Bush Slams Unions in Homeland Security Debate
George W. Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would create a new federal Homeland Security department unless it does away with the rights of federal employees at the agency to unionize and to keep civil service protections.
Bush stood in front of Mt. Rushmore as part of his campaign to persuade Americans that the security of the nation depends on preventing workers from organizing, AP reported.
"I don't want our hands tied so we cannot do the number one job you expect, which is to protect the homeland." Bush declared, saying that existing civil service and union rules saddle him with a big fat bureacratic rulebook."
Bush also linked the issue to parriotism, stating, "More and more people understand that being a patriot is more than just putting your hand over your heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance to a nation under God."
Bush faces opposition from the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. The Senate held up the legislation before its recess over the issue. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, accused Bush of turning the national security bill into a labor-management dispute. The Senate is expected to take up the Homeland Securtiy bill in early September.
The U.S. House has approved a Homeland Security bill that removes civil service protections for employees at the new agency. Mainly along party lines. House members rejected an amendment by Rep. Connie Morella, R-Maryland, that would have maintained the protections for federal employees who transfer inot the department.
In the Texas delegation, all Republican House members voted against the Morella amendment, while all but two Democrats-Reps. Ralph Hall and Charles Stenholm sided with employees on the issue. Favoring the amendment and siding with organized labor were Reps. Ken Bentsen, Lloyd Doggett, Chet Edwards, Martin Frost, Charles Gonzalez, Gnen Green, Ruben Hinojosa, Shelia Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Nick Lampson, Solomon Ortiz, Silvestre Reyes, Ciro Rodriguez, Max Sadlin and Jime Turner, Opposing the amendment and opposing organized labor were Reps. Dick Amey, Joe Barton, Henry Bonilla, Kevin Brady, Lary Combest, John Culberson, Tom Delay, Kay Granger, Hall, Sam Johnson, Ron Paul, Pete Session, Lamar Smith, Stenholm and Mac Thombery.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney pointed out that for 75 years, a bipartisan majority in Congress has supported collective bargaining rights and civil service rules for career federal empolyees.
"History has proven that guaranteeing workers their rights does not imperil national security, " Sweeney said
Texas AFL-CIO President Joe D. Gunn said Bush's position on the Homeland Security bill is an insult to the union workers who responded to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Bush cannot name one instance in which union rights or civil service rules have compromised the security of the United States, "Gunn said.
"That's because firefighters, police, medical personnel, construction crews called on for repairs and a wide array of other union members have never flashed union cards or cited contract provisions when the safety of the nation is at stake."
"Organized labor has a long, honorable record of defending the U.S Bush's suggestion that the rules protecting the fundamental dignity of workers could endanger Americans is exactly wrong," Gunn said. "Those rules are part and parcel of what make America great. Not for the first time, Bush is telling a Big Lie for political advantage and he is threatening legislation that most Americans support in order to carry out a vendetta against organized labor."