Could President Obama unionize our armed forces? Our active duty military, comprising about 1.5 million servicemen and women, cannot be unionized under current law. But our full-time national defense includes more than 700,000 civilians who are integral to our military. These civilian Defense Department employees are already almost 60 percent unionized. This means that our entire full-time military, including civilians, is more than 20 percent unionized. As former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld told me: “Even the Department of Defense has come under the influence of unions.” Government unions are on our military bases and inside the Pentagon, determining workplace rules and norms, filing grievances, and influencing personnel decisions in these sensitive job sites.
What about national-security workers? The 1978 Civil Service Reform Act explicitly bars collective bargaining among CIA, FBI, NSA, and Secret Service employees. But many staffers who work for other sensitive security agencies have already been unionized.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) baggage screeners could not bargain collectively until President Obama’s TSA Administrator, John Pistole, subjected them to unionization in 2011. Although less than 40 percent of TSA workers voted in the runoff election between two unions seeking to represent them, all 44,000 TSA baggage screeners today, and all future screeners hired will be spoken for by the winning union — the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) — absent an unlikely union-decertification election. That is how government unions work — once a union wins certification in a workplace, the union is the exclusive representative of that group of employees in perpetuity with no further vote required. Ever.
Mallory Factor is the John C. West Professor of International Politics and American Government at The Citadel. He is a political commentator, a Forbes columnist and the Senior Editor of Money and Politics for The Street.com. He is co-founder of the Monday Meeting, an influential group of conservative political leaders, journalists, donors, think tank heads, and grassroots leaders in New York City--the largest meeting of its type in America. He has written extensively on economic and financial issues for publications including the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, National Review and newspapers nationwide. He has also appeared on numerous networks and cable stations including Fox News, CNBC, and Bloomberg to discuss finance and politics.
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