Year in Review of the Bush Record 2002

December 2002
Appoints Postal Service Privatization Commission
President Bush appointed a nine-member commission, with no representative from any postal union, to study the United States Postal Service as part of his plan, according to The Washington Post, "to allow private contractors to compete for nearly half of the government's civilian jobs." The Postal Service employs about 750,000 workers at 38,000 facilities. The commission is "a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle the Postal Service as we know it. The president's action puts into motion the most serious threat in 200 years to modify the underpinnings of the U.S. Postal Service, including universal service, uniform rates and six-day-a-week delivery," said Postal Workers President William Burrus. The lack of a postal union representative on the commission continues a Bush administration pattern of excluding workers' representatives on government panels studying workplace issues.

Proposes repeal of family-friendly unemployment benefits rule
The Bush administration announced in December its intention to repeal a rule that allows states to use unemployment compensation funds to provide benefits to workers who must leave their jobs temporarily to care for newborn or newly adopted children. The Birth and Adoption Unemployment Compensation rule-also known as the "Baby UI" rule-that took in effect in 2000 is completely voluntary for states that are exploring new ways to help working families balance work and family requirements. No state has implemented such a program, but in 2001, bills were introduced in 20 state legislatures to establish birth and adoption unemployment benefit programs. A number of states are considering options for providing paid leave to workers, and California adopted the nation's first such program earlier this year. The Bush action follows the failure of administration and Republican congressional leaders to extend unemployment benefits to close to 800,000 workers who will exhaust their UI benefits three days after Christmas.

Revives cash bonuses for political appointees
In March, the Bush administration overturned a ban on cash bonus awards to political appointees in federal government patronage jobs but did not publicly announce the change. News reports brought the action to light in December. Such awards were banned under White House policy in 1994 because of past abuse and favoritism including, according to The Washington Post, "questionable payments to some outgoing aides in the final days of the administration of President George H.W. Bush, the president's father." About, 2,100 political appointees are eligible for awards of up to $25,000. Total awards could exceed $25 million. The action came to light just days after Bush announced he was withholding a quarter of the pay adjustment career federal employees were to receive in 2003. "Whether it's tax cuts for the rich or privatizing 850,000 jobs to boost the fortunes of contractors, this administration knows how to enrich the rich and to impoverish working families," said AFGE President Bobby L. Harnage Sr.

Shuts workers, unions out of most safety studies
The Bush administration announced formation of a national advisory committee on ergonomics Dec. 4 to study causes and methods to prevent workplace ergonomic injuries that hurt some 1.8 million workers a year. But for the first time in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 32-year history, a workplace safety advisory committee did not contain an equal number of union and management representatives. Two union safety staff members were appointed, compared with seven management representatives. The Bush administration also has formed several "alliances" in specific industries, such as meatpacking, airlines, printing and others, to study workplace safety, but none of those alliances include union or worker representatives. In fact, many of the corporations tapped to serve on the ergonomics advisory board and the alliances opposed creation of a federal ergonomics standard to prevent workplace repetitive motion injuries and were instrumental in the law's repeal when Bush took control of the government.

Allowed jobless workers to lose unemployment benefits

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, with backing from the Bush administration, in a straight party-line vote rejected a Democratic economic stimulus proposal that would have extended the emergency federal unemployment benefits program for long-term laid-off workers for another six months and added 13 weeks of regular benefits for jobless workers in all states. The Republican plan, backed by the Bush administration, would help the jobless in only three states, would do nothing to help the long-term unemployed workers who already have exhausted their benefits and would deny any benefits to 2.9 million laid-off workers who are expected to run out of emergency and regular benefits in the next six months.

November 2002
Announced plans to privatize federal workforce
The Bush administration announced plans Nov. 14 to make it easier to eliminate federal jobs and contract the work out to private companies. Proposed changes to the rules that govern contracting out-OMB Circular A-76-will give private companies the advantage over federal workers in the private-public competition process. Of the 850,000 jobs the Bush administration hopes to put up for bid eventually, the White House has set a goal to bid out at least 15 percent, or 127,500, by October 2003, according to news reports. Leaders of the largest federal workers union, AFGE, said they would reserve final judgment on the proposal until they have a chance to examine its detail, but said they view it with skepticism because "Bush administration officials are at war with reliable and experienced rank-and-file federal employees. They are systematically conspiring to bust their unions, gut their civil service protections and hand over their jobs to politically well-connected contractors."

October 2002
Asked Fire Fighters member to resign from valor commission because of union affiliation
When the Bush White House asked Prince Georges County, Md., Fire Fighters Local 1619 President Thomas McEachin to resign his appointment to its Medal of Valor Commission-a group that recognizes firefighters and other public safety officers for service above and beyond the call of duty-because of his IAFF affiliation, he refused. So this October the administration simply removed him. The White House asked McEachin to resign because IAFF leaders criticized the Bush administration's opposition to the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Firefighters Act-which will provide money for 75,000 additional firefighters nationwide-as well as additional funding for the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act and money to monitor the health of firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center. "This was a real eye-opener for me," said McEachin. "My removal smacks of retribution and pettiness on the part of the administration."

Uses Taft-Hartley to intervene in West Coast dock lockout

In an unprecedented move, the Bush administration invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to intervene in a lockout at the nation's West Coast ports. President George W. Bush secured a court order Oct. 8 ordering the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to temporarily end its lockout of 10,500 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports and ordering work to resume without a contract. The court later continued the injunction as an 80-day cooling off period during which work is to continue. From the beginning of the contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the PMA, Bush has threatened to use federal power to intervene in the talks. Bush's threats "tainted the water of negotiations, giving employers no incentive to engage in good-faith bargaining," AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said. This is the first time Taft-Hartley has been used since 1978 and the first time ever in a lockout.

Ducks hearings on Social Security privatization
When the Senate Finance Committee held hearings Oct. 3 on three options President Bush's Social Security privatization commission endorsed last December, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was absent, having rejected two requests to testify before the committee. Bush created the commission in 2001, handpicking proponents of diverting a portion of payroll taxes away from Social Security and into individual, private accounts. Despite the ongoing stock market collapse and corporate scandals in which workers lost their retirement security, Bush reportedly still supports privatization and hopes for action in the next year, after the elections. "Secretary O'Neill's absence deprives the American people of the information they deserve about exactly what privatization action the president plans to pursue," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

Opposes funds for firefighters
President Bush is opposing a request by fire chiefs, unions and lawmakers to use federal money to help fire departments hire more personnel. The Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs are seeking a federal grant to help communities with understaffed departments hire 75,000 new firefighters over the next seven years at a cost of $7.6 billion. Bush has proposed spending $3.5 billion for police officers, firefighters and other first responders in the next fiscal year, with most of the money going for training and equipment. "All the right equipment in the world and all the training isn't really of much value if you don't have adequate numbers of personnel to perform their mission," said IAFF President Harold Schaitberger.

Sept-May April-Jan

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