The National Treasury Employees Union continues its three-day Legislative Conference here in Washington today. Over 400 members from across the country are on Capitol Hill, lobbying Congress on their union’s priorities for the next several years.
Yesterday, the opening session of the conference was one more opportunity to celebrate the inauguration of a President that NTEU President Colleen Kelley says considers federal workers an asset rather than a liability.
Just a few weeks ago, I received an invitation to join President Obama and Vice President Biden with other labor leaders at the White House. Vice President Biden welcomed labor back to the White House, and President Obama told us that he doesn’t see labor as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.
During her speech to more than 400 NTEU leaders in town for the legislative conference, Kelley outlined a number of priorities for the year ahead with a new President and a Congress where Democrats hold an edge, however narrow, in both houses. She noted a top priority that has been on the front burner for NTEU for several years now.
We must achieve collective bargaining rights for TSA (Transportation Security Administration) employees. We need to restore collective bargaining rights to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) employees, who had those rights stripped from them in November just a few weeks before the administration left town. And we must insure that across Homeland Security and the federal government, employees have the statutory right to organize and to bargain, as those in the private sector do.
Kelley says there are other priorities, including a return to something good from a previous administration.
We also need to insure affordable health care for all federal workers, so that pay raises are not consumed by premium increases. And we have to encourage family-friendly policies, like paid parental leave, and increasing the age for coverage of dependents under the FEHB program.
We also have to look after our federal retirees and to eliminate the unfair policies that penalize those who dedicate their lives to public service.
We also need to return to labor-management partnerships. It’s a return to collaboration, where workplace issues can be solved on the front lines through cooperative efforts between employees and their managers and their unions working together.
Also addressing the NTEU conference’s opening, New York Representative Edolphus Towns, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, backing another union priority: the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure which would change the way workers can hold a vote for union representation.
Speaking to reporters after Towns’ address, NTEU’s Kelley also says she hopes that by week’s end, the Internal Revenue Service will finally close the books on what she calls a failed program to outsource the tax collection to private companies.