Bush Executive Order Excluding Some Federal Employees From Labor Relations Program: A Tempest in a Teapot

December 3, 2008 3:14 PM
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What evil lurks in the heart of outgoing president Bush? NTEU knows. It is always fun to watch the pure silliness of some Washington reactions to events, in this case by the National Treasury Employees Union to President Bush’s recent Executive Order excluding certain organizations from the coverage of the Federal labor relations statute.

Since the law was enacted in 1978 and became effective in 1979, every president (including the Democrats) has acted to exclude groups of Federal employees from the law. The pertinent provision (5 USC §7103(b)) states:

(1) The President may issue an order excluding any agency or subdivision thereof from coverage under this chapter if the President determines that—
(A) the agency or subdivision has as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work, and
(B) the provisions of this chapter cannot be applied to that agency or subdivision in a manner consistent with national security requirements and considerations.
(2) The President may issue an order suspending any provision of this chapter with respect to any agency, installation, or activity located outside the 50 States and the District of Columbia, if the President determines that the suspension is necessary in the interest of national security.

The mother of all exclusion Executive Orders was the one all the rest have amended. Published by Jimmy Carter on November 19, 1979, Executive Order 12171 kicked tens of thousands of Federal employees out of statutory coverage. The other Presidents who used this authority never reached these heights. Bush, a literal piker by Carter standards, affected less than a thousand currently organized workers.

Even Bill Clinton used this authority, and in doing so, was accused by some conspiracy theorists of a nefarious attempt to cover up some allegedly crucial facts related to the crash of TWA Flight 800.

But if we’re going to castigate President Bush, who certainly wants to get out of DC even more than those who want him out, perhaps we should petition for the return of Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Prize or condemnation of Bill Clinton as the closet union hater he most assuredly must have been to order such obviously anti-union nasty things. Union folks, get a grip, it’s not about you. It’s about national security.

For a little light reading, check out the other Executive Orders excluding positions and organizations from coverage of the statute. They are EO 12338, January 11, 1982; EO 12410, March 28, 1983; EO 12559, May 20, 1986; EO 12632, March 23, 1988; EO 12666, January 12, 1989; EO 12671, March 14, 1989; EO 12681, July 6, 1989; EO 12693, September 29, 1989; EO 13039, March 11, 1997; EO 13252, January 7, 2002; EO 13381, June 27, 2005; and EO 13467, June 30, 2008.

Since this article may be construed as clearly and blatantly anti-union, I will again make it clear that any opinion expressed herein is mine and mine alone.

© 2021 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.


About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.