Sunday, January 30, 2011

The insidiousness of this regime. Protecting workers is one thing, this is not that.

Britain's economy nearly came to a standstill in the late 1970s as a result of a contagion known as the British disease -- endless work stoppages, slowdowns and strikes called by militant trade unions. Company owners and managers had to secure prior approval from union bosses before carrying out even the most routine workplace tasks. As a result, productivity plummeted, and exports of once-popular British products like cars and motorcycles dropped sharply or disappeared entirely. Economic growth stagnated, investors fled overseas, and the country's standard of living declined. The fever was broken only after voters awarded Margaret Thatcher with a massive Tory landslide in 1979. She then "broke" the unions during the ensuing miners strike, enabling her to push major reforms through Parliament, including new limits on trade unionism and its power in the management of British firms.

Sadly, an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009 has injected a massive dose of the British disease into the daily operation of the federal government. Executive Order 13522 is innocuously titled "Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services." The reality is that the only thing improved will be the ability of federal employee union bosses to tell managers of government departments and agencies what they can and cannot do. What makes this an even more extraordinary turn of events, however, is the fact the Obama administration has empowered union bosses to exercise this new power behind closed doors without fear of exposure via the Freedom of Information Act.

The Obama executive order established the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, which oversees implementation of the new policy with labor-management forums within federal departments and agencies. The forums are the formal vehicle by which the union bosses -- who may or may not be federal employees -- will impose their will on federal managers, including Cabinet secretaries and independent agency heads. According to a recently distributed guidance memorandum signed by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients, federal managers must "allow pre-decisional involvement with unions in all workplace matters to the fullest extent practicable, without regard to whether those matters are negotiable subjects of bargaining."

Use of the term "pre-decisional" means documents produced prior to a specific policy decision are exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. And requiring federal managers to involve union bosses on all matters regardless of whether they are negotiable under the law effectively gives them a veto on virtually any workplace issue. Such power represents the essence of the British disease and thanks to Obama, it's now established policy in the federal workplace. It took the trade unions less than two decades to bring Britain to her knees. It probably won't take America's federal employee unions that long to accomplish the same result in government.

Obama put union bosses in charge of federal agencies, then exempted them from FOIA

President Obama is garnering lots of critical attention for his recently signed executive order directing federal agencies to conduct what appears to be a purely symbolic review their regulations for their economic impact, but another presidential document he signed nearly two years ago is anything but figurative.

The document is Executive Order 13522, aka "Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services." As RedState's Labor Union Report notes, this EO was signed when the nation was distracted by the Obamacare debate.

What the EO means, however, is that Obama "has turned over a significant portion of the Executive Branch of the United States government to union bosses." This could be the most significant federal policy decision regarding federal labor-management relations since President Kennedy signed the first EO in 1962 granting representatial rights to federal employee unions.

RedState quotes from a guidance document distributed recently to federal political appointees and career civil service managers that stipulates the following:

"As stated in the Executive Order, 'Management should discuss workplace challenges and problems with labor and endeavor to develop solutions jointly, rather than advise union representatives of predetermined solutions to problems and then engage in bargaining over the impact and implementation of the predetermined solutions.'

"Therefore, it is imperative that management immediately engage unions on an ongoing basis consistent with the spirit and intent of the Executive Order."

In other words, Obama has given veto power on federal policy to the bosses running the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

As dangerous and destructive as that decision is, I guess nobody should be surprised that Obama and his advisors were careful to write the EO in such a manner as to exempt agencies under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from having to disclose documents that shed light on how this new management process actually functions.

As RedState notes, the EO states that "agencies should also allow predecisional involvement with unions in all workplace matters to the fullest extent practicable, without regard to whether those matters are negotiable subjects of bargaining under 5 U.S.C. 7106."

The key word there is "pre-decisional." That puts agency documents concerning implementation of the EO under the FOIA's Exemption Five, the executive privilege exemption. Under Exemption Five, federal agencies are usually allowed by the federal courts to exempt from disclosure any document held to be part of the "pre-decisional" process by which agency managers arrived at a particular policy.

Go here for FOIAdvocates explanation of the nine statuatory exemptions under the FOIA, including number five.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the exemption is to protect federal officials and encourage them to provide their most candid advice to decision-makers. In practice, the pre-decisional exemption is routinely used by federal bureaucrats and political leaders to shield from public exposure documents that reveal the influence of special interests.

Special interests like federal employee unions.

Go here for RedState's excellent explication and discussion of this very disturbing development.

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