(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) announced that seventy new organizations from across the United States have joined a June petition calling on Congress to enact sweeping new whistleblower rights for government employees. The groups are calling on Congress to finish the job before adjourning for the upcoming elections. Both chambers have approved legislation to revive the discredited Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), but efforts to reconcile the different versions have stalled.
Tom Devine, Legal Director of GAP, which helps coordinate whistleblower rights advocacy for the 182 groups now supporting the legislation, explained, "Groups demanding reform have increased by over 60% in a week of outreach since Labor Day. Our goal is credible free speech rights enforceable through jury trials for all employees paid by the taxpayers. Government employees need the same free speech rights that Congress has passed three times since 2006 for corporate workers in various sectors. This should not be controversial."
Until Congress acts, the current law will remain a trap that rubber stamps almost any retaliation government whistleblowers challenge. The administrative board where employees receive a "day in court" only has conceded illegal retaliation against government whistleblowers in two cases during the entire seven and a half years of the Bush administration (the board has found against whistleblowers 55 times). Ironically, this has made a so-called good government law the best reason for those witnessing fraud, waste or abuse to remain silent observers, instead of blowing the whistle.
The expanding petition reflects longstanding voter support. When rights for government employees were first passed in 1989, the law was nicknamed the "Taxpayer Protection Act." After the 2006 elections, likely voters identified stronger government whistleblower rights as their second highest priority for Congress, only behind ending improper government spending.
The expanding petition reflects support across political and ideological lines, including representatives from conservative national defense organizations, foreign policy experts, labor unions and advocates, human rights and international development organizations, professional and academic, civil rights, good government, consumer protection, and environmental organizations. Representative new NGO signers include groups as diverse as the American Conservative Defense Alliance; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Friends Service Committee; Association of American Publishers; American Association of University Professors; Better Government Association; Blacks in Government; Center for Food Safety; Center for International Policy; Chemical Weapons Working Group; Kentucky Environmental Forum; Kentucky Resources Council; Alaska Forum of Environmental Responsibility; and the National Committee for an Effective Congress.
The coalition of supporting organizations will intensify efforts to recruit support for the reform until Congress acts.