Federal Employees Blast EEOC Funding

By WILL LESTER Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON 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 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.

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," said Andrea Brooks, a union official. "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.

"When people think of the EEOC, they think of discrimination against minorities and women," Brooks said. "However, its more than that. The EEOC deals with discrimination cases involving age, religion, disability and other issues."

The union says the staffing reductions and planned budget cuts of $4 million for next year will result in many legitimate discrimination complaints being unresolved.

Employees at the EEOC have also been offered buyouts to reduce staffing levels, said Gabrielle Martin, head of a union council representing EEOC employees.

EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishumaru said staffing cuts over the last five years "raise questions of whether we'll be able to effectively manage our workload." The EEOC currently has about 2,300 employees, according to union estimates.

Ishimaru said that despite the cuts the agency has "continued to do its law enforcement work. We litigate cases, we're the strongest civil rights enforcement group."

He said federal budgets "are tight all over for non-military agencies."

EEOC spokesman Charles Robbins responded to the union's complaints by saying: "These are tight times for all civilian agencies." Robbins said he appreciates the union's "support of the EEOC's mission."

The union is spending up to $100,000 for radio ads running Wednesday through the end of June in the following cities: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Chicago; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Miami; Montgomery, Ala.; San Francisco; and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The campaign will include newspaper ads in several of the cities.