Monday, March 03, 2014

The Perniciousness Of Intimidating Public Employees To Not Do Their Jobs

Worker intimidation -- as in My Way or the Highway -- is nothing new in American business, but is now spreading to include government employees with a toxic perniciousness as two ongoing scandals show.
They are the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill in North Carolina, where Governor Pat McCrory, a former longtime Duke Energy executive, threatened employees of the state environment agency if they attempted to do their jobs by reining in the utility, and the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, where henchmen appointed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threatened Port Authority employees if they revealed the existence of a "war room" where a secret plan was hatched to foist huge Hudson River crossing toll hikes on commuters by drowning out criticism and limiting public input.
From a New York Times story on Duke:

"[R]egulators were told they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said . . . 'If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.'

" 'They’re terrified,' said . . . a retired supervisor who keeps in touch with many current employees. 'Now these people have to take a deep breath and say, I know what the rules require, but what does the political process want me to do?’ "
From a Bergen (N.J.) Record story on the Port Authority, which has been in the media crosshairs since politically-motivated lane closures gridlocked the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge for five mornings in September:

"[A] longtime janitorial worker who tried to get into the war room over a weekend to reach a leaky pipe was so forcefully admonished that he told others that he feared he would lose his job as a result . . .

"There are commonalities in the circumstances surrounding the lane closures and the toll-hike rollout: a culture of secrecy, rank-and-file employees who feared for their jobs and the sidelining of the agency’s executive director."
Let's be clear about this: We're not talking about governors -- Republican all -- like Wisconsin's Scott Walker or New Jersey's Christie who are using unionized public employees who happen to be doing their jobs as whipping boys to make political points.  We're talking about wielding political cudgels to force public employees to not do their jobs.
Photo courtesy of CNN

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