|6:56 PM EDT||
Jay Inslee, D-WA 1st
Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment brought by myself and my colleagues, Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Jones, seeks to protect very basic job securities for Department of Defense employees by blocking funds for those parts of the National Security Personnel System that have been declared illegal. The workplace environment that would result if this amendment does not pass, that results in destroying basic worker rights; jeopardizes our ability to recruit and maintain qualified,
skilled workers to protect our national security. These are hardworking men and women. They deserve our gratitude, they deserve our respect, they deserve a personnel system that respects their work and complies with principles that we hold forth.
I have got to tell you, I just want to note who we are talking about here. These are the men and women who make sure that our equipment works. When I went out and saw the Carl Vinson, one of our great carriers coming back from the Afghanistan campaign, the sailors asked me to thank the people who worked on that carrier to see to it that it could launch 10,000 sortees without losing an airplane.
These people are part of the defense team. They deserve respect. But, unfortunately, the current situation does not give them either respect or fairness in the personnel system.
It is worth noting that the Office of Personnel Management questioned the legitimacy of this new program in March 2004 in a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld and said, ``The current system may be contrary to law insofar as it attempts to replace collective bargaining with consultation and eliminate collective bargaining agreements all together. In addition, other elements of the proposal lack a clear and defensible national security nexus and jeopardize those parts that do.''
Now, this is not just us speaking; it is the Federal courts. At the beginning of this year, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan ruled that the NSPS system failed to ``ensure even minimal collective bargaining rights.'' The court further enjoined the National Security Labor Relations Board on the grounds that it did not satisfy congressional requirement for independent third-party review. It has been declared illegal.
Now, one might assume after such a ruling had come down that the Pentagon would attempt to fix the problem and that the administration would do so, but in fact that has gone on after 3 years. They are essentially snubbing their noses at collective bargaining rights, at civil service rights, at the right to know whether you are discharged or what your discharge would be, basic fundamental rights that we ought to give to the people who are critical members of the defense team.
That is why we bring this amendment, to preserve the right to be free from discrimination based on political opinion, something that our Civil Service rules need to protect; and the right to collective bargaining, to engage in collective bargaining in good faith; the right to due process for advance notice of suspension and some meaningful appeal rights for people who work on the defense team.
So we are offering a commonsense amendment that will recognize that we should not be forcing this broken system that has been ruled illegal for people who are doing such great work for us, keeping our uniformed personnel on the post in Iraq and Afghanistan. We commend this amendment to our colleagues' attention.