Edwin Osorio 2nd Vice President
In the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a proliferation of bank robberies that were prevalent to the culture of the times. One of the most notorious bank robbers in our history was Willie Sutton. When he was asked why he robs banks he retorted, “Because that’s where the money is.” Since the late 20th Century there has been a precipitous decline in bank robberies. This reticent drop in bank robberies owes nothing to the attainment of virtue. Much does have to do with the advent of technology that made banks nearly impervious to the proclivities of a Willie Sutton. Additionally, with the use of computers that reduced currency to bytes and the ability to transfer money at lighting speed, it became less necessary to have large amounts of money physically housed in banks. But equally important is the increased consequences that not only made it more difficult to rob banks, but also made it less profitable because banks held less money in reserve. The incentive was diminished and the risk of getting caught was exponentially heightened. The risk is now greater than the reward. This is an important concept we will be revisiting later on.
In retrospect it would be nice to say that as a people we evolved and found virtue and rose above the criminality of robbing banks. But the truth is that without consequences and the risk of losing more than there is to be gained, there is no deterrent from acting inimical towards decency and fair play. Misfeasance often equates to the end justifying the means when there are no consequences—nobody arguably embodies this dogma better than The Social Security Administration (SSA)—for failure to abide faithfully to ta collective bargaining agreement. The preeminent beneficiary of this pilfered largesse is SSA at the expense of its so-called “Most Valued Asset” the bargaining unit. SSA has been able to immunize itself from consequence by abusing its hegemony over its bargaining unit employees (BUE) and the union that represents them. SSA has always acted with impunity in regards to its disposition towards the BUE and the union. It routinely fails to emulate any fidelity to the collective bargaining agreement and with self-aggrandizing promiscuity violates it and ostensibly delegitimizes the CBA because SSA is normally the final arbiter in the vast majority of disputes that arise between the BUE and the agency.
The “honor system” when practiced earnestly means that all involved parties will be bound by self-regulated ethical conduct that implicitly prohibits one party from leveraging an inherent disparity of bargaining power unfairly. This implicit immunity from a destructive collective outcome is only as good as the virtue of the parties. SSA has never claimed the mantle to such virtue, but has never veered so far away from it as it has with its 2019 National “Disagreement.” The agency has abused its powers in construing a collective bargaining agreement that allocates all ambiguities in its own favor. The irreverence and disdain demonstrated by the agency towards the BUE and the union are predicated upon and reinforced by a systematic and conditioned reliance on unfettered and unrestrained unilateralism that has empowered the agency to promiscuously violate the contract.
The disposition of the BUE cannot be anything but what the agency makes it through its infidelity to the contract. Employees have no confidence in the prerequisite fairness and equity presumed by the collective bargaining agreement and as a result they surrender to subservience to an agency that appears to be motivated only by its own self-interests. Because the agency has no deterrent from acting with complete disregard for employee’s rights, employees retreat to a state of silence and acquiescence, exercising complete deference to the agency’s inimical predilections. This behavior is a contagion permeating the entire BUE suppressing their sense of right and capitulating to their instinct for survival. The BUE has in effect become a society of deference retreating to a position of preservation and an “every employee for themselves” conviction (which is antithetical to boosting office morale), thus weakening the collective doctrine of strength in unity. This has become the fuel of futility that reinforces the agency’s lack of adherence to the contract.
If SSA is ever going to be the agency of virtue as imagined by FDR in 1935, they will need to reestablish the partnership with the union it abandoned after the election of President Bush in 2000. The agency’s triviality of subverting the collective bargaining agreement must be replaced with a commitment to a new contract that holds the agency equally accountable by sanctions for a failure of adherence. It should be clear that without the agency being answerable to the authority of the collective bargaining agreement and its forced subordination to the proper execution of the contract, the public interest cannot be served with any true sustainability. Therefore, the union, under certain circumstances must be able to initiate procedures of sanctions against the agency for failure to adhere to the contract commensurate with the disciplinary actions administered against the BUE and union. The remedy for such agency failures cannot be the pro forma recognition of failure and faithless assurances it will correct its comportment; without a compulsory trigger to deter the agency’s insincere performance, the agency will revert to its own interests that are often exploitative and irreconcilable with the interests of the BUE, and inevitably at odds with the public interest. The union is the only appropriate entity due to its proximity to execute such checks and balances for the good of the public and the general welfare of the BUE. This would require a vested power in the union that is not subordinate to agency whim. This would be consistent with Congress’ expectations of unions as defined in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. This would be congruent with what is right for the public.