Monday, August 13, 2007

Having It Both Ways



I ran across an article from GOVEXEC.com (yes, I’m still trying to catch up) that highlighted a point I’ve wanted to make for some time.

” This legislation will make a real difference in the safety of our highways and rails," said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based nonprofit public interest group. "Whistleblowers are America's first line of defense -- literally where the rubber meets the road.“

So far, so good. But later on -- in the same article, talking about the same legislation -- you run into this little tidbit.

”Meanwhile, a provision that would have granted collective bargaining rights to thousands of airport screeners at the Transportation Security Administration did not make it back into the final law. Both the House and Senate had agreed to the language in their initial versions of the bill, but last month Senate Democrats agreed to strip the collective bargaining provision in order to move the legislation to conference negotiations.

So, let me see if I’ve got this right. America wants the benefit it receives from whistleblowers by having them point out the wrongs and the problems they might encounter while conducting The People’s business...but America doesn’t want those same individuals to be protected by a union from the same types of abuses directed at the employees themselves. Protect us but don’t protect yourself. Is that right ?

Something isn’t quite right about this picture. That “something” would be the Bush Administration.

”Some lawmakers have argued it was worth dropping the provision -- which was not included in the 9/11 Commission's recommendations -- to get the rest of the bill enacted. President Bush had threatened to veto the measure, citing opposition to the TSA provision.”

Politics is all about the art of the “possible.” Legislating involves compromise. We all understand this. This is how our government works. I just think it important to notice where we are willing to compromise and where we aren’t.

Whistleblowers are an important protection in Government. You might have heard of Daniel Ellsberg and by now you may know of Mark Felt. But can you tell me who Bunny Greenhouse or Joseph Darby is ? You might want to read a little about each of those. Especially Joseph Darby.

Bargaining rights are no less important. President Bush was willing to extend whistleblower protections...hey...wait a minute. That isn’t right. If President Bush and the Republican Congress had wanted to protect the American public by giving workers whistleblower protection it would have been put in the law when it was written -- shortly after 9/11. Remember that ? The Federal Government took the job of airport security screening away from private industry because private industry failed to protect the American Public.

That means the real story is that President Bush (and the Republicans) were willing to compromise about whistleblowers but they weren’t budging on unions. That ought to tell you something.

Don Brown
August 13, 2007

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