Monday, December 3, 2018
Today 11/30/2018 the Bankruptcy Judge accepted the agreed to KERP which includes union members from 3 different locals, IBEW 29, IBEW 245, UWUA 270. This is a big victory for the men and women we represent even though everyone did not get included in the payments, everyone that is a part of these unions should be proud of what was accomplished.
FENOC (First Energy Nuclear Operating Company) initially intended to give the KERP (Key Employee Retention Payment) only to non-union personnel but it had to be approved by the Bankruptcy court first. The Union’s and their attorney went to court and objected to the fact no union members were included in the KERP, and that it was unfair discrimination against workers just because they are part of a union. No one before us has ever won making this argument in the history of American bankruptcy law.
Although we won, we still didn't have a strong legal position that entitled us to any particular scope or level of benefits. We just won in having THEIR plan defeated, not in getting any specific benefits for US. When the Court denied the Company's KERP motion in September, the Court made it clear that there was NO requirement to provide a retention payment for ALL workers, just for those who were deemed "essential" by the Company. We repeatedly made demands to expand the coverage that the Company was offering-- and to get a higher level of benefits for everyone, but the Company only offered very limited benefits to a few workers. After their KERP was rejected by the Court, the value of their initial proposal was $4 million for all three plants. We were able to work with the Creditors Committee to expand the scope to over half of all union members (53%) and the benefits to over $26 million. If we didn't sign the MOA to agree to this, we risked getting absolutely nothing because the Company would not have unilaterally implemented this plan. It just would have provided benefits to management and told the Court that they tried to give us something, but we refused to accept it. Most importantly, by agreeing to this MOA, we got something for a bunch of people but gave up NOTHING. Yes, it would have been better to get more, but we couldn't walk away from this and let our members get nothing just because we couldn't get as much as we would have liked -- no different than when the Local 29 ROs got a retention benefit in 2016 and no one else got a penny!
The bottom line is, it’s unfortunate that everyone didn’t get a piece of the pie and that others wanted the whole pie but only got a piece. I am hopeful that all of the scheduled payments are not made, since that will mean the Plant will remain open and everyone will continue to get a good paycheck. I would hope that everyone is thankful that we as a Union along with our attorney would take on a Company as big as First Energy and get as much as we could but also be smart enough to not walk away just because we didn’t get everything we wanted. Think about it………..from $0 to $26,000,000, (IBEW 29 members will receive about $13,000,000) if you’re not happy that a union brother or sister got a piece of that instead of one of your bosses, then you’re probably on the wrong side of the fence.
There are still more hurdles to get over while going through this bankruptcy but with the members continued support and solidarity we can get through almost anything.
IBEW 29 Business Manager