New whistleblower act for private, state, local

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This is the real deal. A bill with teeth. Let’s help give it legs!

Rep. Lynn Woolsey has introduced a bill to give private sector, state and municipal employees greater protection against retaliation when they report illegal or unethical conduct by their superiors. The bill, titled The Private Sector Whistleblower Protection Streamlining Act of 2007  is the latest in a series of bills designed to help people who risk their jobs to report wrongdoing. (Read text of H.R. 4047). As currently written, the bill says:

“No responsible party (employer) shall take any unfavorable personnel action against a whistleblower . . . It is the sense of Congress that the provisions of this section and section 101 shall be construed broadly to maximize the Act’s remedial objectives and for the benefit of the public.”

The Government Accountability Project says the new law would create a uniform set of protections to replace “a crazy quilt of contradictory, hit or – usually miss protections tucked into specific public health and safety laws.” Woolsey’s proposal has 13 democratic co-sponsors.

Congress has been trying to strengthen whistleblower laws across the board, and with some success. For instance, an Accountability Project press release notes that President Bush recently signed into law enhanced whistleblower protections for ground transportation employees; the full Senate has approved stronger protections for defense contactors in the FY2007 defense bill; and the Senate Commerce Committee is trying to give whistleblowers in product safety similar help.

Better protections for whistleblowers are desperately needed. A while back I blogged a bit based on a Mother Jones piece about the ways whistleblowers have been targeted for punishment. In another blog I cite the case of a whistleblower who simply could not get media to pay attention to his complaint.

The best possible way to police the government – and with the Woolsey bill, corporations, as well,  – is to to protect people who risk their livelihoods and reputations to expose wrongdoings that would otherwise remain hidden. The National Whistleblower Center reminds us why:

“Employee whistleblowers now accounnt for the majority of all civil fraud recoveries obtained by the United States. For example between 2000-2006, the Department of Justics recovered $12 billion in civil fraud recoveries ($12,093,022,897). Whistleblowers were responsible for $7 billion ($7,972,051,660) worth of these recoveries, or 65.9 percent.”

Do whatever you can to keep up the momentum for whistleblower reforms. Write or call your congressional representative or write a letter to the editor. If you are an editor, write an editorial!