Union: Air Force wrong to privatize food jobs

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Dozens of picketers at Elmendorf Air Force Base on Monday protested a move by the military to privatize food service jobs.

Mark Thiessen / The Associated Press
Mark Thiessen / The Associated Press

According to the American Federation of Government Employees, more than 300 food service workers will be affected by privatization being tried at six Air Force bases in Alaska, California, Arkansas, Washington state and Florida.

The list of food service workers whose jobs are in jeopardy ranges from dining hall cooks to those working in for-profit enterprises, such as child development centers, golf courses and bowling alleys serving troops and their families.

John Gage, the union's national president, said the Air Force provided no justification for putting hundreds of people out of work. If the program is adopted nationwide, 4,000 food service workers at dozens of Air Force bases could lose their jobs, he said.

He said Air Force officials have refused to meet with the union about the program.

The Air Force also did not conduct a study to determine if outsourcing the jobs actually would save taxpayer money as required by law, he said.

"I just can't stand the arrogance of it," Gage said. "This is America, and this is an injustice."

Elmendorf Air Force Base officials did not return calls for comment Monday.

The move would threaten 40 jobs at Elmendorf, with 32 of those workers told they could lose their jobs as of Oct. 1. Eight other workers whose salaries are paid directly by the government were told their jobs are on hold for two years.

Tyrone Davis, who retired from active military service after more than 23 years, works as a cook at Elmendorf because he missed the camaraderie of the base. The 49-year-old said he has asked whether his job would exist after the two-year hold, but received only vague answers.

"I can't pay my bills on what people assume," Davis said. "I have a family to take care of."

Local 1101 president David Owens said he suspects that after the hold, all the food service jobs will be lost to the private sector. He said most of the food service workers make between $10 and $15 an hour.

"They barely make a living," Owens said. "How is it going to save the taxpayer money?"

The House Armed Services Committee has directed the General Accountability Office to investigate the program and conduct a cost analysis, Owens said. The Air Force has been told not to expand beyond the pilot program until the investigation is completed, he added.

The program is being tried at Patrick and MacDill Air Force bases in Florida, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, Travis Air Force Base in California and Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

The union, which brought pickets from states including Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Idaho, represents 260,000 Department of Defense workers.

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