Tuesday, March 24, 2009


From Mother Jones:

Lawyers representing more than 100 current and former contract linguists in Iraq are preparing to file a class action suit against Falls Church, Virginia-based GLS, which is majority owned by DynCorp International. The linguists allege that the company illegally changed the terms of their employment agreements, using threats and intimidation to coerce them into signing modified contracts for far less money. GLS denies any wrongdoing, holding that the pay cuts were not only legal, but also a financial necessity given the firm's narrowing profit margins. But Robert Burlison, the linguists' lead attorney and organizer of the class action, says that greed lies at the root of the case. The company, he says, has undertaken "a concerted effort to make more money and to do it on the backs of the linguists."

Underlying the impending class action is the question of whether GLS broke the law by unilaterally modifying the terms of its linguists' employment agreements midcontract, before they came up for renegotiation.

Aggravating the situation, according to numerous written complaints and former GLS linguists interviewed for this story, was the firm's alleged attempt to strong-arm personnel into modifying their contracts. Knowing that a revolt was brewing among its contractors, GLS "began sending mobile teams to get signatures for the modification of the contract, [and] that's when they started intimidating and harassing linguists," says Elboraii. The stories collected on the protest website are strikingly similar: allegations of GLS managers demanding signatures on the spot, often not allowing linguists to review the modifications in advance, and threatening them with termination should they refuse. In one case, when a team of linguists requested more time to consider their options before signing, a GLS manager allegedly said, "Your names will go on a shit list tonight if you do not sign…[and] once you're on the list, it will be extremely difficult to pull you off." GLS managers also allegedly shamed interpreters for abandoning US troops, warned that there were plenty of other qualified candidates to replace them should they refuse to sign, and said those who didn't would likely wind up on the unemployment line, competing with thousands of others thrown out of work by the recession. In a few cases, things seem to have turned even uglier. "They actually started humiliating linguists and calling them names," says Elboraii. One linguist reported a conversation he had with a GLS manager in the chow hall of his base, where the manager allegedly shrugged off the linguists' complaints, saying, "You know the Arabs…when they hear they're going to be fired, they will all spread like cockroaches."

Read the whole story here.

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