The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint alleging that one of the federal government’s largest contractors has violated federal labor laws.
The complaint issued by Region 5 of the NLRB states that General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) took illegal action to prevent workers at its Alexandria, Virginia call center from joining a union.
In a related matter, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) has charged GDIT with massive and systemic wage theft and has called on the Wage and Hours Division of the Department of Labor to take action against the company.
GDIT, which reported $4.4 billion in revenue in 2016, has extensive contracts with the US military, intelligence services, and civilian agencies.
Among its many government contracts is one with the Pension Benefit Guarantee Board (PBGB).
Under this contract, 80 GDIT employees at its Alexandria call center answer inquiries from people who receive or are about to receive pension benefits from PBGB.
These workers in 2016 began working with CWA to form a union.
The NLRB’s complaint says that GDIT management responded to the workers’ desire to form a union with coercion and threats.
“I’m happy that GDIT is finally being taken to task for breaking the law,” said Sabrina Batta-Hopson, a union supporter at the Alexandria call center. “I hope this labor board complaint will prevent the company from spreading more misinformation to other workers.”
Among other things, the NLRB alleges that the call center’s program manager “by e-mail promulgated and maintained” a rule against employees talking to other employees about joining a union.
The same program manager during an employee meeting misinformed workers that a union wouldn’t help them get a pay raise because it would take an act of Congress to get one.
At another employee meeting, the program manager threatened employees with the loss of benefits if they joined a union and falsely claimed that if they joined a union, the company would lose its contract with PBGB.
The NLRB’s complaint is due to be heard on May 22 by an administrative judge.
“These federally contracted workers are entitled to the protections of our labor laws,” said Alex van Schaick, a CWA attorney. “GDIT not only abuses workers’ rights, but is also the focus of serious complaints about wage theft and other abuses, and may owe its employees over $100 million in back wages.”
The wage theft to which Van Schaick referred involves workers at 11 GDIT call centers all across the US.
These call centers operate under contract with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
These workers answer people’s questions about Medicare, help people enroll in Affordable Care Act health care plans, and help Medicare recipients get medical equipment to manage their health problems.
CWA wants the Wage and Hour Division to investigate its charge that GDIT is violating the law by misclassfying workers in order to pay a wage lower than the prevailing wage required by the Services Contract Act, by which contractors must abide in order get contracts with the federal government.
The union estimates that GDIT owes $107 million in back pay.
The crux of the union complaint is that GDIT’s call center workers are trained extensively and have broad knowledge about services that callers are seeking, but their job classification reflects a much lower level of skill and training.
“I’ve had two rounds of extensive training to get to my current job. It’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of work,” said Adrian Powe, a worker at GDIT’s Hattiesburg, Mississippi call center. “But I’m being paid at a much lower rate. I’m being cheated, and the federal government must hold GDIT accountable. GDIT needs to follow the contract it agreed to.”
Powe makes $9.64 an hour, but said he should make $11 to $12 an hour.
CWA estimates that if workers at the Hattiesburg call center were classified correctly and paid the wage they deserve, their annual wages would increase by between $3682 and $6572.
In addition to the workers in Hattiesburg, CWA has also filed wage theft complaints on behalf of GDIT workers in Kansas, Louisiana, and Virginia.
Kathleen Flick, who works at a GDIT call center in Bogualusa, Louisiana said that it’s wrong for GDIT to be stealing money from the working poor.
“I can’t run my air conditioning in the summer because I can’t afford the electric bills,” Flick said. “When I needed a major car repair, I had to take the money out of my 401(k) retirement plan. I’d like to visit my kids, both of whom are active military, but I can’t afford to do it.”
CWA President Chris Shelton said that the union’s wage theft charges will be test for the Trump administration.
“This will be a real test of whether laws that safeguard working people are actually enforced under the Trump administration,” Shelton said. “We’ve heard a lot of promises from this president about defending American workers. It’s time for action, not rhetoric.”