Permanent. It’s a tough word. For folks that have commitment issues, forever is scary. But for whistleblowers, those who have sacrificed so much for the values we share – uncertainty is a poison. Not knowing whether you will be protected. Not knowing whether you will be respected. Not knowing whether you will be trusted. Fearing that you will lose it all. That is what whistleblowers feel before they blow the whistle – even when they can do so anonymously.
Confidence, it can come from many sources. It can come from strong programs with fantastic track records like the SEC, CFTC, and IRS whistleblower programs. It can come from the promise of a robust award, and stories of whistleblowers who have succeeded. It can come from recognition, like what we have seen throughout the three days of the National Whistleblower Day 2021 celebration, from high-ranking officials, peers, and allies. It can also come from tangible action – like the steps Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) took to make sure both the Senate and the House unanimously agreed to recognize July 30th as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
Senator Grassley’s resolution, which passed the Senate on July 27th 2021, is poetic. It recounts the story behind National Whistleblower Day that was uncovered by whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn in 2011 after over 200 years of being lost in history. The story, as Senator Grassley’s resolution explains, shows that it was the intent of the Founding Fathers to fully support whistleblowers “in words and deeds.” This poetic resolution is only outdone by the robust bipartisan support of it, with co-sponsors like Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Boozman (R-AR). Even better, today, on National Whistleblower Day, Representative Jackie Speier, alongside her co-Chairs on the bipartisan House Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY), introduced, and the House unanimously passed, an almost identical resolution with similarly bipartisan support. These courageous members of Congress had the courage to make it official once again. Kind of like renewing their vows. But, any married person will tell you – there is nothing like forever.
These values are timeless. And the adoption of the National Whistleblower Day resolution by both chambers of Congress every year since 2013, demonstrates the Congressional commitment to these values regardless of who happens to be in the executive office – or which party is at the helm. Why? Because, as Whistleblower Network News and National Whistleblower Center’s Marist Poll demonstrates, the majority of American’s also find these values to be timeless – across the board. The poll, conducted by an A+ rated objective polling authority, found that one thing the majority of American’s have in common is a belief that federal and corporate whistleblowers should be protected and their protection should be a priority for Congress.
Congress has listened. Government leaders have increasingly stepped up. We see it in the influx of whistleblower protection, anti-retaliation, and reward laws that have been developed into programs on the federal and state level since the incredible success of the Dodd-Frank Act became apparent to all in the late 2010s. This momentum is reflected in the ever growing interest in National Whistleblower Day, which just yesterday resulted in the appearance of the likes of Secretary of the Department of Labor Marty Walsh, who said that every employee in America deserved whistleblower protections; Department of Justice IG Michael Horowitz, who said that the whistleblowers were an essential tool in fighting crime; the newest IG – Rob Storch, the first IG of the National Security Agency – who explained the value of National Security whistleblowers; and of course, Senator Grassley, the patron saint of whistleblowers, who said that whistleblowers help keep the government transparent and that Inspector Generals who do not value whistleblowers should be held accountable. Wow! It feels great.
For National Whistleblower Day, we call for all Federal Agencies to educate their employees about their whistleblower rights on July 30th. We want them to go beyond an e-mail with a PDF of the whistleblower day resolution once a year. That is why the National Whistleblower Center reaches out to agencies to ask them about their commitments. This year we only heard back from a couple of these essential agencies – including the HHS and the EPA.
Every year, whistleblower supporters have to wonder if National Whistleblower Day will be recognized again. Every year, whistleblowers have to wonder if they still matter. It does not have to be that way. Congress could easily make National Whistleblower Appreciation Day permanent. And it needs to happen today. Making National Whistleblower Day permanent would make it real. It would allow agencies to prepare through, specific, and improvable educational materials and practices to fulfill the National Whistleblower Day practice of celebrating whistleblowers at least one time each year. It would shift the culture.
So, why can’t we make National Whistleblower Day permanent? We are all in agreement. Whistleblowing works! So, what’s missing? Commitment. Fear of commitment undermines the intent of National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, which is to validate whistleblowers and the values whistleblowing stands for and protects as central to the U.S. ethos, history, and cultural cloth. Making National Whistleblower Appreciation Day permanent would show whistleblowers that there is a future where they can be safe. And that when they show commitment by risking it all – which will forever change their lives – to blow the whistle, someone and something will be there to support them because every year we celebrate, appreciate, and recognize the sacrifices whistleblowers make.
Whistleblowers have been here to support us for centuries – before we were even a country. It’s about time that we as a nation stand together in support of whistleblowers and return that commitment to the values of transparency, oversight, accountability, and justice that are at the foundation of our democracy. Let’s make National Whistleblower Day permanent this year.