FE Bankruptcy Update: Local 29 Succeeds in Keeping CBA and All Benefits Intact

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
At the hearing on October 15, 2019, the Company reported that framework agreements were reached between the unions and the Company, which was the only obstacle preventing court approval of the proposed reorganization plan. Since we agreed to withdraw our objection to the reorganization plan, the Court went ahead and approved the reorganization plan. We then presented our motion for attorneys' fees and explained how much has been achieved for the entire workforce of the Company. Our attorney Joyce Goldstein said, in part: 
 
The motion is based on the "substantial contribution" that was made by the Unions - through counsel -towards allowing the Debtors to move forward with their reorganization while protecting ALL the wages, benefits and working conditions of their workforce. 
 
As this Court well knows, that commitment was not made willingly or easily. The Unions FOUGHT relentlessly for it - in court and out of court - from the minute this case was filed - but especially since the restructuring agreement {RSA) and the disclosure statement were approved without any commitment to preserve all aspects of our CBAs. 
 
While the Debtors did not willingly or easily make this commitment, I believe that they - and other creditors - will ultimately benefit - and have benefitted - from a stable and satisfied workforce and not one forced to unfairly carry the burden of bankruptcy on its back. 
 
As the court knows, pensions had been the biggest obstacle to reaching a settlement. The Debtors had insisted on converting from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan - which among other things, would have reduced the level of benefits and shifted the risk of future payments from a well-funded company onto its employees. I'm happy to report that in the deal we reached, the Debtors agreed to establish a new defined benefit pension plan that, when combined with the benefits of the existing FE Corp plan, will allow all employees to retire with a pension at the same level of benefits and terms that they would have received had the bankruptcy not occurred. 
 
On this issue, the Framework Agreements provide: 
 
For the avoidance of doubt, the intent of the Parties is to ensure that no employee currently participating in the FE Pension Plan will be adversely affected with respect to the terms and amount of his/her pension benefits after emergence from bankruptcy. The pension benefits earned under the FE Pension Plan, in addition to benefits earned under the new defined benefit pension plan established by the Company, will be no less than every eligible employee would have received had their service with the Company been treated as continued uninterrupted service under the FE Pension Plan. Significantly, the pension benefits of the framework agreements that were negotiated by just two unions (29 and 270) will be extended to ALL other employees - both union and salary throughout the Debtors' workforce - nuclear and fossil. The benefits that these two unions negotiated will be enjoyed by their co-workers - as a result of these unions' efforts. This truly is an example of how a union's tenacity can improve working conditions and achieve a benefit that is enjoyed by others - how it lifts all boats. 
 
After I spoke, the lawyers for both the Company and the Creditors Committee spoke. They both agreed that we had worked "tirelessly" to protect the wages and benefits of all workers and had been very successful. Both of them expressly supported our motion. No party offered any opposition and the Court then granted our motion. As soon as we receive payment from the Company, we will send checks back to the IBEW and UWUA for distribution to the locals. 
 
This is an amazing victory for our members and labor in general, to have Union's from the IBEW and UWUA join forces for a common cause would not have happened without great Leadership at the top of these Union's, their support was instrumental in us getting the outcome that we desired. At the Local level IBEW 29 and UWUA 270 were in the fox whole together until the end, neither local would agree to anything until both locals were satisfied, I believe that made a big difference in the getting to an agreement. Glenn and myself want to thank Frank Meznarich UWUA 270 for their solidarity throughout this process. 
 
I am thankful for the hard work and dedication from Joyce Goldstein and her Law Firm for the standing with Labor in this fight, Joyce gave our local the confidence to continue fighting until we got what we deserved. There were times when we talked about settling even though the Company was not giving us what we wanted, but they were short conversations. Glenn Camp put many hours, days and months in working on and reviewing documents mostly pertaining to the pension, without his knowledge we would not have achieved this outcome, so I thank him for all of his trips to Akron and his working weekends to make sure our members were treated fairly. Joe Kristian assisted Glenn as they talked through the issues to make sure nothing was missed; I know Joe did far more work on this issue than I will probably ever know and I appreciate his dedication to the members for doing so. Shaun Majors and Bill Lacy played a lesser role but every piece was important so I thank them also. 
 
Thank you to all of the IBEW Local 29 members at Beaver Valley Nuclear plant for your support through this process, by us sticking together it showed the Company that they would not be able to divide and conquer Local 29. Solidarity is what gives Union's their strength and I am proud to say Local 29 has shown that solidarity and strength when it matters the most. Please continue to always work safely and professionally everyday as an IBEW member. 
 
Kenn Bradley,
Business Manager