Security guards for 'nowhere' strike for contract, higher pay
By KEITH ROGERS
Las Vegas Review-Journal
A group of 70 security guards known as the "camo dudes" walked off their jobs Monday in Las Vegas and at the covert military installation known as Area 51, a place they said they can't talk about.
"Use your imagination," union President Vernell Hall said when asked where he worked as he and more than a dozen other striking security officers displayed "On Strike" signs on Haven Street near McCarran International Airport.
That is where nondescript passenger jets, known as Janet planes, routinely take the guards and other workers to the installation on the dry bed of Groom Lake, 90 miles north of Las Vegas, a place they referred to only as "nowhere" and "out of town."
Hall, leader of the Security Police Association of Nevada, an in-house collective bargaining unit, said the association's members decided to go on strike after three months of negotiations for a new contract with their employer, EG&G Technical Services Inc., ended in a stalemate.
Hall said the issues include lack of adequate wages and benefits.
"There's been too much overtime since Sept. 11. Overtime on top of overtime," Hall said.
Greg Rentchler, security manager for EG&G, confirmed that about 70 guards went on strike early Monday at the company's Grier Drive offices and at "remote locations."
"They work at remote test locations. They support the Nellis (Air Force) ranges," Rentchler said.
"We have a close relationship with these guys, and they are in negotiations as we speak," he said.
Rentchler said supervisors are manning the posts vacated by the striking guards.
He said the guards previously held a contract with another company, EG&G Special Projects, until a new one was signed in 1996 with EG&G Technical Services Inc. He said EG&G Technical Services Inc. holds a contract with the federal government to provide services for the Department of Defense, including a security guard force.
Although Rentchler would not give details about his reference to "remote locations," a source familiar with the guard force said last week that the guards would strike at 3 a.m. Monday. The source said many of the guards had been assigned to Area 51, the much-publicized, 38,400-acre Groom Lake installation where high-tech U.S. aircraft are tested.
It is the same place where former workers at the installation have charged that coatings for radar-evading stealth fighter jets were burned in open trenches, sending toxic clouds into the air that made them ill.
Glenn Campbell, who operates the Internet bookstore Aliens on Earth and formerly directed an Area 51 watchdog group, said he received an anonymous call Monday from a man who said "the camo dudes are on strike."
Campbell often has referred to the guards as "camo dudes" because of the camouflaged uniforms they wear while patrolling places where public lands border restricted areas around the Groom Lake installation.
While pickets paraded outside the ramp for Janet planes at McCarran, another group sat in lawn chairs outside EG&G Technical Services offices a few miles away on Grier Drive. One striking security officer at that location, Bill Hull, said he wants "fair and equitable treatment from our company."
A 17-year employee, Hull said he hasn't received a pay raise in "14 or 15 years" and said he lost at least 25 percent of his pay when the contract was switched to EG&G Technical Services in 1996.
Hull, wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with a U.S. flag flanked by two alien-face pins, said he is paid $15.05 per hour but should be making at least $16.03 per hour.
He said the guards work 12-hour shifts, staying four days "out of town," before flying back to Las Vegas and getting three days off.
"We don't get break periods," he said.
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