As I read FedSmith the other day, I caught a link to the New York Post which reported this headline: “Fed unions vow: We’ll get payback”. As I read the article, I was struck by the ignorance demonstrated by the reporting and it occurred to me that of the big apple newspapers, this must be the one that prints all the news that fits. The best line in the piece was “The dreaded federal spending cuts set to start tomorrow won’t reap any budget savings from furloughing government workers — if their powerful union gets its way” (my emphasis).
I figured that maybe they meant the National Air traffic Controllers Assn., the National Treasury Employees Union or the American Federation of Government Employees was pounding the table. Almost everybody in the business recognizes that these guys have some clout, largely due to the current administration’s belief (somewhat silly) that they can deliver a vote. As I read on, I realized the Post was talking about the National Federation of Federal Employees and that the piece was likely a story fed them by NFFE’s press office. The powerful and prestigious union leader identified was apparently none other than NFFE’s communications director, one Cory Bythrow.
I’m sure Cory’s a nice guy, loves his family and is a loyal unionist but he ain’t no George Meany, no offense intended. And, of course, NFFE ain’t the powerful union the article credits it with being. My intent is not to beat up on NFFE, just to point out that the mass media often can’t even get the players right when it comes to the Federal government.
Just What Payback Was NFFE Talking About?
If Cory was talking about back pay for a furlough, employees will likely only get it under two circumstances. First, on appeal, the MSPB must find fault with the procedures an Agency used or, second, the Congress must pass a law as it has done prior shutdowns. It is certain that NTEU will file a lawsuit on the matter as is its historical function. Lack of money furloughs are tough to win.
Cory needs to be a little careful if he meant something else. While these times may be tough for Federal employees, the unions need to be careful about getting caught up in the rhetoric of the moment and implying options are available that are not. Thirty two years ago this October, one federal union lost its recognition after losing its perspective. An entire generation of Agency and union representatives now works in the business of Federal labor relations. With that in mind, it might be a wise idea for the both to dust off their copy of the statute and look at two specific provisions.
Federal Reps Might Want to look at the Law
The first is 5 U.S. Code § 7114(b)(7) which states; “For the purpose of this chapter, it shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor organization— (A) to call, or participate in, a strike, work stoppage, or slowdown, or picketing of an agency in a labor-management dispute if such picketing interferes with an agency’s operations, or (B) to condone any activity described in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph by failing to take action to prevent or stop such activity…”
The second is 5 U.S. Code § 7120(f) which holds: “ In the case of any labor organization which by omission or commission has willfully and intentionally, with regard to any strike, work stoppage, or slowdown, violated section7116 (b)(7) of this title, the Authority shall, upon an appropriate finding by the Authority of such violation— (1) revoke the exclusive recognition status of the labor organization, which shall then immediately cease to be legally entitled and obligated to represent employees in the unit; or (2) take any other appropriate disciplinary action.”
Also worth a read is an old FLRA decision, 7 FLRA No. 10 of October 22, 1981, which held as follows: “In summary, the statute, in the facts and circumstances of this case, plainly requires revocation of PATCO’s status as the exclusively recognized representative of the employees in the nationwide bargaining unit of air traffic control specialists employed by FAA. Further, the statute dictates that as of this date PATCO is no longer a labor organization within the meaning of section 7103(a)(4).”
One can only hope that this lesson of history is not lost on this generation.
As always, any opinion expressed above is my sole responsibility.