The United States Army is recruiting soldiers to join the ranks of labor unions, according to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
An email sent on behalf of Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, the Army’s head of human resources, urged soldiers on the verge of retirement to get involved with the Teamster Military Assistance Program.
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"The Teamster Military Assistance Program and other similar programs focus on assisting soldiers and families who are transitioning from military service to be ‘career ready’ and have access to an established network of enablers, and on connecting soldiers with employment opportunities and the health care and education resources required to successfully reintegrate into civilian society," the email says.
The email was sent through a Pentagon account Tuesday morning and distributed across the ranks. The program is intended to help soldiers, many of whom have extensive experience driving trucks in warzones, to drive big rigs on highways free of IEDs, according to the Army.
"This training program is a multiyear partnership between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, ABF Freight, and the Army to train Soldiers for truck driver positions with ABF Freight throughout the country after they transition to civilian life," the email says.
The Teamsters did not respond to request for comment.
The union’s magazine has praised the program in the past for providing job training to veterans. Teamster courses differ from military truck driving because it allows participants to become trained and certified in hauling hazardous materials, licensing that gives drivers a leg up finding work. The union received taxpayer dollars to offer the truck driving courses to troops in the past.
"Major funding for these courses comes from a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Training Grants Program. This grant was awarded to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for use by construction workers at hazardous waste sites," a 2012 Teamsters Magazine article says.
The Teamsters program evolved from the AFL-CIO sponsored Helmets to Hardhats program. The labor giant created the program in 2002. It is administered by the Center For Military Recruitment Assessment And Veterans Employment, which was approved for non-profit status in 2004. The center is housed in AFL-CIO headquarters just blocks from the White House and is mainly funded by Department of Defense grants and payouts for connecting veterans to jobs and helped more than 12,000 soldiers find work in the construction field in its first seven years.
The nonprofit spent $725,000 on its program services in 2012, according to its most recent federal tax filings. Nearly 70 percent—$490,000—of those expenses went to pay and benefits for Center employees, including executive director Darrell Roberts’ $143,465 salary. The Center also spent $100,000 on a golf tournament that raised more than $200,000 for the program.
The AFL-CIO did not respond to request for comment.
Teamster assistance is not merely aimed at helping veterans find jobs. The union also directs soldiers to disability benefits, which can preclude them from entering the workforce. Nearly half of veterans are seeking disability for what they claim are service related ailments, which has made it "the most costly of the mandatory programs," according to the CBO. The overwhelming claims of disability have led some injured veterans to question the wisdom of incentivizing soldiers to remain on government assistance, rather than finding work upon their reentry to civilian life. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, who lost a leg in Iraq and now teaches at West Point, urges soldiers to forego disability and find jobs.
"People who stay home because they are getting paid enough to get by on disability are worse off," Gade told a group of injured vets in January. "They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to live alone. You’ve seen these guys. And the system is driving you to become one of them, if you are not careful."
Labor watchdogs told the Free Beacon that the program was not an effective use of the defense budget.
Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, said he expects these types of programs from the administrations of the "Department of Transportation or Department of Labor, but you wouldn’t expect the Pentagon to be squandering taxpayer dollars, especially when they’re getting less than they’re used to."
"Why would anyone think that preparing troops to become union organizers is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars? It’s baffling," he said. "As we’re downsizing the military, we should be training them to reenter society and find something they can do, but we shouldn’t push them into labor organizing. You can’t make this stuff up."
A Pentagon spokesman said that the program helps veterans "receive the resources and support they deserve in each phase of the Soldier Life Cycle!" He declined to answer whether soldiers will be forced to join the Teamsters through the program and failed to elaborate on how much money the union stands to make from the program.
The Teamsters program will be officially announced on Jan. 21.