President Signs the Homeland Security Act of 2002

President George W. Bush yesterday signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating a cabinet-level department: the Department of Homeland Security. At the signing, Bush nominated former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, currently the head of the White House Office of Homeland Security, to be the first Secretary of Homeland Security.

"The new department will analyze threats, will guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure, and coordinate the response of our nation for future emergencies," said Bush. "The Department of Homeland Security will focus the full resources of the American government on the safety of the American people. This essential reform was carefully considered by Congress and enacted with strong bipartisan majorities."

Bush went out of his way to thank union representatives who were in attendance. With a nod to the concerns of the unions, that members who are part of the new department will not be granted collective bargaining rights or other traditional union rights, Bush said, "We look forward to working with you to make sure that your people are treated fairly in this new department."

Bush also thanked the federal workers in attendance, noting, "You're charged with being on the front line of protecting America."

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney fought against the passage of the Homeland Security Act because the union felt it would undermine its efforts on behalf of unionized workers who will be part of the department's 170,000 employees. Sweeney said the bill signed by the president was characterized by "reduced liabilities for companies doing business with the new department, and the end of collective bargaining rights for workers and the end of the right of workers to defend themselves against politically motivated hiring or firing."

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