Published 17 Aug, 2016
For nearly four years, TWU Local 525 in Florida has been fighting for proper vacation and severance pay for nine members who lost their jobs when their company’s contract with the U.S. Air Force ended. Like Local 526 and Local 527, Local 525 represents civilian employees under contract at military bases.
In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down a decision mandating that the government contractor, Hallmark-Phoenix 3 LLC, pay all severance, vacation, and lead payments owed to employees who were laid off after a successful in-sourcing effort by the Air Force at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
|Photo by Leonard J. DeFrancisci|
After the court’s mandate was announced, Hallmark sent a certified letter to the affected TWU members telling them of the award, but announced they would not get paid because the company is now broke.
The case began in 2012 when the Air Force terminated Hallmark’s contract to provide vehicle operations maintenance services (VOMS) at two military bases. TWU represented the employees at Cape Canaveral while another union represented the employees at Patrick Air Force Base.
Under its contract with Hallmark, eligible TWU-represented employees would be paid for any accrued vacation time and a certain number of vacation hours per year could be carried over into the next year. In addition, TWU members enjoyed lead differential pay, which would also be applied to the vacation allowance of lead employees.
When the employees received their final paychecks, however, they weren’t paid what they were owed. So the local went to work.
The company tried to claim that it was not obligated to pay for carryover vacation or the lead differential because it didn’t win the bid for a new contract; plus, the Air Force was unwilling to pay. But Local 525 pointed out that the Air Force decided to bring the work in house—there was no bidding, and, the union contract was with Hallmark, not the Air Force. Therefore, the company was liable for the payments and the NLRB and the court agreed.
In December 2012, three months after the employees were shortchanged, Hallmark sent a letter to the Air Force claiming that it required over $400,000 in order to pay the employees’ proper severance as stipulated under the two union contracts. In response, the federal government issued a check to the parent company, Hallmark Capital, so that the employees could be compensated. However, Hallmark took the money out of union members’ pockets so it could pay attorneys’ fees in order to fight the union!
“This case has worked its way through the entire NLRB system and TWU has been successful every step of the way, including all of the appeals the company had filed,” said Local 525 President Kevin Smith. “It’s not over yet. We will keep fighting until these employees receive the money they earned.”
The U.S Department of Justice is now seeking an indictment of Hallmark Capital owner Jason Freeman and TWU is helping to build the case to put Freeman in jail for non-payment.