The Army, at the request of the White House, intervened to assist the Teamsters union in winning a hotly contested union election last October among civilian employes at the Fort Sill military base, according to Army documents and federal labor officials.
The intervention, arranged through President Reagan's political director and the office of Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, violated a law requiring the government to remain neutral in such union contests, according to a complaint issued Feb. 19 by the general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The Army is contesting the charge.
The Teamsters were the only major union to endorse Reagan in 1980 and 1984. In January, the President's Commission on Organized Crime criticized the White House for maintaining close ties to the union despite its longstanding links to organized crime.
Two top Army officials were accused of violating federal labor law because they "breached the requirement of neutrality" by meeting at the Old Executive Office Building with Teamster officials just before the election among 2,500 civilian Army workers, according to the complaint of the FLRA's general counsel. The agency, which supervises labor relations among federal workers, is considering whether to sustain the charge.
As a result of the White House meeting, the FLRA may vote to overturn the election, which was narrowly won by the Teamsters over the incumbent union, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) by a 591-to-516 vote.
NFFE had represented Fort Sill workers for 15 years, and the Teamsters had failed to win an earlier vote at Fort Sill in June, 1985.
But the Teamsters won the runoff election last Oct. 17 after widely publicizing the White House meeting as evidence of the union's political clout in Washington. "When we talk for you, the White House listens," the Teamsters said in a leaflet distributed at Fort Sill.
The Fort Sill election campaign is part of a consistent Teamster push to "raid" the jurisdiction of other unions that already represent federal and state employes.
The Oct. 10, 1985, White House meeting was arranged by the office of Reagan's political director, Mitchell Daniels, according to Army documents obtained by the FLRA, in an Oct. 3 call to the Pentagon. Daniels could not be reached for comment, but White House spokesman Dale Petroskey declined comment, citing the pending FLRA charges.
The two-hour meeting -- involving five Teamster representatives, two top Army officials and a White House representative -- was set up. It was intended as a "show-the-flag meeting to impress Fort Sill's workers that the Teamsters can do more for them than the NFFE," according to a memo written the day before the meeting by Army Col. James M. Schroeder to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Valcris O. Ewell.
Participants in the meeting included Ewell; Michael W. Owen, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army; and Andrew H. Card Jr., special assistant to the president.
The key issue in the Fort Sill election was workers' fear that the contracting out of jobs to the private sector by the Army would result in job losses.
Former White House political director Edward J. Rollins, who left the Reagan administration last year and is now a Teamsters consultant, had offered in May 1985 to meet with Teamsters President Jackie Presser to discuss the contracting issue.
The Teamsters used Rollins' "Dear Jackie" letter as a campaign leaflet at Fort Sill to show their political clout. Rollins could not be reached for comment onwhether he played any role in setting up the October meeting.
In an interview, Ewell said that the meeting dealt solely with the contracting issue and that he and Owen were not aware of the pending election. Ewell also said he was not aware until after the meeting of Schroeder's memo describing it as a "show-the-flag" meeting to help the Teamsters. "Most of my meetings are 'show-the-flag' meetings . . . That is my role in life as a deputy assistant secretary," Ewell said. Schroeder, in an interview, said he wrote the memo based on the description of the purpose of the meeting that was provided to him by other Army officials.
The Teamsters already represented 600 Fort Sill workers but were pushing hard to win the entire base. In campaign leaflets, the Teamsters portrayed the White House meeting as having yielded a commitment from the Army to consult more closely with workers before hiring private contractors to take over Army work. The army has not yet contracted out the jobs.
The White House meeting was "a political payoff for the support that the Teamsters have given the White House," said Steven Kreisberg, director of NFFE field operations. He said it was crucial in helping the Teamsters portray themselves as having political clout. Presser, indicted for criminal fraud, and Daniels, had been expected to attend the Oct. 10 meeting, according to briefing memos. But neither attended, and Card represented the White House.
Owen reported on the meeting in a letter to Marybel Batjer, a Weinberger aide. He concluded by saying, "Of interest may be the fact that a few days after the meeting, the Teamsters won the election" at Fort Sill. The White House political office sent Owen a thank-you note: "Many thanks for agreeing to meet with Teamster officials . . . and for devoting such a substantial amount of your schedule to the issue. Even though the White House role was simply to provide 'neutral ground' as location for the meeting, let me compliment your office on its quick cooperativeness in this matter," wrote Cecilia Cole McInturff, special assistant to the president for political and intergovernmental affairs.