Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Tobyhanna Army Depot workforce continues to get smaller because of the United States Department of Defense cutbacks in spending, changing plans on upgrading facilities and equipment, and the cutback on purchasing, with the withdraw of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot has cut approximately one-third of its workforce during the past several years which resulted in the two labor organizations that represents many of the workers having a decline in membership at the military facility.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647, in Tobyhanna, represents around 2,000 employees at the depot and has lost members because of incentives for workers to take early retirement packages. Under the incentive plan Tobyhanna employees that are at least 50 years old and have 20 years on the job or 25 years of service can receive the federal buyout separation payment.

The depot is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest employer and the cutbacks will likely harm the local economy with laid-off employees and those that take the buyout having less money to purchase goods and services.

In late 2012 the depot employed around 5,100 workers counting the employees of subcontractors including those of URS Federal Support Services Inc., a contractor that provides industrial trade and electronics workers. Currently, there are approximately 3,570 employed at the depot.

Many of the sub-contractor workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 1717.

The AFGE does not attempt to encouage the employees of contractors to become members of Local 1647. The AFGE will only attempt to get employees that are actually employed by the United States Army to join the union. Union security clauses are forbidden in labor agreements that represent federal government workers. Therefore, a new hire must be approach and encourage to join the union.

While no AFGE member has ever been laid-off at the depot the IAM hasn’t been so lucky.

Of the approximately 400 sub-contractor workers laid-off over the last several years, many of them were Local Lodge 1717 members. At least four phases of lay-offs were conducted during 2013 with Local Lodge 1717 members being cut.