Red River Army Depot Workers Stand Together for Growth

A building formerly used by IAM District W2 to organize Service Contract workers at Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, TX is now being used by NFFE-IAM Local 2189 to organize more depot workers. From Left to Right: – IAM Organizer Joe Cicala, NFFE LL 2189 Vice President Jerry McCarty, NFFE LL 2189 President Shane Connell, NFFE LL 2189 1st Vice President Christian Casteel, IAM Organizer Juan Eldridge and NFFE Business Representative Gary Johanson.

The IAM and its sister union, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE-IAM), are embarking on an ambitious campaign grow worker power at Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, TX.

“Collectively as a group, as one, we can pack a powerful punch,” says Chris Casteel, first vice president of NFFE-IAM Local 2189.

Most civilian workers at the Texarkana, TX-area depot, which maintains and repairs military vehicles such as MRAPs and Humvees, are represented by NFFE-IAM Local 2189 or IAM Local 1243, the latter of which represents Service Contract Act workers.

“We build them as if our lives depend on it,” says Casteel, “because the war fighters’ lives do. The goal is to get the solider back home to his or her family.”

But there are more than 500 federal employees at the depot’s distribution center who belong to an independent union.

Many of those distribution center workers have recently approached NFFE-IAM members on base about becoming NFFE-IAM members themselves. Casteel says the distribution center workers caught notice of the IAM’s industry-wide reputation for fighting for its members, access to the Winpisinger Education and Technology Center and considerable lobbying presence on Capitol Hill.

“They want fair representation and they want a voice,” says Casteel.

NFFE Local 2189 picked up the lease to a nearby office building that was used to successfully organize Red River Service Contract workers into the IAM. They’re using the building to work alongside the IAM to organize the federal workers at the distribution center.

“NFFE and the IAM are working together on this big campaign. It’s groundbreaking,” says IAM Organizer Joe Cicala.

The IAM won an organizing campaign at Red River in October 2014 to represent 1,000 mechanics, technicians and maintenance personnel employed by URS. In October 2015, XOtech, a contractor that represents more than 150 vehicle mechanics at the depot, voluntarily recognized the IAM as the exclusive bargaining agent of their depot employees.

In June, the IAM’s bargaining strength resulted in an agreement that preserved quality health insurance for the depot’s former URS employees, who now work for a different contractor.

“The employees at the diagnostic facility are tired of their union leadership being too close with management and feel as if they have no representation,” said IAM Organizer Juan Eldridge. “We are looking forward to showing them the difference of NFFE-IAM representation and why we are 650,000 strong and growing.”

“Our brothers and sisters from NFFE Local 2189 were instrumental in assisting us in organizing the Service Contract workers at Red River, and we’ll do everything we can to assist them in making sure all the civilian workers at Red River are under a strong NFFE or IAM contract,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin.

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