When the jobs of more than 700 mechanics and technicians were about to disappear, NFFE-IAM Local 2189 at the Texarkana Red River Army Depot did not wait for the U.S. Army to save those jobs. Instead, they took matters into their own hands.
"While we value our working relationship with depot management, more than 700 people were less than a week away from losing their jobs," said Gerry McCarty, a member of Local 2189. "That left a lot of very nervous people to wonder if they were going to be unemployed the following week."
Term employees, like the ones left in question at Red River, must be rehired each year to continue working. Most often, rehiring term employees is an automatic process, given the critical contributions of army depot workers to the country’s military readiness. The fate of these employees was unknown because neither the Department of Defense nor the U.S. Army had approved an exemption for depot workers from the federal hiring freeze initiated by the Donald Trump administration in January. Time was running out.
"We circled the wagons and went at it with all we had, contacting elected officials in several states and planning protests at several key locations," McCarty said. "We were prepared to leave no stone unturned in order to keep these people at work, whether they were union members or not."
The show of union force drew a strong and favorable reaction from local and federal elected officials in the deep-red state area, pushing lawmakers to demand answers from the Pentagon. Pentagon officials responded in hours with a signed exemption, saving 700 people from the unemployment line and also preventing an economic downturn in the Texarkana area, which relies heavily on the depot workforce.
"Unions have a voice and we used it," McCarty said. "The next day, I was thanked by countless people for our efforts that brought answers and relief to so many families. That makes a person feel pretty good."