A shake-up in the temporary leadership of the largest union at Robins Air Force Base is causing concern among base advocates.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 987 remains under control of a trustee after the national union took over the local in August. A election date has not been set to allow the local membership to choose its leadership.
Dan Penny, the outgoing executive director of the 21st Century Partnership, said the trustee is trying to put people back in office who were supporters of Tom Scott, the former union president. Scott was defeated in an election in 2013 that was swept by a slate of candidates promising a more cooperative working relationship with management.
“It’s very concerning to me, and it should be to just about everybody else who ever heard of Tom Scott,” Penny said. “They are putting a lot of people back in who worked with Scott and have the same thought process as Scott.”
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Terry O’Rear, a retired aircraft mechanic who was a steward under Scott and remains a union member, had a different point of view.
“Tom Scott was a great man,” O’Rear said. “If he was there right now, we would be in a better place. We wouldn’t have all this discontent going on.”
The trustee, Ray Van Schoubroek, removed Marion Williams as interim president last week and replaced him with Ron Hill. David Tucker, a union steward who had been working as the liaison to the aircraft maintenance area, was also removed.
A person who answered the phone at union hall on Monday said Schoubroek had no comment. Hill also did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Penny said he has tried to show patience with Schoubroek and was told recently that an election for local offices will be held in June or July. However, now Schoubroek is saying it will be October and a date has not been set, according to Penny.
Penny said he is especially bothered by the delay in having an election because no substantive charges have been brought against the union officers who were ousted in August. He said there is a current attempt to bring a charge against a union member for allegedly having a conversation with another union member about union business outside of union hall.
Penny said the union bylaws state that union business cannot be discussed outside of union hall, but he said the rule “defies human logic” and the charge is petty.
“They are doing everything they can to change the delegates,” he said.
Penny said no cause was given for the shake-up last week. He said the reason is that Schoubroek wanted to have more delegates who would vote to re-elect Everett Kelley, the national vice president over the region, at a convention set for May.
The local membership has voted to elect 11 delegates to the convention, but by removing the officers, Penny said, Schoubroek is trying to circumvent the will of the membership. He said the Robins delegation would make up one of the largest voting blocs in the region.
The 21st Century Partnership works to secure new missions for Robins and protect it in the event of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Penny announced his resignation from the partnership April 2, but he will remain on the job tentatively for several more weeks.
Penny said union membership has gone up under the trusteeship because bad workers at Robins are being promised help. O’Rear said the membership is increasing because members prefer how the union is doing business under the trusteeship.
The change in union leadership in 2013 came after reports that Robins had more grievances filed than the Air Force’s other two maintenance depots combined. That led to concerns that the base wouldn’t fare well in a Base Realignment and Closure process due to poor relations between union and management.
Penny said members of Congress continue to advocate for a new BRAC, and he is concerned the base’s position could be hurt by a return to more adversarial relationship between the union and management.