The National Association of Government Employees (NAGE; also known as SEIU Local 5000) is a government worker union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing mostly federal and state government employees, though some EMT and paramedic members work for private ambulance companies. The union was created in 1961 and has been affiliated with SEIU since 1982.
NAGE’s founding president, Kenneth T. Lyons, was forced to resign by the SEIU international leadership in 2001 due to allegations he was impeding a Massachusetts’ state government ethics investigation regarding whether or not he was using the NAGE expense account to improperly purchase meals for a state government official. David Holway was elected to replace him in 2002. In addition to his $240,147 annual paycheck from the union (as reported for 2004), Holway collected a six-figure salary from the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association for several years.
Holway is an ally of former SEIU international president Andy Stern. Holway has sometimes run NAGE as a vehicle to consolidate SEIU international’s control over smaller, more independent local SEIU affiliates, to the detriment of the democratic control members have over their locals. One example of this was a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful 2005 attempt by SEIU international to force Massachusetts SEIU Local 509 to merge with NAGE.
Politically, NAGE has been a strong ally of Democrats, particularly in its home state of Massachusetts where it has endorsed and actively supported the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in 2014 and 2018.
NAGE represents 38,865 members (as of 2017) at 450 locals in 43 states organized into four divisions representing different government employee types: the International Brotherhood of Police Officers; the International Brotherhood of Correctional Officers; the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics; and NAGE State, Local and Federal.
NAGE was created on July 16, 1961, at a convention of the Federal Employees Veterans Association. Hoping to take advantage of a forthcoming executive order from President John F. Kennedy that would grant collective bargaining rights to federal employees, the FEVA membership, then led by Kenneth T. Lyons, voted to change their name to the National Association of Government Employees. The International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) affiliated with NAGE in 1970 and three Massachusetts state government bargaining units joined in 1977. NAGE became an affiliate of the SEIU in 1982, and during the early 1990s enlisted its first private sector members after creating the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP).
Lyons remained NAGE president until 2001. That year, SEIU officers removed and permanently banned him from further participation in the union due to allegations that he was obstructing a Massachusetts state ethics investigation into his expense account and that he was purchasing meals for a state government labor negotiator. Lyons repeatedly denied the allegations; as recently as a month before he passed away in September 2006, he told the Boston Globe his removal was a “sack job.”
It was under the direction of then-SEIU international president Andy Stern that Lyons was removed. Afterward, Stern placed NAGE under trusteeship governance by SEIU international, with Stern ally David J. Holway eventually emerging as the president of NAGE in October 2002.
Under Holway’s guidance, NAGE has been involved in sometimes acrimonious efforts to absorb smaller, more independent public-sector SEIU local unions. This aligns with the policy set in place by former SEIU international president Andy Stern, a Holway ally, who preferred the creation of “mega-locals” under the control of allies of SEIU international leadership. The reorganization policy restricts the ability of rank and file members to democratically control their locals. Left-leaning journalist Steve Early noted a the failed attempt in 2005 to bring SEIU Local 509 – a social workers’ union in Massachusetts – under NAGE control.
Local 509 president John Templeton went to the SEIU convention in San Francisco with proposals to amend the union’s constitution; being informed the amendments could only be distributed on behalf of someone willing to challenge Stern for the presidency of the SEIU, Templeton entered his name as a candidate. He would withdraw his candidacy before a leadership vote occurred. 
Most of Templeton’s amendments were defeated, but soon thereafter Stern sent SEIU official Tom Balanoff to Boston to begin the process of merging Local 509 within NAGE, which would effectively gut Local 509’s autonomy. Fighting for their union’s independence during 2005, Early writes that Local 509 members “mobilized in large numbers and testified against any takeover” at Balanoff’s merger proceedings. The bad publicity then falling on Holway as a result of the Boston Globe revealing his lucrative side job with the horse breeders helped out Local 509’s defenders, and the takeover effort died. 
Police and Corrections Officer Unions
As NAGE president, Holway is also president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) and the International Brotherhood of Corrections Officers (IBCO). In these roles, Holway has come into public conflict with Democratic politicians.
Reaction to Comments
In July 2009, prominent Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is black, was arrested by the police in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was charged with disorderly conduct after attempting to break into his own home. Gates also allegedly shouted at a white police officer who had responded to a neighbor’s report of a break in, had found Gates outside, and demanded to see the professor’s identification. The charges were later dropped, but the incident led to national controversy after President Barack Obama suggested the police had “acted stupidly.” In the ensuing public dispute between some law enforcement representatives and the White House, Holway (speaking as IBPO president) said President Obama had “alienated public safety officers across the country with his comments.”
A similar incident occurred in August 2018. Speaking at a university in New Orleans, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said the U.S. criminal justice system was “racist” from “front to back.” On letterhead from NAGE dated August 7, Holway sent an open letter to Sen. Warren demanding an apology to the police, corrections and court officers his union represents. While noting prior support and admiration for the senator on “most issues,” Holway declared her comments about the criminal justice system to be “indefensible,” “inflammatory,” and “baseless accusations.”
Atlanta Insubordination Controversy
During the early summer of 2009, Holway asked for the reinstatement of suspended Atlanta police sergeant Scott Kreher, who was also then the president of IBPO Local 623, a NAGE affiliate. Kreher had been placed on administrative leave in May of 2009, pending a psychological evaluation, after stating during a presentation to the city council that he wanted to beat then-Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin (D) with a baseball bat due to what Kreher characterized as her inattention to workers’ compensation issues and the IBPO.
The mayor had filed a written complaint to federal prosecutors regarding what she perceived to be a threat of violence toward her by Kreher. Holway dismissed her complaint as a “political ploy,” announced that the psychological evaluation of Kreher had resulted in a “clean bill of healthy [sic],” and sent a letter to the city asking for the officer’s reinstatement. Kreher was put back on the job, promoted to lieutenant before the end of the year, and as of 2015 was holding the rank of major and still a union official for NAGE-IBPO.
Like its parent the SEIU, NAGE’s local political endorsements and spending have skewed toward Democrats, particularly in its home base of Massachusetts. In the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial race NAGE endorsed Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, gave her campaign $5,000, and through its political action committee ran independently-financed attack advertisements against Republican candidate Charlie Baker, the eventual winner. On April 17, 2018, NAGE endorsed Democrat Jay Gonzalez over Republican incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker for the 2018 Massachusetts gubernatorial contest.
David Holway was first elected to the presidency of the union after holding several lower posts at NAGE, including union lobbyist. He previously served as “the deputy commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Correction, the chief financial officer at the Norfolk County Hospital, and budget and staff director at the Massachusetts Legislative Committee on Counties.” According to left-wing journalist Steve Early, Mr. Holway’s career path also included a period as a “top aide” to former Massachusetts State Rep. Charles “Good Time Charlie” Flaherty (D-Boston), who lost his job as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion.
Holway courted controversy with his former position as the executive director of the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association. An April 2005 story in the Boston Globe revealed the lucrative second job had been paying Holway at least $100,000 annually for at least the two prior years, during which he simultaneously served as president of NAGE. The Globe noted Holway’s 2004 NAGE salary as $240,147, which the newspaper columnist noted was “slightly more than the president of his international, Andrew Stern, made for running the entire Service Employees International Union.” Mr. Holway and several of his associates at the breeders association and NAGE tried to dodge answering the Globe inquiry into the second job, which Holway appears to have given up shortly after the controversy erupted.
NAGE reported total compensation of $267,382 for Holway in 2015. At the SEIU national convention in May of 2016, Holway was reelected to the presidency of NAGE and also reelected as a vice president and executive board member of SEIU international.