UNCERTAINTY: Situation where the current state of knowledge is such that (1) the order or nature of things is unknown, (2) the consequences, extent, or magnitude of circumstances, conditions, or events is unpredictable.
We hear the term “uncertainty” in a variety of situations, business and government to mention a few. It is usually cast in a negative light. No one desires to be caught in an uncertain situation. And that’s why events that can be time-lined back to August 2016, when the American Federation of Government Employees Union placed Local 987 under the direction of a trustee, has cast a shadow over the future of Robins Air Force Base.
The national, although conducting hearings, has yet to publicly say why it placed the local under a trustee, nor what charges the local leadership was accused of committing. In any case, it would be impossible for local leadership to mount a defense because the first thing the national did was seize the local’s records. Last week two more local union faces were replaced and still no firm date has been set for election of local officers.
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While this present situation began last August, its real genesis flows back to 2013 when Robert Tidwell and a new slate of officers were elected to replace Tom Scott and his administration, not just one election, but two. The first held Oct. 15, 2013 and the second on March 18, 2014. Long story, but the outgoing administration did not go quietly into the night.
If you’ll remember, Robins had more employee grievances than its competing bases in Oklahoma City and Ogden, Utah, combined. That’s not a good thing when the military is looking for efficiencies.
The previous union leadership was spending money like it was their own and there was no accountability. The accounting firm of Clifton, Lipford, Hardison & Parker LLC found $266,888 in union funds had been spent from Jan. 1, 2011, through Nov. 5, 2013. Where it went, who knows? The local didn’t have policies or guidelines delineating who was authorized to use union credit cards, circumstances of use or a policy that required documentation of expenditures. Also, there were no approved board minutes during that time period.
The new union leadership started to bring 21st century labor-management techniques such as Pre-Decisional Involvement and other tools to allowed for problems to be addressed early before issues rose to the grievance stage. Grievances started to fall and production climbed.
While the national was sending in a trustee to raid the union’s piggy bank, workers at Robins were getting the job done. They had posted the best production numbers in five years and cut $1.4 million in production costs with 1,000 fewer workers. Memorandum of agreements at Robins dropped 99 percent from 600 in three years; arbitration cases dropped by 94 percent over the same period.
Certainly, there are some employees who would rather have it the old way. One retired aircraft mechanic who was a steward under the old regime said as much in this newspaper on Tuesday. While he’s still a union member, he doesn’t have to clock in everyday anymore and whether the base remains vital may be less of a concern now, but the numbers don’t lie.
A 2016 report said the Department of Defense has 22 percent excess capacity overall, including 33 percent in the Army, 32 percent in the Air Force and 7 percent in the Navy. It’s also true there are hot spots popping up all over the globe, all the more reason for the Pentagon to look for the most bang for its buck. We don’t know when another BRAC will happen, but we know it’s coming. Until then, our military has to deal with something worse, continued sequestration if Congress doesn’t act.
A number of the threats to the base have been taken off the table. Encroachment issues are gone; state educational institutions have stepped up to provide veterans’ services at the Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in Warner Robins. Middle Georgia State University has a campus within walking distance of the base and the Pentagon will not find a more supportive community. However, the communities surrounding Tinker Air Force Base and Hill Air Force Base will be lobbying for their bases, too, and if it comes down to numbers, Robins has to be hitting on all cylinders, and it can’t do that as long as the national union is mucking around creating uncertainty in Middle Georgia.