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AFGE plans Aug. 31 picket over Job Corps layoffs in Moses Lake

The following is from District 11 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE):

afge-actionMOSES LAKE (Aug. 19, 2013) — Employees at the Job Corps Columbia Basin will be spending part of the Labor Day weekend protesting the planned elimination of their jobs. While the employer, U. S. Forest Service, stated that this for budgetary reasons the employees’ union leaders say it is discrimination and union busting. An informational picket is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31 in Moses Lake. Employees will be joined by AFGE leaders, AFL-CIO members from other locals around the state, and labor partners.

TAKE A STAND! — AFGE is planning a rally in Moses Lake at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7662 Chanute Street NE, near Big Bend Community College. All union members and community partners are urged to come out and assist in fighting for jobs at Job Corps.

Last year, Columbia Basin employees elected to be represented by American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Of the 22 employees slated for lay off at Columbia Basin, the Forest Service picked 11 persons who are members of AFGE.

“We are a very small union local and this is 11 members at one unit. This is union busting,” said AFGE Local President Andy Villapando. Earlier this month, Villapando filed unfair labor practice charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) in Denver, Colorado. The charges include bad faith bargaining over the proposed layoffs and retaliation against members for engaging in protected activity.

The proposed layoffs at Columbia Basin affect jobs held by women and persons over 40 years of age.

“The agency just proved that they have an EEO problem at Columbia Basin since they already have four EEO complaints pending hearings before the EEOC, and the complaints consist of gender discrimination and age discrimination,” said Ivan Weich, who is National Fair Practices Affirmative Action Coordinator for AFGE District 11, which covers the eight states of the Pacific Northwest.

One employee has filed repeated claims of gender discrimination and reprisal misconduct (for making complaints) and she was ultimately fired. Her case is under appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in San Francisco.

“This conduct is very typical of management at Columbia Basin. All of these employees planned for layoff are female and over 40 years of age. Regardless, it is killing jobs. Not just the workers. Job Corps trains our at-risk youth for good jobs. All of these positions are mission critical. The agency may tell you that it is for budgetary reasons. AFGE knows better. It is an arbitrary move. There is no methodology to this madness. The agency calls it abolishment, we call it layoff, and the real reason is anti-unionism and discrimination. Without all of these employees, the youth will have nothing except: minimum wage, fewer work hours, no benefits, welfare, food stamps and Medicaid,” Weich said.

Job Corps is the nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. Job Corps works with “at-risk” youth ages 16 to 24 to prepare them for the workforce. Job Corps was established in 1964 by the Economic Opportunity Act and is currently authorized by the Title I-C of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Job Corps consists of residential, academic and vocational programs to develop employability skills for youth become a productive member of our socio-economic world.

The American Federation of Government Employees represents more than 600,000 federal employees as well as employees of the District of Columbia, and foreign service posts.

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