UWUA Local 304 Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO

The article below is a blast from the past that was circulated the LAST time someone tried to decertify our union, but the facts contained in this article have not changed. We’ve worked under our 2nd contract, and now ready to negotiate our 3rd. Read on:

With our first contract coming due, it’s no surprise that the rumors are swirling about a possible attempt at decertifying our union may be getting underway. After all, what better way can the company erode our bargaining power?

After a four year battle to get our first contract, it’s understandable that some may feel apprehensive at going back to the bargaining table. This is especially true if you are one of the members who never attends union meetings, don’t visit your unions website, or Facebook page to have a more informed idea about what 304 does for you.

Regardless of what our union accomplishes, it will always be the last thing it failed to do that many members will remember. It’s always, “what have you done for me lately?”

We’ve had our contract twisted, ignored, and outright violated ever since we ratified it. Your union officers have fought a never ending battle, through three administrations, through the grievance process, arbitration, and the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to represent the membership and enforce our CBA.

When we ceased being Allegheny, there was a lot of uncertainty and fear. Many senior management decided to jump ship, and taking their place are the managers we now have, many of whom we remember as being some of the loudest pro-union voices in past organizing drives.

Harrison organizing had a profound effect on our managers, especially when Allegheny Energy, and their managers and supervisors were, and remain, rabidly anti-union.

These are the same people who withheld our variable pay and cost of living raises for over a year post merger, setting off a long battle that resulted in a $1.25 million dollar settlement paid out to our members. The same folks who play games with time cards to cheat members, just to see who would file a grievance and who wouldn’t. These are the same ones who fired an employee who had an accident and the union fought to have him reinstated.

The company can blame fear of the membership for voting to be represented by the UWUA, but that fear is nothing compared to the terror experienced by those who had sold their very souls to the company.

This fact is borne out by the actions of the people in charge at the plant. They make mountains out of mole hills, out of someone being a few minutes late, or how and when someone called off, or made a request for a day off. Any reason they could seize on so they could run up the chain of command and show our new owners how true blue they are; real team players, totally supporting the new regime.

Now the cycle is starting over. Our contract is coming due in 2018 (now 2022) and SOMEONE is trying to weaken our bargaining power with yet another decertification drive.

What are they thinking?

That’s easy to guess. They think that they have hired enough young, and to their way of thinking naiveté, employees to weaken union support and those staunch supporters in the union must be getting tired with all the infighting, rumor-mongering, and dirty tricks we’ve had to fight since ratifying our first (and second) contract.

We’ve been a union since 2010, but are still learning everyday how to BE a union. The company has actually helped us in this by pulling all the stupid, vindictive, and petty stunts they have pulled. They taught 304 one of the MOST important lessons, which is how to FIGHT for our members.

Now, the same people that played games with your timecards and cheated you out of your earnings, who no longer honored long standing past practice just to try to exert dominance over you, and nitpicked against union supporters, while at the same time feeding their rats, want you to believe that they can be trusted to be the sole arbiter of your working life.

Make no mistake, without a UNION; you are an “employee-at-will.”

This means you can be fired at anytime with no just cause, and if you don’t like the rules and policies then you are free to seek employment elsewhere.

Being UNION grants you specific rights and protects you if you exercise those rights. You have a special and unique legal status by being in a union. This is why corporations are spending BILLIONS to break  them.

We work for a company who is flirting with bankrupting one of its own subsidiaries in an attempt to survive. They have shuttered almost every plant they owned; including the ones acquired through the merger, and has shown what projects have priority by the ones the boast about. They shown a questionable commitment in continuing in the generation business.

It was always said that Allegheny was only attractive because of the transmission they owned, not the plants. It seems this has been proved to be true.

The tact the company is trying this time is, “decertify 304 and go with the IBEW.”

Make no mistake, if you vote to decertify your union, there will not be one to replace it. You will have offended every union supporter who fought to make us Utility Workers, and will learn the truth too late that the company’s real position is that NO UNION is a good union.

As far back as 2008, the committee responsible for organizing Harrison looked at both the IBEW and the UWUA. What we found was that being in the UWUA gave us more autonomy to run our Local as we see fit. We wanted to elect our officers, not have them appointed, and most of all we did not want to be in conflict with other trades unions who may come onsite as contractors.

This is not to say there is anything wrong with our union Brothers and Sisters in the IBEW, it’s just that we thought, and still do, that the Utility Workers is a better fit for us.

Ever since, the Utility Workers have justified that vote of confidence, even in the present political anti-union environment.

So take a hard look at the facts. Our union’s integrity is intact. You’ve been told the truth, at least the truth as we understood it at the time. It didn’t matter if that truth was good news or bad. When the union made mistakes, we admitted it, and when we won we were graceful, not boastful.

If you are offered a card for decertification, consider the hand offering it. Would you want that person as your boss?

Is the person the type to help a friend, or are they only for themselves.

Ask yourself if they have success in their life?

I may not know the shadowy agents circulating in our membership, but I know who they are working for and who will benefit from a decertification, and it’s NOT YOU!

Your union officers are all family men who give freely of their time in representing all of us. They have wives, children, and even grandchildren. They have house and car payments, they worry about their kids, have chores waiting for them after a hard days work.

They do what they do because 304 is something they believe in.

That’s what it is to be union, a belief in the goodness of each other.

Believe in each other

The way to strengthen our bargaining power doesn’t lie in which union we are with, it lays in our solidarity as a union.  It may sound corny, but YOU are THE UNION, and when we stick together as a united front we are invincible.