HomeNewsTexas National Guard Troops Become First Guard Members to Unionize: Report

Texas National Guard Troops Become First Guard Members to Unionize: Report

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

According to a report, a group of Texas National Guardsmen recently unionized, becoming the first known guard members to join up while on active-duty status.

The group, assigned to the U.S.-Mexico border, is part of Operation Lone Star. They hooked up with the Texas State Employees Union’s Military Caucus. They say problems with living conditions, equipment, and pay brought on the decision.

The Army Times and Daily Mail reported on the group’s efforts.

Army Group Bucks Federal Law

A past federal law kept military members from organizing unions. But thanks to a recent filing by the Justice Department, troops can now join. In fact, the group will hold its first union meeting next week.

Last month, the Justice Department said that the law did not apply for “Guard members on state active duty or in the Inactive National Guard.”

An unnamed soldier leading the union effort said his group was “hoping to improve all (those current) issues. According to The Daily Mail, that soldier wants anonymity over fears of retaliation from the Texas Military Department leadership before the meeting.

Those in the union consist entirely of troops on state active duty orders assigned to the border.

Military Department officials in Texas say the troops’ problems were ‘unavoidable.’ They also say there are new measures to improve conditions for those working the mission. 

These Unionized Troops Face Different Problems

While most National Guardsmen go on state active duty for temporary projects like natural disasters or civil disturbances, these Operation Lone Star folks get year-long orders. They consist of up to 10,000 members of the Texas Military Department.

Last month, the Army Times recounted some National Guardsmen faced cramped quarters in converted RVs and semi-truck trailers. They also didn’t have enough cold weather uniforms, medical equipment, and portable toilets. 

The report also said morale was low, and one National Guardsman died. That accidental shooting came during an alcohol-related incident. Another person survived a suicide attempt.

The union organizer also hopes Texas Guard leaders will be open about end-of-mission requests. Those requests can come from involuntarily activated troops who want to go home.

This unionized group also is a small subset of full-time Guard troops who work as technicians who already unionized as civilians despite their federal employee status. Their those state active-duty missions involved Guard members who temporarily are state employees.

Usually, it’s not practical for these folks to unionize because their missions are short. But union organizers say the longterm nature and scale of these Guardsmen at the border make things different.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott created Operation Lone Star in March 2021. The operation serves to combat the surge of illegal immigrants crossing the border. Law enforcement is sent to known areas of human and drug smugglers.