In These Times writer Mike Elk recently published a captivating story about military veterans working for government contractor General Dynamics who are forced to attend anti-union meetings on army bases. The company is doing this to prevent the workers from joining International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 286. They have even had high level executives fly in on private jets to help misinform the workers about the dangers of joining a union.
A union election was held June 29th but the IUOE has not been given an equal opportunity to share their side of the argument. However, as Elk’s story points out it seems that the tactics and their borderline legality have actually swayed many of the workers to want to unionize:
The story revolves around Jason Croic, an Iraq War veteran who is one of 120 workers, half of whom are veterans, being forced to attend these meetings.
“We have had these meetings where they provided one side of the story,” says Croic. “The message is we won’t be as employable to the Army as we are now because we won’t be as versatile. Being non-union, they say we are more attractive to the Army because we can be moved around easier.”
The union election is scheduled on June 29, and General Dynamics has been forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings nearly every day for the last month. These anti-union meetings aren’t being held on General Dynamic’s private property, but on public property at the U.S. Army base at Fort Lewis. The Army declined to comment for this story and has not taken a position on these meetings nor the claims that the workers voting to join a union would make them less attractive to the Army.
“I think it’s bullshit the way they are talking to us,” says Croic. “You think when it’s prior military veterans who have done their part, they wouldn’t do this kind of thing to us.”
This specific case shows the limitations of President Obama’s Executive Order 13494 which prohibits federal contractors from being reimbursed for the cost of their anti-union activity:
Under the cost principle of federal contracts, companies can bill additional unexpected labor costs above the price of their initial contract price to the federal government for reimbursement. The new rule simply prohibits federal contractors for seeking reimbursement for additional costs related to union-busting but it does not prohibit contractors from spending non-reimbursed money on union busting.
“The rule doesn’t mean they can’t hire anti-union consultants or hold meetings. They just can’t charge the costs to any contract,” says former Acting Deputy Administrator of Office of Federal Procurement Policy Richard C. Loeb, now a professor at the University of Baltimore Law School. Thus companies like General Dynamics, which received $19 billion in federal contracts in 2011, are essentially allowed to write in the costs of any potential union-busting before the bid for a project; the rule only prohibits them from asking for reimbursement later.
To read this story in its entirety visit Working In These Times.