On the Daily Show, they call him “Still-President Bush” because while the Lame Duck in Chief may be MIA when it comes to the nation’s economic crisis, he’s still capable of plenty of damage. Today’s exhibit: a new Executive Order stripping nearly 9,000 public employees of their right to join or belong to a union. Among them are 1,500 employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau who have already been represented by the National Treasury Employees Union for thirty years and will now lose their representation. According to the President, it has suddenly become inconsistent with “national security requirements and considerations” to allow these public employees to continue bargaining over their pay rates and work schedules.
Thankfully, President-Elect Obama has a different position. In a recently released letter to the American Federation of Government Employees, Obama argued that “collective bargaining rights ensure that federal agencies run as effectively as possible and are able to focus on protecting our national security.” By enabling public employees to negotiate their day-to-day workplace issues, agencies like the Transportation Security Administration (which Bush has barred from unionizing since he created it) may be able to reduce their high turnover rates and retain experienced staff, an outcome that just may make us a bit safer. In other words, Bush’s most recent curtailment of union rights should be one more policy change for the incoming president to overturn.
Coincidentally, the Center for Economic Policy Research released the latest study in its series on the impact of union membership today. While it’s silent on the issue of national security, the report has a great deal to say about economic security – specifically that of female workers. Working women who are union members make more than 11% more than their non-union counterparts and are more likely to have health insurance and a pension. Previous CEPR studies have explored how unions benefit young workers, Latinos, and African Americans.