Bush strips collective bargaining rights from ATF


In a late-term executive order that has a major union crying foul, President Bush has excluded about 1,500 employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from collective bargaining.

In the Dec. 1 order, Bush listed 37 agencies or offices, including ATF, that “have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative or national security work.” National security requirements mean employees at those agencies cannot have collective bargaining rights, Bush said.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents ATF employees, called the order outrageous and unjustified, and promised to work to overturn Bush’s move. NTEU President Colleen Kelley said there is no reason to exclude ATF from collective bargaining units for national security reasons:

NTEU represents a number of employees involved with law enforcement and homeland security. In more than 30 years, collective bargaining has never interfered with agency missions, and in fact has created strong, professional and stable work forces.

Bush’s order would also exclude employees at the Tax and Trade Bureau’s Trade Analysis and Enforcement Division, which NTEU also represents, from collective bargaining.

The Bush administration’s relationship with unions has been contentious at best, as I described in one of this week’s cover stories. Yesterday’s order shows that conflict is likely to continue until Bush’s last day in office.

And it’s unclear what the long-term effect of this order will be. President-elect Barack Obama is a strong supporter of union rights for federal employees, and has pledged to expand collective bargaining to agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration. Obama could overturn Bush’s order when he takes office.


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