WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke out on the House floor in opposition to a Republican provision in the Defense Authorization Conference Report, which would deny worker protections and rights to hundreds of thousands of Department of Defense civilian employees. The following is Rep. Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, the conference report before us, H.R. 1588, is a good one. It will provide adequate pay, housing and training for the men and women serving our country on active duty and in the guard and reserves. And it funds important modernization priorities that will ensure that the weapons systems with which we equip our troops are the most advanced in the world.
“However, the report is not perfect. I am disappointed by the way in which the conference report treats civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Simply stated, the report will strip more than a third of our federal civilian employees – over 700,000 hard-working women and men - of their most basic worker protections and rights.
“Let me be clear. I am not opposed to thoughtful reform of our civil service system.
However, the report goes too far. It will undo decades of some of the most important worker protections enacted by Congress and supported for decades by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
“Among its most egregious provisions, the legislation effectively grants the Secretary of Defense the authority to strip federal workers of their collective bargaining rights, deny employees their right to appeal unfair treatment, and grant supervisors complete discretion in setting salaries and determining raises.
“Moreover, the report suspends the requirement that DoD employees receive additional pay for working overtime, working on holidays or weekends, or working in jobs involving unusual physical hardship or hazard. Ironically, both the House and the other body voted recently to protect overtime pay for private sector employees.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who believe, as I do, that DoD’s 700,000 civilian employees are critical to the success of our armed forces to closely monitor this new personnel system. At the first sign that it is not functioning in a fair manner, or is being abused, Congress must act swiftly to reconsider the system.
“Notwithstanding these concerns, I will support this important agreement. I expect it to pass by a wide margin, with broad support from both House Democrats and Republicans, who stand squarely behind our troops and in favor of protecting our national security.”