9/9/98 Wall St. J. A23


The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, September 9, 1998
Letters to the Editor: Union Members Help Improve Customs, IRS

Government works, and works well, thank you very much. And federal workers, including
members of the National Treasury Employees Union, are making it work, despite James Bovard's
curmudgeonly view ("Why Government Isn't Working," editorial page, Aug. 18). His criticism of
public-sector unions comes at the time of the tremendous success of Operation Brass Ring at the
U.S. Customs Service. This unprecedented labor/management cooperative effort resulted in a
60% increase in drug seizures nationwide in the past six months.

Mr. Bovard instead focuses on the clout he perceives that NTEU had in achieving a pay
differential for Customs employees who work nights, holidays, overtime and awkward shifts. This
is not a measure of clout, it is a recognition in Congress that Customs employees are involved in
dangerous and important work, as highlighted by Operation Brass Ring.

Regarding NTEU's clout and IRS employees, Mr. Bovard equates the authorized use of
pseudonyms by IRS employees as the "right to lie to taxpayers about their own names." He
ignores or is unaware of the threats made against IRS employees and their families reported in the
Journal and other media. He also ignores the contributions of NTEU at the IRS. For instance,
long before the congressional hearings and restructuring legislation, NTEU warned IRS
management that the use of dollar-collected measures would come to no good. Our prediction of
congressional hearings has come true. Now, with a congressional mandate to redefine the mission
and structure of the IRS, NTEU members are being asked to become fully involved in not only
the development of a new organizational structure, but in the creation of a workplace
environment that promotes the delivery of world-class customer service.

Robert M. Tobias

National President

National Treasury Employees Union