This is the monthly communication for July 2017. There was no general lodge meeting this month, as our Local Lodge By-Laws call for no scheduled meetings in July and August. The next scheduled general meeting is in September.
There is still important information to let you know about. One topic is the contract between STC and the fabrication and painting members of our local lodge. Contract negotiations for that CBA with STC have already begun, and our normal process is for those members to ask for a Strike Sanction Vote. That happened during our last general meeting, and the strike sanction vote was unanimously approved. I will explain more in detail below.
I also want to let all of you know that on Wednesday, July 19th the mobile food truck that comes to the work sites will be providing free drinks for that day’s inventory of coffee, soda, water, and energy drinks on that truck. This is done from the money set aside for morale in our budget. So I hope that this effort reaches more members that may not be aware of our website and an effort to reach out and communicate with members.
Also, at our last general meeting a motion was made and approved for the funding arbitration on a grievance from the ATSS contract. We have to protect some information about this grievance, but it revolves around a member that returned to work after a long-term absence that is protected under Federal law. The Union member was told that they could be placed back in their previous position over a period of time since certain certifications are required for that type of work. After that member jumped through several hoops they were told that they could not be placed back in the same or similar position. It’s basically a position funding issue between the Government and the Company with our member stuck in the middle. The law is on our side and it is worth fighting for and so we head to arbitration.
So what is happening with the STC contract? Science and Technology Corporation (STC) recently won the contract bid for that group of Union members that work for the Aberdeen Test Center in the weld shop and painters. STC’s media release states that the contract has an initial value of 38 million dollars and is for five years. The prior collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for that work is still in place but will be expiring in the fall of 2017. Representatives for STC reached out to the union representatives to open negotiations for the new CBA. Unfortunately STC took some hardline stances coming into negotiations.
First, and most troubling is the issue that since STC has taken over the contract and payroll for those members, STC has been withholding the employees contributions for the union pension fund. STC has not yet sent that money over to the pension fund as required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, also known as Federal ERISA law. STC representatives are saying that their company is not in the “pension business”. Unfortunately because this is a violation of Federal law our local lodge has been forced to file a “board charge”, with the National Labor Relations Board, in order to begin the process of holding STC accountable for their actions.
Of course, this means we have to expend funds on lawyers and other paralegal representation, but that is why we pull together as a union. But one of the worst things a company can do is play with the money that employees have earned, and even as a bargaining position in negotiations, not putting the union member’s money where it belongs is unethical.
Another troubling stance from STC is on payment of fringe pay, in lieu of benefits. And this one should catch every member’s attention. STC is claiming there is some legal opinion and legal foundation that under the changing healthcare law, (whatever that may end up becoming), for their company, STC, to give employees fringe pay to cover benefits, like health care, those payments would amount to a bribe. I would really like to meet the legal genius that came up with that opinion! Especially since the healthcare law is currently in flux and nobody knows what it will look like before Congress is done with it, and tax-free benefits have been part of the American workforce since World War II. Under current law all the companies that work under the Service Contract Act, like STC, are paid for each hourly employee with an amount with benefits included. So for STC to take a stance that they intend to stop paying fringe in future CBA’s is just totally untenable! They will get the money from the Government – they just won’t pass it along?! They will be holding our EARNED benefit money for themselves. For those of us that are Union members this is a standard we fought for and won and giving it up now would cost members more than twelve thousand dollars in take home pay a year. No deal! And we are certainly not going to set the other contracts up to have to deal with that kind of proposal in the future!!
So what does that mean to Union members on other contracts? Each CBA normally has a no strike clause during the duration of the agreement. But that doesn’t mean we can’t support our Brothers and Sisters in other ways.
We are going to fight smart and hard. And we are going to fight them in ways that they don’t expect and do not involve the out dated tactics. In the Internet era, there are plenty of ways to fight back against a tone-deaf company. So there is more to come on our fight with STC. And hopefully the other companies we deal with will see that we are together and focused on our future.
Again, try to find the mobile food truck at your work site on Wednesday, July 19th. You all work hard. It is appreciated. And free drinks are just a small token of appreciation for all that you do everyday!
Respectfully and Fraternally,
President, IAM&AW Local Lodge 2424