Republicans’ Have A New Plan To Kill Government Employee Unions

Dave Johnson Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Republicans have tried various tactics to weaken or just get rid of unions, and that includes public employee unions. Here is the latest scheme: GOP senators are setting out to ban public employee unions, claiming they are partisan political organizations and that therefore union members are violating rules against political activity on the job just by being a part of a union.

They are specifically starting with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) because they represent Internal Revenue Service employees. Senate Finance Committee Republicans would prohibit unions at the IRS. Obviously this ban would then become a model for prohibiting unions in government agencies across the board.

Their justification is the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political campaign activity while on the job. Republicans are claiming that NTEU (which represents IRS employees) membership is a “highly partisan and left-leaning” activity, because the union had endorsed Barack Obama for president.

Government Executive reports,” Senate Republicans Propose Making IRS Independent, Non-Unionized,” has the story:

As part of their ongoing critique of federal union activity, Republicans blamed NTEU for IRS political bias. “It is virtually impossible for the IRS to maintain the reality, much less the appearance, of neutrality and fairness to all taxpayers, when a substantial number of IRS employees are members of the highly partisan and left-leaning National Treasury Employees Union,” they wrote. “At the IRS alone there are approximately 48,972 dues-paying union employees, representing 65 percent of the bargaining unit employees at the IRS. Politically, the NTEU is extremely active and twice endorsed Mr. Obama for president.”

The Washington Post’s Federal Diary, in “Republican plan to eliminate IRS union, as it elects new leadership, could threaten federal unions generally,” discusses how Republicans are going after the NTEU, and how this would lead to a wider attack on unions for government employees:

A proposal by Senate Finance Committee Republicans would prohibit unions at the Internal Revenue Service. That would cut the labor organization’s membership in half.

If this attack is successful it would decimate NTEU and leave IRS staffers without union representation. More that than, it would weaken federal unions generally by making them all vulnerable to a similar assault.

Unions Enable Working People To Fight For A Fair Share

It sounds like a slogan, but it’s just a simple fact: unions enable working people to fight for a fair share of the economic pie. By banding together, workers in unions can gather the power to make employers share the gains they receive from our economy. Unions also give regular people the power to have a voice and dignity on the job, helping keep people from being intimidated, humiliated, or exploited.

Seriously, except by banding together like that, how else are regular, working people going to be able to get those things?

We see it play out around us. When unions are weakened, those gains go to a few at the top and employees are squeezed. That is exactly what has been happening in our economy as unions have been weakened. Since the “Reagan era,” more and more of our economy’s gains have gone to fewer and fewer already-wealthy people while working people have it harder and harder. We all know that; we can all see it all around us now as unions have been weakened, the middle class is falling apart and minimum wages don’t even keep up with basic rent and food.

Republicans Hate Unions

Republicans hate unions. (Also see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and about 100,000 more…) It’s like water and oil. Republicans represent the owners of the corporations in their efforts to avoid paying good wages and providing benefits to working people so they can pocket the savings for themselves. Unions represent the interest of those working people. So Republicans have come up with scheme after scheme to weaken unions and their ability to represent regular, working people.

Republicans have pushed and all-too-often have passed so-called right-to-work laws that keep unions from collecting dues while making them continue to spend money representing nonpaying members. They have pushed so-called “paycheck protection” laws that keep unions from collecting funds from members that can be used for political purposes and in some cases try to ban unions from political activities on behalf of their members. They have engaged in show-trial criminal investigations designed to make it appears as though unions are corrupt and run by what they brand as “union bosses.” They even oppose putting up posters in workplaces to let working people know what their rights are.

Scheme after scheme, always trying to limit the power of working people to band together so they can have enough power to fight back and ask for dignity, decent pay and benefits, and decent working conditions.

So here we go again. Republicans, backed by corporate, Wall Street and billionaire cash are about to launch one more attack on the rights of working people to join together, so they don’t have to fight for dignity and wages alone and on their own.


This has been reposted from the Campaign for America's Future.

Johnson also is a fellow at the Commonwealth Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream. Follow Dave Johnson on Twitter: