In the end, soldiers are employees – yet so much more. The soldier business is a calling. It is perhaps the one profession in the world that calls on its members to conduct themselves with a sense of altruism every day. . . . Who knew cleaning the latrine could be so altruistic? Even non-profits, in this author’s experience, do not rise to the level of selflessness required for the armed forces.
But, soldiers are fundamentally employees. They are manual laborers. As such, they are subject to manipulation and even abuse. The military system, when it works, prevents abuse. The command relationship is designed to prevent abuse. Indeed, that relationship even elevates persons who serve. In Connecticut, that potential for abuse apparently became a problem. A labor union sued for recognition that it may approach Connecticut National Guard members about joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council No. 4. The union was concerned with 10 U.S.C. Sec. 976. Sec. 976 prohibits soldiers from joining or forming labor unions.
But, in reality, this lawsuit surely started with State Guardsmen wanting to join the union after they were activated for state duty. Many Guardsmen have been activated for covid duty. The Guardsmen were not allowed to bargain over covid precautions, even though they were directly exposed to the virus.
In November, 2021, the Department of Justice asked to dismiss AFSCME, Council No. 4 v. Garland, No. 21-CV-01524 (D.Conn.), on the grounds that it did not disagree with the union. DOJ agreed that the statute, 10 U.S.C. Sec. 976, only applies to soldiers on federal orders. When DOJ agreed with the labor union, that rendered the lawsuit moot. And, certainly the statute is a federal statute. As such it only applies to soldiers on federal orders.
Texas Guard Joins a Union
So, it is now not surprising that Texs Guardsmen have been joining a labor union. See the Army Times article here. The Texas State Employees Union formed a Military Caucus for Guardsmen activated for Operation Lone Star.
I have written about Operation Lone Star here and here. Operation Lone Star is a morally bankrupt operation. It lacks the character trait most valued in the Army: leadership. The Guardsmen have been required to give up their lives and even their incomes to satisfy a political objective. Many Guardsmen on the border do nothing more than watch persons fishing in the river. In this instance, the Guardsmen are exercising the only right left to them, joining a union.
Joining a union presents complications. Guardsmen attend weekend drill under Title 32, a federal statute. They are paid by the federal government, but remain under the command of Gov. Abbott. Will 10 U.S.C. Sec. 976 apply to Guardsmen on their weekend drills? Who knows. But, a smart Guardsmen will not attend any union meetings during weekend drill.
John Bell Hood became famous as commander of the Texas Brigade during the Civil War. Before Hood, the Texas Brigade saw two regimental commanders driven away by the Texans. Hood’s predecessors looked good, but they did not really talk to the men. Hood, on the contrary, talked to them and accorded them some respect simply based on their pre-war civilian jobs and places in society. He treated them as human beings, not as tin soldiers. When commanders do not listen to their soldiers, they are driven away, or in this instance, they see their soldiers finding other ways to communicate.