Rumsfeld Assault on Pentagon Workers Rights Rejected By Federal Judge

Donald Rumsfeld has been leading an effort to “reform” the Defense Department’s personnel system. On June 4, 2003, he testified to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that the new system would preserve bargaining rights for Pentagon employees:

[T]he National Security Personnel System we are proposing…will not end collective bargaining. … To the contrary, the right of defense employees to bargain collectively would be continued. What it would do is bring collective bargaining to the national level so that the Department could negotiate with national unions instead of dealing with more than 1,300 different union locals, a process that is inefficient.

Unfortunately for Rumsfeld, the Homeland Security Department had already tried this scheme and been rejected. The judge in that case batted down the argument that government agencies can strip away bargaining rights in the interest of “flexibility”:

Congress made protection of the right to bargain collectively an independent statutory requirement. It did not give the Agencies discretion to sacrifice collective bargaining in the interests of flexibility, any more than it authorized them to rely upon “flexibility” to waive merit system principles or other rights.


Today, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan agreed with the reasoning in the Homeland Security Department case. He rejected the argument made by Rumsfeld in 2003, finding that the new Pentagon personnel system violates the law:

[A]s was the case in Chertoff I, this Court concludes that…the new rule fails to ensure even minimal collective bargaining rights.

It’s a big victory for the 700,000 Pentagon employees working to defend our country, who deserve better than to have their own Defense Secretary trying to strip away their rights.