WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday praised the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold a lower court decision overturning personnel rules at the Department of Homeland Security.
“The court’s decision reaffirms the extent to which this Administration has sought to unwisely and unlawfully undermine collective bargaining and other employee rights and protections at the Department of Homeland Security,” Lieberman said. “In the wake of this ruling, the key to success in implementing the Department’s personnel system will be for the Department to work effectively with its employees and their representatives to develop a personnel system that fosters a spirit of collaboration between managers and front-line employees and that prevents arbitrary and abusive workplace practices. The Department’s critical national security mission absolutely depends on sustaining employee morale and performance, which the Department’s current rules threaten.” The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in a ruling in the case of NTEU v. Chertoff, held that the personnel regulations issued by the Department in January 2005 failed to ensure employees’ right to bargain collectively, as the Homeland Security Act requires. The Court faulted the Department’s regulations for asserting that the Department could unilaterally abrogate collective bargaining agreements, and for unlawfully limiting the scope of subjects that employees could bargain about. Lieberman wrote to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Cole James in May 2004 objecting to the proposed rules on these and other grounds. During Congressional consideration of the Homeland Security Act in 2002, Lieberman strongly protested Republican efforts to erode civil service safeguards against political and managerial abuse. In the final bill, Congress allowed the Department to make certain changes to civil service law. However, when the Department published its rules, Lieberman said the changes the department proposed could leave employees open to such abusive practices and impede the department’s mission.