Big Labor Fights For ‘Government Slackers’ on Taxpayers’ Dime
(Source: July 2015 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)
A three-part series of reports filed in early June by journalist Elizabeth MacDonald for Fox Business offered an array of shocking examples of how union bosses go to extraordinary lengths to prevent negligent federal employees from being held accountable for their poor performance.
Under the so-called Civil Service “Reform” Act of 1978, government union chiefs are statutorily empowered to act as federal employees’ monopoly-bargaining agents with regard to disciplinary procedures and other work rules.
Effectively, the Jimmy Carter-era CSRA makes federal union bosses like American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox co-managers of federal agencies.
And according to an analysis by labor economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson, last year 32.5% of America’s 3.3 million federal and postal employees were subject to union monopoly control. That’s a union density 4.4 times as high as in the private sector!
Taxpayers Must Award ‘Back Pay’ to VA Worker Who Let Psych Patient ‘Vanish’
Nearly four decades ago, the CSRA created the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) largely to adjudicate disputes between union bosses and government agency managers. Today, as Ms. MacDonald noted in her recent Fox Business series, entitled “Cash For Slackers,” the FLRA “continues to hear hundreds of cases where federal” union bosses “battle attempted firings” of negligent, incompetent, and/or dishonest civil servants.
One such case was summed up by Ms. MacDonald in this jarring subhead: “Taxpayers Must [Award] Back Pay to VA Worker Who Let Psych Patient Vanish.”
This case originated when an unnamed patient in a secure psychiatric unit “for acute inpatients” at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility in Kansas City, Mo., vanished in the spring of 2014. It turned out VA employees “had left the security door unlocked.”
In his work reports, VA employee and dues-paying AFGE member Afolabi Olubo contended he had personally seen the veteran four times, “even though the patient had already disappeared.”
In the end, the patient was discovered at his brother’s house. But when VA managers tried to fire Mr. Olubo for negligence and for filing false reports, officers of AFGE Local 2663 fought to get the penalty cut to a one-day suspension.
And in September 2014, Big Labor-“friendly” federal arbitrator Archie Robbins sided with AFGE bosses, ordering that the VA revoke Mr. Olubo’s suspension “and award him back pay.”
Part of the reason why AFGE kingpins may have gone to the mat for Mr. Olubo and other derelict VA employees in Kansas City is the fact that other VA patients had already disappeared at that very facility and at other VA facilities in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, for example.
Food Inspector’s Suspension For Failure to Detect a Rat Infestation ‘Unreasonable’?
“If the AFGE hierarchy had allowed a precedent to be established that letting a VA psych patient disappear, and then covering up the disappearance, is a firing offense, then there could have been repercussions at multiple VA facilities,” said National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.
“Union dons apparently decided they couldn’t risk that outcome.”
Another outrageous case of federal union bosses’ anti-taxpayer, anti-public safety activism reviewed by Ms. MacDonald involved a food-safety inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Twenty-five-year USDA employee Irvin Boesen was “suspended for ‘negligently’ failing to discover that rats had infested a pasta factory” in Bridgeview, Ill., during an inspection he purports to have made in February 2010.
A subsequent visit to the Vince & Sons pasta factory by USDA officials revealed that there were “rat feces in a storage area holding bags of raw flour and rat excrement on the floor . . . .”
Mr. Boesen somehow also overlooked “reports form the pest control company hired by the plant, which noted four rats trapped inside the factory that month.”
For his gross negligence, the USDA suspended Mr. Boesen for just five days without pay, a penalty the agency itself admitted was “on the lenient side.”
But AFGE union czars considered even a five-day suspension to be “unreasonable,” as their lawyer put it. Ultimately, union-label arbitrator Robert Steinberg agreed. Mr. Boesen was awarded back pay for the time he was suspended, and his “lost benefits were reinstated, with just a slap on the wrist.”
Union Don Vows to Open up ‘Biggest Can of Whoop A**’ On Noncompliant Lawmakers
In light of these and multiple other notorious examples of federal union-boss abuse of taxpayers and other citizens who rely on vital public services as well as conscientious and talented civil servants, it is not surprising that a number of Capitol Hill lawmakers are proposing CSRA amendments this year.
Of course, AFGE czar Cox and other top federal union officers will do everything they can to block any measure that would curtail their special privileges even slightly.
Speaking at his union’s annual convention in February, Mr. Cox vowed to open up “the biggest can of whoop a** on” any senator or congressman who dared to cross the AFGE hierarchy.
However, the workplace problems at the VA and a number of other federal agencies have become so glaring that Congress may soon feel it must act despite government union bosses’ threats.
Roll-Call Vote on Reform Will Expose Big Labor Politicians’ Extremism
“The best means to address Big Labor-generated waste and inefficiency in the federal workplace and protect independent-minded civil servants’ freedom of association would be repeal of all of the monopoly-bargaining provisions in the CSRA,” said Mr. Mix.
“And Congress could take a significant, albeit modest, step in the right direction by adopting into law H.R.1658, Rep. Jody Hice’s [R-Ga.] Federal Employee Accountability Act of 2015.”
H.R.1658 would repeal the CSRA’s two “official time” provisions, and thereby mitigate the harm this law inflicts.
These “official time” provisions authorize federal employees who are part- or full-time union officials to collect their taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits for conducting union business, rather than for serving the public.
H.R.1658 would ensure that civil servants are performing the job they were hired to do, rather than working for the union on the taxpayer dime.
“Clearly, H.R.1658 represents a positive step,” commented Mr Mix. “Debates and recorded congressional votes on reform measures like Jody Hice’s Federal Employee Accountability Act are useful for several reasons.
“One significant reason is that they show just how far many federal politicians today are willing to go to please the union officials who are their paymasters.”
Personnel Agency Estimate: ‘Official Time’ Costs Federal Taxpayers $157 Million a Year
Mr. Mix added that the tireless efforts of the Committee and other citizen groups to mobilize public opposition to “official time” are “gradually making it more difficult for politicians to get away with lining Big Labor’s pockets with taxpayers’ money.”
According to the estimate of the Office of Personnel Management, the agency charged with overseeing the federal civil service, in Fiscal 2012 “official time” cost taxpayers roughly $157 million.
As Ms. MacDonald put it, federal employees spent “3.44 million hours working full-time for unions and not [doing] the jobs taxpayers hired them to do, at places like the Defense Department, the IRS, and the VA . . . .”
The VA is an especially egregious example of “official time” abuses. As Mr. Hice has said, “At a time when the need for veterans’ health care is at an all-time high,. . . there shouldn’t be over 200 employees of the VA solely dedicated to promoting union activities . . . .”
Mr. Mix added:
“Until the day Congress finally steps up to the plate and revokes the monopoly-bargaining privileges it statutorily handed to federal union bosses nearly four decades ago, taxpayers at least shouldn’t be forced to fund union-boss business under the guise of ‘official time.’
“Besides making it effectively impossible for Big Labor to get away with this taxpayer rip-off, enactment of H.R.1658 could give momentum to related taxpayer-friendly efforts to bar ‘official time’ in state and local government agencies.”