“Is Union Busting to Blame for Power Outages?”

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

“Is Union Busting to Blame for Power Outages?”

WASHINGTON - MIKE ELK, mike at inthesetimes.com, @mikeelk
A reporter for In These Times magazine, Elk recently wrote the piece, “Is Union Busting to Blame for Power Outages in D.C.?,” which states: “International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1900 members claim the failure to restore power outages is due to chronic understaffing and Pepco’s shift from hiring union utility workers to non-union temporary contractors.

“‘We have half the linemen we had 15 years ago,’ says IBEW Local 1900 Business Agent Jim Griffin, whose union represents 1,150 Pepco workers. ‘We have been complaining for a very long time. They have relied for a long time on contractors. They are transients, they don’t know our system, and we typically have to go behind them to fix their mistakes. It’s very frustrating. We take ownership in our work, we make careers out of this.’ …

“Starting 15 years ago, Pepco stopped hiring workers to replace retiring electrical workers and offered incentive-laden buyout deals to get electricians to retire. In order to address understaffing problems, Pepco has at times hired non-union temporary contractors, instead of hiring new workers. Griffin estimates that Pepco currently employs 1,150 union workers and approximately 400 non-union contractors. The understaffing has led to problems that the IBEW warned about years ago. …

“Pepco’s profit-maximizing behavior has led not only to diminishing quality of service for its customers, but also a diminishing quality of life for its employees. Unionized Pepco workers had their contract expire on May 31 and are currently working on their second contract extension as the union refuses to agree to concessions. In ongoing negotiations with the union, Pepco has demanded the unilateral power to make changes to the health and benefit packages of union workers mid-contract. (The union suspended its contract negotiations so that members of the bargaining committee could go into the field to help restore power to D.C. residents).”

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