Womens groups protest plan to downsize Womens Bureau

Several leading women’s organizations, including the Coalition of Labor Union Women, are vigorously protesting the latest scheme by GOP President George W. Bush and his Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to downsize and outsource much of her department’s Women’s Bureau.

In an Aug. 1 letter initiated by the National Council of Women’s Organizations and Wider Opportunities for Women, the groups call on Chao to reverse planned budget cuts at the Women’s Bureau and instead give it increased money in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The cuts and the outsourcing will affect half of the bureau’s jobs, some 85 in total, which will be put up for bidding between the bureau’s workers and private contractors.

The Women’s Bureau is one of a number of DOL agencies whose functions Chao is trying to outsource, in line with a Bush initiative — supposedly due for completion by 2010 — to transfer as many federal jobs as possible to private contractors.

Such transfers would also let Bush avoid federal labor laws and federal worker unions, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE Local 12 represents DOL’s workers. Federal worker unions have detailed how Bush’s Office of Management and Budget tried to rig rules in such outsourcing struggles in favor of the private contractors.

The Women’s Bureau’s work is still needed, the groups told Chao, since “too many women are in jobs that do not pay self-sufficiency wages, do not provide benefits such as health care, and are the first to be cut during an economic downturn.”

Regional offices of the bureau “ensure women are aware of the legal protections against workplace abuses and guide women to appropriate resources and agencies. America’s working women will pay the price” for a much less effective bureau, the letter states.

If Chao doesn’t respond, the groups will again take their case to Congress.

— Press Associates Inc.