Veterans working for government contractor forced to attend anti-union meetings at Fort Lewis

Mark E. AndersonYou survive two combat tours and you come home and find a job as a mechanic, refurbishing the Stryker combat vehicles that protected you while you were in a hostile land, with a government contractor that pays a decent wage. The workforce is about 50 percent veteran and 50 percent civilian. Your work place is on post at Fort Lewis, Washington.

You and your coworkers want to join Local 286 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Your employer, General Dynamics, does not want you to join a union.

Jason Croic, a Marine combat veteran, is one of those veterans:

We have had these meetings where they provided one side of the story. 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. 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.

The employees of General Dynamics Land Systems have scheduled a vote for union representation for June 29th. For the past month the employees have been forced to sit through anti-union meetings every day.

General Dynamics Land Systems President Mark C. Roualet [stated] “We believe it is important for our employees to have both sides of the story, and that is exactly what we have been trying to communicate during the meetings you describe. We have conducted these meetings in a non-threatening and non-coercive manner and in according with applicable laws. Meetings held since January 2012 have not been charged as training and have not been billed to our customer.”

By the way, the customer Mr. Roualet is talking about is the United States Army and by extension taxpayers; however, in a letter to General Dynamics Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash) noted that General Dynamics has coded funds being used for union busting for reimbursement.

General Dynamics Land Systems spokeswoman Marie Remboulis stated.:

General Dynamics is a fair and equitable company that wants to take care of our employees. From that perspective we believe it’s important for our employees to have both sides of the information. We have conducted these meetings in the spirit of openness in a manner that is in everything way applicable with regulatory laws.

Yep General Dynamics is so fair and equitable that they let the union post meeting notices on the bulletin board; however have repeatedly blocked union organizers from holding meetings at Fort Lewis. They are so fair and equitable that they have lied to veterans by telling them that they are less valuable to the Army if they are union members.

General Dynamics is crying poverty to the employees while they fly corporate executives into Fort Lewis to make anti-union pitches. Which combined with the almost daily anti-union meetings is turning the employees towards the union.

As a veteran I feel it is disgraceful what General Dynamics is doing to these men and women. How much money has General Dynamics made off of making war machines over the years? How many billions or triilions of dollars? And when the men and women who used these war machines come home and work for General Dynamics they are told that joining a union will make them worth less to the Army. What a crock of shit. General Dynamics just wants to keep whatever profit they make off of the American taxpayer to fund their corporate jets and to pay big dividends to their investors and for their stock price to go up. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the men and women using the machines they build or the men and women who refurbish those same machines.

Solidarity to the employees of General Dynamics Land Systems. I hope you are soon represented by IUOE Local 286.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on June 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mark Anderson, a Daily Kos Labor contributor, describes himself as a 44 year-old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. You can learn more about him on his Facebook, “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.