Union: EEOC cuts imperil job security

Staff, wire reports

May 17, 2006

Cuts in funding and staff at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are threatening job security for millions of Americans, a federal workers' union claims in a new ad campaign.

The American Federation of Government Employees is starting a media campaign this week in Montgomery, Birmingham and several other cities with radio and newspaper ads criticizing budget cuts and reductions in staffing at the EEOC. The union claims about 20 percent of staff has been cut in the last five years.

A spokeswoman, Andrea Brooks, said the union chose Alabama because U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is on the appropriations committee that has not fully staffed EEOC.

Officials in Shelby's office, though, said the appropriations committee provided exactly what EEOC requested for 2006, which was $331 million. New offices are being opened and the number of complaints are growing at a time when the agency is trimming its budget request, the group said. By AFGE estimates, that staffing shortage has resulted in a backlog of cases that will approach 50,000 by the end of 2007.

"It's important because nobody else is calling attention to what's happening at the agency," Brooks said. "What they are trying to do is shut the agency down. For many people, the agency is the last chance to deal with discrimination."

The EEOC, created in 1964, investigates claims of job discrimination based on sex, race, age, national origin, religion and disability.

Employees at the EEOC have also been offered buyouts to reduce staffing levels, said Gabrielle Martin, head of a union council representing EEOC employees. The EEOC currently has about 2,300 employees, according to union estimates.

EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishumaru said despite staffing cuts over the past five yearsthe agency has "continued to do its law enforcement work. We litigate cases. We're the strongest civil rights enforcement group."