The union that covers workers at the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility has filed an unfair labor practice suit against Washington Group, contractors for the facility, which destroy chemical weapons stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot.
The suit, filed by the IOUE Local 701 Demil Trades Council with the National Labor Relations Board, alleges the company engaged in bad faith bargaining, regressive bargaining, refused to provide relevant information, and failed to respond to meeting requests.
Mark Esposito, attorney for URS Corporation, who owns Washington Group, was unavailable for comment.
Rod Osgood, a union field representative, said he contacted the Department of Labor to determine when crews should be paid, either after workers were onsite or when they receive their masks and syringes. Before workers enter the facility site, they must pick up the masks and syringes of chemical antidote - a requirement to work at the plant.
Workers then wait at the entry gate for identification checks; a process that can take up to five to 45 minutes, depending on whether or not the plant is under lockdown or a large number of people either entering or exiting the site.
The labor department told Osgood that workers' start and stop times should be when picking up masks; however, the department would have to conduct an investigation.
In January 2008, a Utah judge ordered URS to pay workers at the Tooele Chemical Depot's demilitarization facility to pay workers for hours not compensated - the very thing Osgood was trying to get for his union workers. The settlement amount for Tooele workers was $4 million.
"Our people should have been paid along," Osgood said, for their start and stop times at the masking trailer, just like the Tooele workers.
Osgood sent a letter to URS, demanding the company negotiate, and the company agreed. By September, 2008, the company had made an offer of $25 an hour for every hour worked that was not paid.
"Some people might wait for five minutes or 45 minutes to get through the gate once they were masked," Osgood said, which could have meant a lot of money for employees.
Another bone of contention was not getting a third break after a 12-hour day. Osgood said workers were either called away from their lunch or did not receive a second afternoon break. The company offered to pay for 12 minutes of a break not given and 18 minutes of interrupted lunches.