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Texas Nat’l Guard unionize over US-Mexico border mission

149th Fighter Wing all-call during drill weekend on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Oct. 16, 2021. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Derek Gutierez)
February 17, 2022

Texas National Guard troops assigned to the Operation Lone Star mission on the U.S.-Mexico border have organized under a public-sector union this week after President Joe Biden’s Justice Department declared soldiers can form and join unions while on state-level active-duty orders.

The Texas State Employees Union’s Military Caucus has already scheduled their first meeting for “early next week,” according to a Reddit post created by a soldier leading the effort, whose identity was verified by Army Times on Wednesday.

“We have met the minimum enrollment to stand up a military caucus within the Texas State Employees Union! We will be holding our first meeting on Zoom early next week. If you have already joined TSEU, you should be receiving an email or text message within the next day or two to figure out what time works best for everyone,” the post stated.

The post said the union “will be discussing issues specific to service members on Operation Lone Star.”

“We want to know what is affecting service members so that we know where to focus our efforts,” the post stated. “We will also be discussing both short term and long term strategies, as well as tips and resources for recruiting new members.”

“If you are interested in serving as a committee member for the TSEU military caucus, you still have time to join before our meeting next week! Dues are approximately $28 per month, depending on your base pay,” it continued. “Please feel free to DM/chat me if you have any questions!”

The post also included a disclaimer warning that it is a federal felony for service members to participate in a labor union while serving in a federal capacity.  

According to Army Times, this is the first time troops have organized under a union while on active duty.

In U.S. Department of Justice filing last month, DOJ lawyers wrote that a federal law prohibiting military members from unionizing “does not apply to Guard members on state active duty or in the Inactive National Guard.”

The Connecticut unions sued back in November, arguing National Guard troops should be allowed to seek union representation alongside state employees in advocating for workplace protections against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Connecticut National Guard members on state orders have worked alongside the public service workers we represent to distribute protective equipment and assist with testing at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jody Barr, Executive Director of Council 4 for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said in November. “Yet Guard members were not able to bargain over COVID-19 safety precautions, even though the state employees they worked directly alongside were able to have a voice in COVID-19 testing, shift safety, and other necessary precautions.”