Groton — Security officers at Electric Boat will decide today whether to unionize.
They are considering joining the international union, Security, Police, Fire Professionals of America, based in Roseville, Mich. About 80 security officers in Groton and New London are eligible to vote at the two sites. It would take a majority of votes cast to elect the union to serve as their collective bargaining representative.
About 35 percent of EB's 12,000 employees are unionized, and most of those belong to the Marine Draftsmen's Association-United Auto Workers Local 571 and the Metal Trades Council.
EB circulated handouts internally and set up a website to answer questions about the union. The literature, obtained by The Day, disputes the idea that the officers, if they join, would get better pay, benefits and working conditions and would have more freedom and a stronger voice.
"… Electric Boat wants all Security Officers to learn the facts and make an informed decision," it states. "Be sure to vote on Sept. 18 and, when you vote, be sure to vote NO!!!"
Even if the SPFPA wins the election, EB said, the company retains the right to evaluate the guard force against an outside, contract guard force and "take whatever actions it deems appropriate to keep our business viable and competitive."
The union has circulated a letter it says was written by an officer, Timothy A. Dougherty, which states that complaints by officers were mishandled and supervisors regard members of the force as lower-class employees.
"This is about fair treatment and having a voice," it states. "Our Management continues to harp on 'keeping your rights as an individual,' however, this is only due to the fact that (it) is easier to silence an individual, over an organized group."
The letter also referenced a complaint made to the state Department of Labor. According to the DOL, its Wage and Workplace Standards Division investigated and found the time clock at EB did not meet state guidelines for accurately reflecting the hours worked, and EB is now changing it to meet state law.
"The company will forward us their written, proposed procedure for recording hours worked via the time clock and we expect to accept that change since we have been working with the company to ensure it meets all standards," Gary Pechie, the director of Wage and Workplace Standards, said in a statement. "No back wages are due to the employees because the system in place did not result in loss of wages. However, the new system will more accurately reflect the actual hours that were worked."
David L. Hickey, the union's international president, said he and the director who met with the officers, Dwayne Phillips, are both "very positive" the officers will elect the union.
"I don't think they have any different issues than any other unorganized workers — no job protection, no voice in their careers," Hickey said in an interview Tuesday. "Wages and benefits are always important, but not the most important. They just want to have a voice and a say in their careers and they want to have some job security. They want to work under a collective bargaining agreement."
According to Hickey, the union has 25,000 members in five countries.
The National Labor Relations Board will conduct the election. To start the election process, the SPFPA filed a petition with the board last month showing at least 30 percent of the officers are interested in the union.
Robert H. Nardone, the vice president for human resources and administration at EB, said in a statement that no other EB employees are affected by the petition.
"Because Electric Boat respects its Security Officers' right to vote on this issue via secret ballot, the Labor Board will conduct an election on Sept. 18 where our Security Officers will be able to decide whether or not to let the SPFPA Union represent them," he said. "We want our Security Officers to make an informed decision and make the decision that is best for them and their families. We have been cooperating completely with the National Labor Relations Board during this process."
If the union is elected and the election is certified, the security officers would select leaders and become a local unit of the international union. The union's representative in charge of the region would contact the officers to discuss the issues, form a bargaining committee and prepare for contract negotiations.