After reading an exclusive report that appeared at Working In These Times, the Department of Labor has opened an investigation into captive-audience anti-union meetings held on an army base in Fort Lewis, Washington. Ayofemi Kirby, spokeswoman for Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 286 union organizer Jeff Alexander both say their respective offices were contacted by a Department of Labor agent looking into whether General Dynamics violated the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act during a recent union election held at Fort Lewis. The DoL's Office of Labor-Management Standards would neither confirm nor deny that the investigation was taking place.
But Alexander and General Dynamics' pro-union worker Jason Croic were contacted by an agent of the Office of Labor-Management Standards concerning the anti-union activities carried out by General Dynamics and its consultants on the Fort Lewis Army base. The agent told Alexander and Croic that he had learned of the union-busting activity from reading Working In These Times.
The investigation stems from General Dynamics' failure to report to the Department of Labor any money spent on persuasion activities during a union election, as required by federal law. The law requires corporations to file an LM-10 form within 30 days of hiring an outside third party to assist in a union election. Third-party firms must also file LM-20 forms within 30 days of being hired.
Yet the Department of Labor has no disclosure forms on record from either General Dynamics or any of the third parties that the IUOE alleges it brought in to stop the union drive. The union claims that General Dynamics hired three lawyers – Thomas M. Stanek, Elizabeth M. Townsend and Janet Madsen – from the law firm of Ogletree Deakins to fight the union drive. It also claims that the anti-union captive-audience meetings were conducted in part by Paul Belsito, who claimed that he owned a consulting firm specializing in union elections. A General Dynamics spokeswoman contacted for this story stated that she was on vacation and could not respond at this time. Ogletree Deakins did not respond to request for comment and Belsito could not be located for comment.
Alexander believes General Dynamics may not have filed financial disclosures firms with the Department of Labor in order to hide evidence that they were billing the federal government for union-busting expenses in violation of federal law. Under President Obama's Executive Order 13494 that went into effect in 2011, federal contractors can no longer receive reimbursement from the federal government for expenses spent on trying to persuade employees against joining a union. If evidence is found that General Dynamics did indeed charge the federal government for union-busting expenses, General Dynamics, which received $19 billion in federal contracts last year, could face debarment from bidding on federal contractors for a period of time.
Croic claims that up until April General Dynamics managers at Fort Lewis instructed the military contractors to bill the anti-union meetings on their timesheets under the training charge code. Costs of training can be reimbursed by the federal government, but anti-union expenses cannot be billed. The union claims that only after it complained to Rep. Smith did General Dynamics instruct the workers to bill the anti-union meetings with a code that could not be billed to the federal government.
General Dynamics has previously denied billing the federal government for the costs of anti-union efforts. In a May 31 letter to Rep. Smith, General Dynamics Land System President Mark C. Roualet wrote, "Meetings held since January 2012 have not been charged as training and have not been billed to our customer."