Sunday, August 14, 2005

Michael: Judge Blocks Homeland Security's Work Rules

The work rules passed under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, stripping our federal first responders of their rights of contract and to collectively bargain, have been suspended by U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer. The Judge wrote (pdf), "The regulations fail because any collective bargaining negotiations pursuant to its terms are illusory: the secretary retains numerous avenues by which s/he can unilaterally declare contract terms null and void, without prior notice to the unions or employees and without bargaining or recourse."

This exactly what Democrats were warning of in 2002 when the Homeland Security Department was being stitched together and Bush decided to politicize the contract rights of federal first responders for the GOP's jingoistic purposes. Indeed, it is standing up for the principle that we ought to treat our first responders with respect and fairness, that got a real hero, Max Cleland, demonized as a bin Laden supporter, kicked out of his Senate seat, and replaced by the courage-challenged GOP jellyfish Saxby Chamblis.

With other labor unions having filed challenges to a Pentagon plan to revise DoD rules in a similar fashion, it won't be much longer before the Bush Administration's particular genre of federal employee union-busting is found to be not only reprehensible and unfair (which we already knew), but also quite illegal.

As is too often the case with today's GOP, this Administration not only failed America's first responders, they failed to stand for the laudable principles that conservativism has always stood for, because those principles had become politically inexpedient. In this case, the GOP pushed with reckless abandon for a law that made a mockery of the sanctity of contract. As the court wrote, "[w]hen good-faith bargaining leads to a contract that one side can disavow without remedy, the right to engage in collective bargaining ab initio is illusory." That is just unfair, and certainly not in keepin with conservative values, however you might choose to try to justify it.

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