Whatever federal unions lack in the way of bite they often seem to make up in bark.
As the Reagan administration attempts to freeze or cut pay and pensions many federal unions (which can't strike or bargain over major issues) have stepped up their attacks on the boss. They sometimes attack with such bravado it makes their private sector union compatriots seem like managements' handmaidens.
One view is that the regular shin-kicking that U.S. unions give Uncle Sam is real courage. Another view is that insulting the board chairman is disloyal and real dumb. This is how it goes:
Since heading the Office of Personnel Management, Donald Devine has twice been named "Turkey of the Month" by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) newspaper put out by and distributed to his employes. Other officials chosen for the dubious achievement award include the department's personnel director, a top lawyer and a host of other career and political bosses.
When Conservative Digest magazine editor Mark Tapscott (a critic of big government) was named to head OPM's press operation, the union newspaper welcomed him with a headline: "Rat Comes to Federal Rathole!"
During the Nixon administration one union here distributed a Nixon dart board as part of a newspaper.
When he was boss, Jimmy Carter was depicted in some union publications as a peanut-shaped parking lot attendant, because he tried to take away free parking for government employes.
More recently, some Reagan appointees have read that they are "idiots" and "asses" (sometimes both) in union publications in their agencies.
Business types new to government are sometimes stunned by the irreverent press they get in agencies they are supposed to run.
"You hear that the government is an oppressive outfit, right? Well, if they put some of this stuff . . . the personal attacks in an employe bulletin distributed in a plant in the private sector somebody might be looking for another job," a frequently roasted official said. "Does your union newspaper call your boss a rat, or question his integrity?"
Some officials at the Department of Education are reading more and enjoying it less. Like this month's issue of "The Word." It's the AFGE newspaper for its 500-plus Education members. It takes a pot shot ata new law, backed by the Reagan administration, that denies federal college loan money to men who don't register for the draft. The editorial says:
"DoE employes will be forced to enforce draft registration.
"After June 30, no male will be eligible to receive student financial aid through DoE unless he can prove to a financial aid officer that he has registered for the draft. Who will oversee the financial aid officers? DoE of course!
"The Department and the universities should be about education, not about enforcing draft registration. DoE employes should not be used to police a controversial law which is now being litigated in the courts.
"The U.S. has over 3 million men and women under arms and a nuclear arsenal that could flatten the earth. Should anyone try to invade the U.S. they would be obliterated before they could land one soldier on U.S. soil.
Therefore, conscription would only be used for overseas intervention--to protect the global interests of the multinational corporations (cheap labor, cheap raw materials, a captive market, and a union-free environment internationally).
"Why should young men be forced to register under penalty of not being able to attend college? To fight for Exxon?
"Ben Sasway, the first indicted nonregistrant, says it best:
"'I feel obligated to protest the growing spirit of U.S. militarism that brings us closer and closer to nuclear war. The arms race, the American military intervention in the Third World, and the clamor for conscription, are all symptoms of a pervading attitude that assumes America's natural right to subjugate the poorer nations of the world for 'U.S. vital interests' . . . . I will not be a tool of military misdirection that involved us in Vietnam fifteen years ago and that might see our involvment in El Salvador or Nicaragua today.'
"Many students and financial aid officers," the editorial continues, "are opposing linking student financial aid to draft registration. We should join the ranks."