Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuberculosis Vaccine for CBP

As an invited witness at a hearing on Wednesday 23 May 2007 before the House Ways and Means Committee, Colleen M. Kelley, the President of the National Treasury Employees Union, attempted to stop the IRS from farming out the collection function to private debt collectors, and spoke extensively about the effectiveness, diligence and competence of the IRS workforce. I'm 100% behind her on that score. While nobody actually likes the IRS, most rational people understand the necessity for collecting the taxes. And during my time with the IRS, I certainly never encountered any IRS employee of any rank or position who had any misconceptions whatsoever regarding the intended function of the IRS. Social unpopularity comes with the job.

Understand that the real test of an effective union is how well it can protect the rights of its membership after the contract has been negotiated and is in place. Federal employees are not permitted to strike, and their salaries and benefits are largely determined by Congress, and not at the bargaining table. But the unions can make a big difference in the quality of work life, and in job security. Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar forbade her subjects to appear in her dreams, under pain of death, and similarly, Federal supervisors and managers have often destroyed employees' careers, reputations and lives based upon little more than unsupported speculations in their fictive imaginations regarding the employees' alleged wrongdoings. This is especially true at an agency such as the IRS, where there is a culture of secrecy, and the Personnel Management people take a laissez faire attitude towards the actions of management. NTEU helps to level the playing field for the non-supervisory employee.

Shortly before Colleen Kelley's testimony at the Ways & Means hearing, the NTEU was designated as the representative union for the employees of the Bureau of Customs & Border Protection. This, of course, was a feather in Kelley's cap, and was also good news for the CBPers, for the NTEU is probably the most effective union representing Federal employees, and, while by no means devoid of the leftist partisan politics typical of labor unions, does not reek of the leftist stench quite as much as most other unions.

But with the triumph of winning the representation battle come the burdens and responsibilities of representing the employees who are members of the bargaining unit. And so, Colleen, as president of the NTEU, has been infected by Andrew Speaker's case of tuberculosis. Specifically, the CBP inspector who disregarded the warning and allowed Speaker to cross the border at Champlain, N.Y, is now one of Colleen's boys, and the NTEU must now defend him in whatever disciplinary actions may be taken against him. Quite appropriately, neither the NTEU nor Colleen Kelley are publicly discussing the case.

The Andrew Speaker affair has all kinds of interesting -- and troubling -- angles and perspectives. As it implicates the NTEU, I see it as follows:
"The unidentified inspector explained that he was no doctor but that the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely discretionary, officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press." Unlike the IRS, the CBP does not have a definitive collective sense of what its mission really is. There is now pressure on CBP to get all of its employees on the same page of the script with regards to its purpose an mission.

And what better way to do that, than to make an example of the poor, clueless shmuck who perfunctorily let Speaker into the country with his TB infection? CBP is now erecting the gallows for a public hanging. How well the NTEU controls the damage while, at the same time, keeping its hands reasonably clean, is now Colleen Kelley's big test.

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