Editorials

Jugglers playing with fire when it comes to Robins

We’ve all seen jugglers. Some juggle various balls, bowling pins or other objects. Real adventurous ones throw knives or torches up in the air in a synchronized dance. Right now, Robins Air Force Base might as well be one of the objects being tossed about by a number of jugglers — and at least one doesn’t care whether RAFB is dropped or not.

The first juggler is Congress. Its skill at juggling is just this side of inept. With a continuing resolution staring the nation in the face because of Congress’ inability to pass a budget, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said last week that if Congress failed to act it would, as National Defense Industrial Association reported, “cause severe damage to the Air Force’s campaign in the Middle East and beyond.”

James said that if the continuing resolution lasted three months or less that the Air Force could manage through that because, “This will be the eighth straight year that we have done so,” but she warned that any longer than that would cut $1.3 billion from the Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 budget request. It would impact training and readiness, she said, across the board for the total force.

Some of the items that would be impacted:

▪  Stocks of precision munition would be reduced in the midst of our battles with ISIS.

▪  Production of the new KC-46 refueling tanker would be cut.

▪  The amount of funds to the B-21 bomber would be reduced.

▪  Delay 50 construction projects (many slated for the roll out of the new F-35A joint strike fighter).

One of the other jugglers is the American Federation of Government Employees. It held hearings last week concerning the leadership of Local 987. Three years ago, Robins had more labor issues than its sister bases combined. New leadership was elected at the local and the grievances slowed because of proactive management. The union stewards started reflecting the diversity of the base’s employees. All that changed Aug. 15 when the national office took over the local and every dime in the local’s coffers, somewhere around $3 million. Out went the new and in went the old. The ranks of the union stewards returned to the ancient ways of doing things, too, and diversity of gender and race vanished.

The hearing, to put it bluntly, is a kangaroo court. Eric Langston, former secretary of Local 987 until the national union staged a coup, said of the national, “They are the judge, jury and executioner.”

In our opinion, since the chain of custody was broken when the national improperly seized the financial records and can now make those records say what they want them to say to prove whatever they want them to prove and findings or claims against local leadership have to be viewed as bogus.

But this is one juggling act that can’t be ignored because the flaming torch that could drop would leave a scorched Middle Georgia behind.

Be assured, the Pentagon is watching and watching closely. There are two other bases, Hill and Tinker that are watching, too. All of the surrounding communities to the three bases want them to remain open and vibrant, but what looked like a promising catch just a few short weeks ago could slip through our fingers.

So what to do. Maj Gen. Robert McMahon, expressed in his letter what could be done last week, but here are some additional steps that base employees and members of the union can take. We can’t say this in any more straightforward terms than this: The base needs something akin to a union to handle legitimate employee concerns, but at present, the AFGE Local 987 isn’t it, and in fact, is jeopardizing all the jobs on base and those jobs that exist in Middle Georgia because of the base.

Union members can simply withdraw their union membership in one of two ways: On their anniversary date or, by filling out a simple one page hardship form available from their supervisor.

While some might think such action is drastic, it’s not as drastic as waiting for the juggler, who is already lost rhythm and can be seen losing sight of the torch that is your livelihood.

  Comments