Atomic Lab Workers In New York Seek Union

Filed under: Labor,Union Organizing,Unions |

Technical workers seeking to unionize at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) near Albany, New York, received a letter of support from three federal lawmakers who reminded management not to illegally interfere with the union vote.

KAPL logo atomic

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Paul Tonko singed the letter of support, which was dated 27 February 2012, according to the Albany Times-Union newspaper. Technical workers at KAPL will vote Wednesday, 29 February 2012, on whether to join Local 147 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

About 235 workers vote on joining the union, which already represents about 80 designers and draftsmen at KAPL.

Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. took over operation of KAPL, which does training and research on naval nuclear reactors, under a federal contract in 2009. Lockheed Martin had previously run the facility, which has been in operation since 1946 and was originally operated by General Electric.

Paul Shearon, secretary-treasurer of the union, told the Times-Union that Bechtel management removed union materials from the plant, and has called in small groups of workers on company time for sessions at which managers discourage unionization. The workers stay clocked in and the sessions take place during regular work hours, to avoid creating a record of anti-union meetings, he told the newspaper.

The union claimed in a 2 Feb. 2012 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu that Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp., the private company that operates KAPL for the U.S. Navy, is violating a 2010 presidential order that prevents using taxpayer money to discourage workers from organizing.

Bechtel has reportedly denied violating the order, which was issued just after President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and Chu and the Department of Energy never responded to the union’s appeal, according to the report.

According to the Times-Union:

Bechtel is “not engaged in anti-union activities,” according to a company statement. “We are communicating directly with our employees to provide them factual information … to ensure that they understand the facts with respect to what the union can and cannot promise them.”

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