I'd love to help, but I'm Hatched!

Tuesday - 11/6/2012, 2:00am EST

For many if not most federal and postal workers, the Hatch "no politics" Act is two very different blankets:

Some people see the much-amended 1939 law as a warm and fuzzy blanket. It protects them from political arm-twisting by over-zealous bosses or coworkers and helps keep partisan politics outside the office, the agency and your email inbox.

Others see the law as a very wet, almost smothering blanket. They say it is outdated (if indeed it was ever needed) and that the Hatch Act deprives them of their rights as American citizens simply because they work for the federal government.

No one has ever been executed for violating the Hatch Act, but people have been reprimanded, suspended and fired.

Actually, the Hatch Act is a nickname. Its chief sponsor was Sen. Carl Hatch (R-N.M.). Its correct title — whether you love it or hate it — is An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities: Activities such as letting politicians pick candidates for, or sell appointments to, federal jobs. It was also intended to protect workers from job-related political pressures. It centered around real and perceived abuses in the WPA (the Works Progress Administration) in Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The WPA was the largest of the Roosevelt administration's efforts to bring the nation out of the Great Depression. The WPA hired millions of young men (including my father and four of my uncles) to do everything from build roads to paint murals on public buildings. It ran from 1935 to the mid-1940s when many of those young men (including my father and uncles) joined the service in World War II.

Over the years, a lot of people have used the Hatch Act as a crutch to avoid doing campaign work (or give contributions) that are not barred by the law.

Other workers — particularly those that belong to postal and federal unions — think the law denies (either by choice or accident) millions of the nation's best-informed citizens full rights of citizenship.

Yesterday's column, "Purple State Feds" speculated on what would happen if feds in too-close-to-call states voted as a bloc, providing the margin of victory in both presidential and congressional races. You can check out some of the reaction in the "comments" section above the column. Here's one that came through via email:

"Wouldn't it be great if there was a poll of just federal workers? The Hatch Act (likely) prevents that.

Wouldn't it be great if you could discuss the election with your co-workers to get the 'non-media' take on the candidates? The Hatch Act prevents that.

The Hatch Act and persistent reminders about the Hatch Act have virtually prevented me from discussing or offering my opinion about the candidates, even outside the workplace. The 'Federal Voice' shall not be heard! We almost always know who the Postal Workers' Union endorses, as well as the endorsements of many other government workers' unions. Does that mean postal workers and other feds support that candidate as well? Hmmm ...

Although I have kept my mouth shut (at least about specific candidates), I will be wearing the all-(color shall remain anonymous) outfit on election day. I've already voted and avoided the hours-long wait at my polling site. I can't wait to watch my favorite shows on television without hearing any politicians' names. I think the money spent on television and radio ads could have been better spent, maybe even on Hurricane Sandy relief. Before this election, my favorite day of the year was the first day of summer. Now Nov. 7, 2012, is my favorite day.

Does the Hatch Act prevent me from celebrating? — Signed (in honor of the Hatch Act), Anonymous, anonymous agency, anonymous state "

If you pass a colleague wearing all red or all blue today, smile as you go by.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Scientists once thought the furcula (the technical term for the wishbone) only existed in birds. But paleontologists now say both the Tyrannosaurus and Velicoraptor also had furculas. But I don't think you'd be able to snap that wishbone after Thanksgiving dinner!

(Source: Life's Little Mysteries)


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