A Year in Review

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
This past year has been very busy for local 29 but also very successful thanks to a lot of hard work and support by the officers and members. We had a couple of contract negotiations and a number of arbitrations that I will detail below along with some settlements we were able to agree to.

In January, we started contract negotiations with People's Gas for a contract that was to expire on the 23rd and although we were not able to come to an agreement in time, we did agree to a contract extension and to have a Federal Mediator assist in negotiations. In early February we agreed to a 3-year deal with a 2.75% wage increase each year, along with several other improvements and no takeaways. The ratification vote was held and the contract was accepted by a count of 23 - 0 for the 26 members that we represent at People's Gas.In February, we agreed to hold early contract negotiations (contract would expire on October 1st) with Duquesne Light in which each side would only have 5 proposals and we would only have 5 meetings. After the 3rd meeting we felt it was a waste of time since the Company wanted a number of concessions that we were not willing to agree to, so we agreed to end those negotiations.

On March 8th , an arbitration was held for a CSR that was terminated Duquesne Light in March 2017, we received the Arbitrators award on May 29th in which he reduced the termination to a 5 day suspension and the Company had to pay 26 months of lost wages, this was a huge win for him and this Union.

On April 15th, we received the award for the reasonable overtime arbitration that was held in December 2018, it was another big arbitration win for our members. The Arbitrator gave us some great language in his award but he did stop short of saying what a reasonable amount of overtime is and wanted the Union and Company (Duquesne Light) to try and come up with a solution. After meeting several times with the Company on this issue and not being able to come to an agreement the case was sent back to the Arbitrator. The day (September 5th) we were to meet with the arbitrator for the 2nd time, we were able to come to an agreement with the Company to settle that grievance, the Company agreed to offer makeup overtime(well over 1,000 hours) to the Facilities group, that along with the language the arbitrator gave us, we feel good about the agreement going forward.

In May, we had an arbitration scheduled with Duquesne Light for another CSR that was terminated 18 months earlier. This time prior to the arbitration hearing the Company called to see what it would take to settle this case without going to arbitration. After many calls back and forth, we were able to come to an agreement that satisfied both the Company and terminated member. The member was returned to work with 9 months of back pay which I believe was a good outcome without taking a chance in arbitration.

The members that attended the monthly Union meeting on June 12th voted on and passed (94-39) a bylaw change that restructured how our dues are calculated. This union dues restructuring will give us the financial ability to fight for what is fair for our members. The dues structure changed from a flat fee where everyone paid the same amount to a structure that is based on a percentage of your hourly rate, this is how most union's charge membership dues.
 
In preparation for the Duquesne light negotiations we were busy most of July reviewing information that we had requested along with information from Duquesne Lights rate case with the PUC. The first negotiating session was on August 5th as both sides exchanged proposals, negotiations progressed slowly for the next 6 weeks until both sides agreed to bring in a Federal Mediator to help the process move along. The Mediator was helpful but does not have the power to make either side agree, so as it got closer to the deadline negotiations got more intense with pressure on both sides to move some.
 
The morning of Sunday September 29th after a final offer from the Company, that we as a committee could not to agree to, we were prepared for a work stoppage. I believe the Company knew we had the support of our membership by how they showed their solidarity throughout this process, I hope no one underestimates what the power of sticking together means in negotiations. I know we didn't get everything we wanted and even gave up a few things but overall, I believe it was a very solid contract as it was ratified by the membership by a vote of 358 yes - 102 no. It was a 4-year deal with wage increases of 3%, 3%, 3% & 2.75%......all the contract details can be found on our website in an update dated October 7th.
 
Throughout 2019 we have been dealing with the bankruptcy and announced deactivation of Beaver Valley Nuclear Station, although nothing has changed with the deactivation, the bankruptcy has come to a very successful conclusion for our local. There was nothing given to us in this bankruptcy and we had to fight hard to keep our contract intact as the Company attorneys wanted to gut the whole contract. We had a very good attorney from Cleveland (she was a lot better than their football team) who single handily took on a whole team of outside attorneys that the company hired and she kicked their butt!
 
We have had many other smaller victories along the way this year but I just wanted to highlight some of the bigger events of 2019, please check our website (IBEW29.org) to get more information throughout the year.

Local 29's Community Services committee had a change in leadership in 2019, Bill Webb who led that committee for the last 10 years and did a great job passed the baton to Al Dean who picked up were Bill left off. A lot of work goes into the events held by this committee and they are looking to add some new committee members or volunteers that can help with one of the events (Gun Bash, Labor Day Parade, Christmas Dance and some of the charity projects that they do). If you would like to help out please call the hall (412-922-6969) and sign up. I want to thank Bill for his 10 years of hard work and Al for the many years of hard work ahead of him along with the committee members that have helped both men.

The IBEW Third District started a Veterans Committee in September 2019 in which Local 29 had 2 members join, Darryl Honick and Andrea Honick who are both veterans and very excited to be a part of this committee. You will see more information on the work this committee is doing on our website and in future additions of Watts Current.The Local 29 MRC (Motorcycle Riding Club) continues to grow and currently has over 20 members and is led by their President Ken Jones. For more information see our website (IBEW29.org)

Although we have plenty of work ahead of us, we believe momentum was built from 2018 into 2019 and that we have even more momentum going into 2020 to build off of. This is a journey that we are on together and it never ends, some parts of it are easier than others, but no matter how hard or easy it is, each member is needed to do their part to make this journey successful. I am asking each member to do something positive for their union everyday to make the journey easier for everyone in 2020. There are many ways to have a positive impact, you can help a co-worker, you can help a steward try to solve an issue rather than yell at or berate them or if you see this happening instead of saying nothing speak up and help the steward, get to work on time, be professional, work safely, do your best to follow work rules and we will fight rules that are unreasonable, these are just a few examples of how to be a positive union member.

Glenn and myself want to thank all active and retired members, Officers, Reps, and stewards for their positive support throughout 2019 and we wish everyone a SAFE and successful 2020. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

 

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