When Ty Owens walked into his local Social Security office in Manassas, Va., for help, he had to wait in line for five hours. If Donald Trump and his Health and Human Services Secretary, former drug company executive Alex Azar, have their way, that wait could get a lot longer. That’s because Azar’s operatives, after one 10-minute “bargaining” session in June with the Treasury Employees, who represent 14,000 HHS workers, threw their regressive demands on the table, gave the union two weeks to yield, then got up, walked out and declared an “impasse” in negotiations. That would let Trump’s government impose their “contract” on the union and would lead to longer lines and lesser quality service as federal workers depart in droves. It also brought Owens, president of NTEU Local 229 at HHS headquarters and dozens of his colleagues out into the HHS headquarters driveway for a noontime protest on Oct. 25. The HHS workers wielded hand-made signs such as “Public service deserves public respect” and “We’ve come so far. Don’t take it back, Azar!” They drew dozens of sympathetic honks from passing motorists and enthusiastic support from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Congress’ non-voting delegate from the Nation’s Capital. To cheers, she promised the future of the NTEU members, and the rest of the nation’s two million federal workers, would be far different if Democrats recapture Congress on Nov. 6.
- Mark Gruenberg, Press Associates, Inc. (PAI); photo courtesy NTEU