NIMA's ruling on unions will affect some IT workers' bargaining rights

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency has taken away the collective bargaining rights of about 1,000 cartographers, digital imaging and data management specialists, and security guards whose work directly affects national security.

NIMA's director, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, stripped the employees of their collective bargaining rights Jan. 28 and noted that he has the legal authority to abolish bargaining units when the agency's jobs affect national security.

A NIMA official said the legislation that established NIMA 'permitted continuation of limited collective bargaining. Congress stated in the legislative history that it was a 'one-time solution to a unique situation.' ' NIMA was established on Oct. 1, 1996, by merging the former Defense Mapping Agency and several other Defense Department and intelligence groups
The work of the agency has matured since its creation in 1996, the official said. 'Events such as those that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, have significantly intensified the need for more integrated intelligence gathering,' he said. 'NIMA has now fully realized new changes to employees' duties emanating from the combining of mapping, imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and measurement and signatures intelligence.'

The official said Clapper's decision was consistent with recent decisions of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which has denied collective-bargaining rights to employees who have access to classified information and facilities.

The head of the American Federation of Government Employees said Clapper's decision 'falls in line with President Bush's antiunion policy.' 'Like other Bush administration officials, Clapper also invokes the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to cloak this union-busting with a respectable cover,' said Bobby L. Harnage, president of AFGE.

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