From the Daily Labor Report:
Commission Tweaks Agency Overhaul Plan;
Union, Democrats Object to Reorganization
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unanimously voted to approve a minor modification to its agency restructuring plan Jan. 18, as several members of Congress and the civil rights agency's union-represented workers continue to voice their objections about the plan's overall direction.
Commission Chair Cari Dominguez, Vice Chair Naomi Earp, and Commissioners Leslie Silverman, Stuart Ishimaru, and Christine Griffin all voted in favor of a modification of EEOC Order 120, part of the blueprint for the agency's first major overhaul since 1979.
The modification was minor, restoring to the agency's Baltimore office jurisdiction over five Maryland counties that were slated to be placed under the Washington, D.C., field office's jurisdiction.
Overall, however, the agency plans a much larger housecleaning, downgrading the Baltimore district office and district offices in Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Seattle to field-office status, while eliminating many of the agency's management and administrative positions to increase the number of so-called front-line staff--including investigators, mediators, and litigators. EEOC said the restructuring plan "is designed to ensure that no EEOC employee will lose a job and there will be no reduction in force."
Despite the 5-0 vote, there was some dissent among the board. Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, sought to discuss the reorganization plan but Dominguez repeatedly insisted that he only speak about issues pertaining to the Baltimore office. Just minutes before, Ishimaru, the only commissioner to speak at length on the issue, said he was "greatly disappointed" in certain aspects of the reorganization plan and that he thought that an outside agency "should take a look at it."
Union Questions Merit of Reorganization
To Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals, the bargaining unit for about 1,500 of the EEOC's 2,400 employees, the Baltimore change is "too little, too late," and does nothing to address the union's larger problems with the reorganization plans.
"It looks like the commission has reached the conclusion it never should have taken those counties from Baltimore in the first place," Martin told BNA after the meeting. "But they've done that all over the country in different spots."
Martin said the union objects to the reorganization plan because it will spread already overworked employees even more thinly, and without any proof that the cost savings claimed will ever materialize. Also, Martin said, the investigator positions into which many ex-managers and administrators will be reassigned "are the most abused and overworked jobs there are" within the EEOC.
The EEOC now has 51 offices; the plan would add two new ones in Mobile, Ala., and Las Vegas, and downgrade several others to field offices. Twenty-three of the agency's 51 offices are now top-level district offices headed by high-level managers and district directors, who are Senior Executive Service (SES) employees.
"This realignment will shift resources from top management jobs to front-line service delivery positions," EEOC said in a question-and-answer document on the agency's Web site, adding "The reclassified field offices will continue to provide the full range of services to the public."
The reorganization plan also faces objections from House and Senate Democrats, some of whom have opposed the Bush administration's agency streamlining initiative since 2003. A bipartisan group of 102 House members and 27 senators have recently voiced additional objections to the plan, citing concerns about the transparency of the commission's dealings, and whether the reorganization will hinder the commission's job of enforcing civil rights laws.
Dozens of House Members, Senators Oppose Plan
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) have co-authored several letters to the commission, criticizing what they have said is a lack of public input and the commission's refusal to deal with their offices on the issue.
In a Dec. 13 letter to Dominguez, the senators said they were "disappointed in your unwillingness to have a productive dialogue about the reorganization" and that they had "deep concerns about the transparency of the reorganization plan and the extent of public participation" in it.
"We understand that you now intend to implement the reform proposal immediately, despite congressional opposition, and without any further opportunity for discussion of these issues," Kennedy and Mikulski wrote. "We urge you to reconsider this decision."
The two also addressed the commission's plans for Baltimore: "This potential modification in the plan does not address concerns we raised about downgrading the Baltimore office from a district office to a field office. We remain concerned that downgrading district offices impacts the commission's ability to effectively enforce civil rights laws."
In a Jan. 17 letter to the commission, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) wrote that 201 House members last year signaled their support for legislation that would prevent the EEOC from reducing the quality of its staffing levels.
"Absent of any considerable effort to ensure EEOC's employees have adequate personnel, resources, and capability to provide quality services to our constituents, members will continue to seek additional legislative measures to maintain the viability of EEOC," Jones wrote.