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Representing Professionals in Science, Engineering and TechnologyHarvard Law School September 9-10, 2008 Experience at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Unions Representing Environmental Professionals at U. S. EPA • American Federation of Government Employees • National Treasury Employees Union • National Association of Government Employees • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO • National Association of Independent Labor
Civil Service Oath – in part • I ……..do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,……..and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter….
Headquarters Professionals Organize • An avowedly penurious, anti-environmental and anti-labor administration takes power in 1981. • Professionals at EPA HQ, cognizant of their Civil Service oath, anticipate attempts to manipulate their professional work to suit an agenda contrary to existing environmental laws. • EPA professionals fear not only for their job security, but for their professional honor.
What Defense to Mount? • Reaching out to natural allies among the public. • Organizing a professional association. • Organizing a labor union. Unions have statutory and case law rights, so a union is the way to go. (later, natural allies flock to the new Union for help, then give us support when we need it!)
A Non-Traditional Labor Union for EPA HQ Professionals • We make it a matter of working conditions rights to be able to perform our work without succumbing to political pressure. • Later, this evolves to a more clearly expressed right to conform to our Civil Service oath of office. • Those who attempt to suborn us to subvert the law make of themselves domestic enemies.
Some Hightlights • 1985 Asbestos Rule Fight – OMB secretly quashed an EPA/CPSC/OSHA-agreed upon effort o control asbestos risks with TSCA §6 rules. The union helped bring OMB’s role to light; an MOU between EPA and OMB repudiated future rulemaking secrecy. • 1986 Fluoride Drinking Water Standards – contrary to law, EPA plays the “good federal soldier” in setting a standard protecting water fluoridation; union files amicus brief
Hightlights (Con’t) • 1988 – Hundreds of EPA HQ employees are sickened by carpet emissions in they workplace. Media coverage leads to hundreds more complaints to union from the public of similar illnesses. Union develops plan to mitigate risks, eventually files citizen petition and lawsuit seeking EPA action to protect the public. A long battle ensues, as in the fluoride case, with some success.
Highlights (Con’t) • 1990 Fluoride exhibits “clear evidence of carcinogenicity in male rats” in a government study, signaling the end of national water fluoridation program. But the finding is overturned by a special review committee, causing William Marcus, union Executive Board member and Office of Drinking Water Senior Toxicologist, to object. Dr. Marcus is fired.
Hightlights (Con’t) • 1993 – EPA National Partnership Council (NPC) formed, bringing all of EPA’s unions into close contact and cooperation for the first time. • 1994 Dr. Marcus wins reinstatement lawsuit. • 1999 NPC moves EPA to adopt Principles of Scientific Integrity (PSI) – since endorsed by every Administrator.
Not-So-Highlights…. • After a surge in membership immediately following representational election victory and toxic carpet wins, dues-paying membership levels off at 10-20% of bargaining unit. • 1999 EPA declares PSI to be a “non- grievable” policy statement when HQ professionals’ union files a grievance.
Not-So-Highlights (Con’t) • 2001 – 2008 George W. Bush rescinds President Clinton’s Partnership Executive Order (But EPA Administrators nevertheless maintain a semblance of partnership with unions. Unions begin active collaboration in defense of the Civil Service Oath. • 2008 – After years of frustration with Bush appointed Assistant Administrators (for labor), unions formally withdraw from moribund NPC, and become ever more active in defense of the Civil Service Oath.
The Present • July 2008 – Unions, building on previous joint actions on administration failures such as interference with EPA risk communications after 9/11 attacks in New York, ignoring human cancer findings on fluoride, organophosphate pesticide risk assessments and control measures, and subversion of staff work on global warming rulemaking, are together and up in arms. • Survey underway asking employees, among 4 questions, “Should Administrator Johnson resign?”