Five present and former soldiers, including one masked GI and an ex-paratrooper who contends he was kicked out of the Army for military union-organizing activities, yesterday presented a petition calling on Congress to defeat efforts to ban military unions.
Just over 1,900 service men and women from bases around the world have signed the petition presented to an aide to Sen. James Abourezk (D.S.D) by the Enlisted People's Organizing Committee, a Washington-based group that advocates unionization of the military rank-and-file.
The aide, Megan Wahl, said Abourezk does not favor a union at this time, but does support the right of service personnel to work for one.
The petition's main target, the group said, is a bill introduced by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R.S.C.) and 43 cosponsors, that would make it illegal to join or form a military union. The bill is pending in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The union that the petitioners are advocating would be unusual because it would forsake the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of most American labor organizations: the right to strike.
"Unions do not need the right to strike," said a Washington-area soldier he said he fears reprisals from his superiors. He and his four colleagues held a news conference on Capitol Hill.
"They could assist in filing suits, both individual and class action," he said. "They could organize, have meeting, participate in personnel management on a policy level, serve as a check to ensure the NCO [nonecommissioned officers] corps properly performs its management involving human abuse, stage protests."
The group's principal spokesman was Thomas Doran of Spring Lake, N.C., an ex-paratrooper who has sued the Army, alleging his discharge last December was a result of his efforts to organize a military union at Ft. Bragg.
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At least [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] have taken [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for the services. The American Federation of Government Employees, an AFL-CIO affiliated organization with 300,000 members, voted in September to amend its constitution to admit service personnel.
When some AFGE members objected to the prospect of military members because their presence might dilute the union's attention to the concerns of its civilian members, AFGE decided to polls its membership on the question.
The poll should completed by October, said a union spokesman.
Meanwhile, the Association of Civilian Technicians, a group that represents about 6,000 National Guard and Reserve employees has recruited "a couple of thousand" service personnel, said association president Vincent Paterno.
Paterno said the association has temporarily halted its recruiting activities, pending the fate of Thurmond's bill.
President Carter and Defense Secretary Harold Brown have said they oppose the idea of a military union but do not support legislation prohibiting unions for fear of overcacting to the concept.