(WASHINGTON) - Civilian workers of the Department of Defense will hold a series of rallies and political mobilizing events, October 11-15, in an effort to thwart implementation of anti-union provisions in proposals for a new DoD personnel system. The week of events, promoted as DoD Action Week, will be sponsored by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union representing the largest proportion of employees within DoD.
"DoD employees must fight for their right to union membership. They will do it DoD Action Week, and they will do it Election Day," said AFGE national president John Gage.
Late last year, Congress passed legislation at the request of the Bush Administration authorizing the Secretary of Defense to make sweeping changes to the DoD personnel system. The law grants the Secretary of Defense new authority in many areas, including the civil service system, pay, appeal rights, and collective bargaining agreements.
When DoD unveiled an outline of its intentions in February, the unions representing defense workers were stunned. The initial DoD outline included replacing collective bargaining with a non-binding consultative process and ending the right of workers to appeal to an impartial third party. AFGE argued that DoD overstepped its authority both on the specifics of its proposal and the process by which the proposals were developed. In response, DoD's lead on the personnel reforms, Secretary of Navy Robert England, promised a more cooperative process with the unions representing civilian defense employees. However, union negotiators state that DoD representatives have since readopted a hard line approach.
"Apparently the DoD negotiators didn't get Secretary England's memo on following a cooperative approach to the talks on the personnel system." said Mark Gibson, AFGE's chief representative on the union negotiation team. "As of late, it looks as though DoD negotiators are listening, but it's obvious they are not hearing. These talks are now bordering on becoming a total sham."
Defense workers have held rallies and town hall meetings at facilities across the country to express their concerns, including Davis Monthan AFB (Ariz.), Warner Robins AFB (Ga.), Redstone Arsenal (Ala.), Dover AFB (Del.), Fort Hood (Tex.), Rock Island Arsenal (Ill.), Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (N.H.) and Norfolk (Va.).
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.