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By Chris Opfer
General Dynamics Information Technology Inc.'s fight against unionization has landed the government contracting firm in hot water with the National Labor Relations Board.
NLRB officials twice in the past three weeks charged General Dynamics with unfair labor practices, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. The complaints, approved by NLRB regional directors, stem from allegations that the company “threatened” workers involved in union activity and interfered with those efforts.
“These complaints are another example of why the federal government needs to be more proactive about ensuring that its contractors respect workers’ rights,” Alex van Schaick, a Communications Workers of America attorney, told Bloomberg Law. “Corporations like General Dynamics that make billions from the federal government through contracting should respect federal labor law and their workers’ right to come together in a union.”
The complaints, which will be heard by an administrative law judge, are the latest skirmishes in an ongoing feud between General Dynamics and the CWA over efforts to unionize call center workers across the country. The union says the company has used illegal tactics—like threatening workers and telling them the CWA doesn’t have the power to negotiate higher pay rates—to resist labor organizing.
An NLRB regional director said Aug. 31 that the company “interrogated” workers at a Hattiesburg, Miss., call center about union activities, told them they could lose their benefits if they voted to organize in a collective bargaining unit, and suggested other “unspecified reprisals.” A separate regional director 11 days earlier said the company violated federal labor law by banning workers at a Medicare call center in Kentucky from distributing union leaflets in an employee parking lot.
“The company does not comment on pending legal matters,” General Dynamics spokesman Tom Doheny told Bloomberg Law.
The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, represents employees of Bloomberg Law.
General Dynamics in May was forced to send a notice to employees at an Alexandria, Va., call center, advising them of their labor rights, as part of a settlement of another NLRB complaint.
The company told workers in the notice that managers would no longer say “it would take an act of Congress to increase your wages.” General Dynamics also said it wouldn’t threaten to take away employees’ benefits if they unionize and agreed to stop telling workers that unionization could cost the company its federal contracts.
By the time the notices were sent, however, the company’s Virginia call center contract had already expired.
General Dynamics currently employs about 10,000 call center workers across the country. The company, which recently acquired tech contractor CSRA, is expected next year to bring in about $10 billion in revenue from government information technology service contracts.
President Donald Trump three months after taking office killed an Obama era rule that would have required companies to disclose NLRB complaints and settlements to be able to compete for federal contracts. The business community and Republican critics of the regulation said it would have allowed government bureaucrats to “blacklist” contractors based on allegations that haven’t been proved.
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