give the agency any
explanation as to why the person will no longer be doing agency work, nor are
they required to explain in detail what the person will be doing."

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents primarily IRS and
Customs Service employees, has also benefited from favored treatment during the
Clinton reign. GAO found that, according to many Customs Service first-line
The Washington Times February 17, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition

supervisors, the relationship between NTEU and management was "much worse" as a
result of Mr. Clinton's partnership executive order.

The NTEU has used its new clout under the Clinton administration to lobby for
provisions in a 1993 law that increased the pay differential for Customs'
inspectors "night" work - and sharply expanded the hours for which inspectors
could collect such bonuses. Thanks to the 1993 law - and the way Customs
calculates shifts - inspectors now can receive "night pay" bonuses for work done
any hour of the day.

This absurdity was compounded by a bizarre late-1995 federal arbitration
ruling on an NTEU grievance that now entitles Customs inspectors to receive
"night pay" bonuses during their vacations. Customs inspectors are entitled to
"night differential even when they are on leave, if those leave days would
normally qualify for night differential had the officers been at work,"
according to the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General. The Clinton
administration and the NTEU combined to defeat a Republican effort to abolish
this goofy practice in the last Congress.

According to one Labor Department official, Mr. Clinton's pro-union policies
have thrived in federal agencies in part because it is inherently difficult to
detect whether government employees are doing anything useful: "If you don't
The Washington Times February 17, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition

pick up the garbage, somebody is going to know. But if the person is just
shuffling paper and giving out grants - it is very difficult to know if he is
actually working."

The Clinton-Gore "Partnership" with unions is one more cheap shot against
American taxpayers. Citizens must learn to recognize government union
endorsements of politicians as poison pills - a signal that the politician is a
champion of less work for more pay for civil servants. If "reinventing
government" means paying government workers for the time they sleep, then
perhaps it is time to return to older, less outrageous boondoggles.

James Bovard is the author of "Freedom in Chains: the Rise of the State & the
Demise of the Citizen" (St. Martin's, 1999).