Thousands Threatened by Energy Department Proposal

In a move that echoes the worst practices of the Bush administration, the current Department of Energy (DOE) is considering a proposal that would allow bargaining units at certain federal facilities to be combined without requiring contractors to retain the existing workforce. As many as 60,000 DOE workers could be affected, including 3,500 IAM members who are part of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department.

The DOE last came to national attention for anti-labor activities in 2005 under the Bush administration, when it attempted to implement regulations that would no longer require contractors to be reimbursed for expenses associated with defined benefit pension coverage.

This proposal was widely viewed as a frontal assault on workers’ pensions and reverberated throughout the labor community. The IAM, the AFL-CIO and members of Congress aggressively opposed the proposal while members flooded then Energy Department Secretary Samuel W. Bodman with calls and letters.

“We believe that the appropriate way to address issues of compensation is not through heavy-handed Federal policy, but rather, at the negotiating table,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger in a letter to Secretary Bodman at the time. “It is only through arms-length bargaining, free from interference that employers and employees can resolve issues of mutual concern in a matter that balances all parties’ consideration.”

While the Bush-era DOE was forced to back away from implementing the regulation in 2006, the Obama-era DOE is floating an equally odious proposal: the consolidation of multiple bargaining units without a requirement to hire the current union-represented workforce.

Under the current proposal, bargaining units at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Pantex in Texas, Savannah River in Georgia, Sandia National Labs in California, Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California and others would be combined, allowing large government contractors to bid on a single, massive contract without a requirement to retain incumbent workforces or maintain existing benefits.