Fears of BRAC an Issue in Robins Union Election

Most of the signs at a union protest Thursday, outside Congressman Austin Scott's Warner Robins office, were about ending the government shutdown.

Mixed among those were the names of candidates for the

AFGE Local 987 election.

It's next Tuesday; the same day as the Macon-Bibb run-off and the start of early voting in Warner Robins.

Both candidates running for union president talked about an issue that a retired general recently brought to the forefront.

In April, former Robins Commander, now CEO of the

21st Century Partnership,

Bob McMahon called the relationship between base management and the union,

"the number one threat" to Robins Air Force Base.

McMahon made his point by comparing the number of grievances filed at Robins to the nation's two other Air Logistics Centers.

Last Year, McMahon said Robins had more than double that of Hill Air Force Base in Utah and three times that of Tinker in Oklahoma.

He said, "We've got to figure out how we can do this more effectively at the lowest possible level."

McMahon urged labor and management to resolve issues, before they become formal grievances and potentially harm Robins chances of surviving a future round of BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure.

Union president for nine years and seeking a fourth term, Tom Scott, said during Thursday's shutdown rally, that he would like to see the number of grievances reduced.

For that to happen, he says the base culture needs to change first.

Scott said, "Until you fix the root cause that's generated a grievance, that's the issue."

He says employees file grievances, and not the union. To keep workers from taking that step, Scott says low and mid-level managers need to work on the relationship.

Scott said, "It's sort of adversarial between employees and management."

He disagrees with McMahon about the importance of the grievance issue. Scott said it might be looked at by a BRAC committee, but Robins' ability to deliver on-time aircraft and quality work is the more important factor.

Scott said he's always been cooperative and willing to work with base management. He said, "I could just recommend, it takes two to tango on this issue."

His opponent in the election is a sheet metal mechanic, Robert Tidwell.

Tidwell said he is the one who blew the whistle on safety violations at Robins three years ago, after management and union leaders failed to listen to his concerns. That resulted in 39 citations from the

Occupational Safety and Health Administration


Tidwell believes he has a stategy to fix the grievance problems.

He said, "There's a different way to do business at Robins Air Force Base. We've got to hold everyone accountable to the Master Labor Agreement."

Tidwell said he wants the union to be more engaged with the community, and agrees with McMahon "100-percent," that the grievance rate is a great concern for future rounds of BRAC.

He said, "We have got to take our community back. We have got to support these workers out here, and make sure they're successful in everything they do. We have got to rebuild Robins' reputation. BRAC is right around the corner."

Tidwell believes current union leadership is a major part of the issue, pointing to union flyers and newspaper articles.

One that ran in the AFGE Local 987 newspaper after McMahon's report of the grievances in April, depicted McMahon in a dunce cap.

Another flyer distributed at Robins Tuesday, attaches Tidwell and the retired general's name to a scene from the movie "Animal House." It shows pledges bowing down to fraternity members, and says, "Thank you, sir! May I have another!"

Holding the literature, Tidwell said, "This is the type of childish leadership we have at the union hall. They laugh and cut up that of our three ALC's, we're number four. You know? I agree, but there's a lot of good men and women who come to work out here, and work everyday to have what they do disgraced in a union paper."

Scott said he had nothing to do with flyers or the drawing in the editorial column of the AFGE paper.

He said under his leadership in 2006, the union won a "best practice" award for their partnership with the base. He admitted that relationships have "fallen back" in recent years.

Tuesday's union election will be done by secret ballot, with about 4,000 members eligible to cast a vote.

Union leadership serves three-year terms.


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