A new Department of Defense proposal governing work rules for department employees is disturbingly familiar, say many federal union activists.
The Pentagon introduced its “Force for the Future” proposal earlier this fall. Critics say it weakens collective bargaining rights, while giving management a blank check when it comes to hiring, wages and promotions.
“We could lose a lot of our existing rights,” said IBEW Government Employees Department Director Dennis Phelps. “It’s basically a re-rollout of the old National Security Personnel System.”
The NSPS were Bush-era Defense Department personnel rules that effectively denied bargaining and civil service rights to more than 700,000 federal workers.
The rules were criticized by many federal observers, including the Defense Business Board – an independent body that makes recommendations to the Defense Secretary – which in 2009 issued a report saying that NSPS lacked transparency and exacerbated tensions between labor and management.
Unions representing federal workers, including the IBEW, fought NSPS for years, before the program was finally dismantled by the Obama administration in 2012.
While union leaders are still examining the full effects of the latest Defense Department proposal, one section stands out.
It would transfer the bulk of the non-union civilian workforce from Title 5 of the United States code, which covers most civilian workers, to Title 10, which covers military employees.
The net effect would be to deny collective bargaining rights for all Defense Department employees not already organized.
The American Federation of Government Employees and the United Defense Workers’ Coalition – which represents more than 30 labor unions, including the IBEW – are studying the changes in further detail.