A Look Back at 2021
The ill effects of COVID were still in full stride as everyone tried to adjust their everyday lives so they could function as normal as possible, this included how Company’s and Union’s conducted business. Virtual meetings continued to be the new normal with many employees working from home, and even though myself, Glenn and Becky came into the Union Hall every day, we did limit visitors for most of the year. As vaccines became available and once, we were fully vaccinated we allowed more visitors but still somewhat limited.
In January we started contract negotiations with Energy Harbor (EH) for our members that work at the Little Blue Run. The contract was to expire February 15th which we had to extend until the beginning of April in order to come to an agreement and have the members ratify the contract. It is a 3-year contract with a wage increase of up to 15% and no less than 9.9% over those 3 years due to job restructuring. The pension was frozen in exchange for what I call an enhanced 401K in which the company will contribute up to 9% depending on age and years of service plus a match up to 6% of what the employee contributes. There was also a signing bonus included of $7,750.
While we were negotiating with EH we also needed to start contract negotiations with Port Authority (PA) as that contract was set to expire on April 30th. The negotiations with PA were all held virtually, and that contract had to be extended as well until the end of May when it was ratified by the membership. There were zero take aways in this 2-year agreement and 2.75% wage increase each year along with improved short term disability benefit, retiree life insurance and few other improvements on working conditions.
Also, in January we were preparing for an upcoming arbitration with DLC over how a member was placed on a new job due to an injury in which we did not agree how it was handled. The Company decided to settle rather than go to arbitration, so we were able to have the Company agree to make that employee whole for lost wages and expenses which was a good win without arbitrating.
During March while we had contract negotiations going on we were also meeting with DLC to work on a Switching Dispatcher MOU, and we were able to come to an agreement and had the MOU ratified by the affected members. Some of the Dispatchers received an increase in pay by about $10,000 a year along with a $7,500 retention bonus and an agreement on a 12-hour schedule that they wanted. The Dispatchers also received back pay for turnover time going back to January of 2020, which in total was over $100,000 paid out by the Company.
April was another busy month, as we negotiated Port Authorities contract, we also started preparing for the Beaver Valley contract negotiations with EH and started negotiating a Work From home MOU with DLC. A few other things during April include a member was terminated from EH Little Blue Run for stealing from the Bruce Mansfield Plant. We had an arbitration hearing for a member that worked at DLC as a Sr Operator and was terminated for sleeping and not responding to a trouble call for an extended period of time. We received an arbitration award for an arbitration that was held last August for a member that worked at Beaver Valley and was terminated, the termination was upheld which was very disappointing since we felt we should have won that case.
In the Underground department at DLC there was a very serious accident and injury in which the member was severely burned by an arch flash, thanks to the crew working with that member they probably saved his life. This accident was through no fault of the employee’s working on the job as OSHA did an investigation and sited the Company. I thank that crew for the quick action that they all took, and they were recognized by the International by awarding them the IBEW Life Saving Award at the December Union Meeting, great work by all of them.
In June we were notified that Cheswick Power Station would be shutting down in September and we requested to do effects bargaining with GenOn, to try and get some improvements for those members working at Cheswick. We continued to prepare for BV negotiations and at the same time negotiate a WFH MOU with DLC. We also were preparing for an arbitration hearing for another terminated member from BV, the arbitration was scheduled for July 8, 2021. During the last few months, we have had meetings with most of the Companies over their COVID protocols and vaccine incentive programs.
June 6th we held our annual golf outing at Blackhawk golf course, the weather was great, and I think everyone was glad to get out and have a good time. I don’t think we had any golf carts damaged either which I am glad to report.
In July GenOn told us that the Cheswick closing is being pushed back to April 2022, we continued to negotiate over the effects of it closing but also needed to try and get some type of retention offer for employees to stay and operate the Plant until April.
On July 8th the arbitration was held for the terminated member from BV, we knew it was going to a tough case to win but we thought we had a chance and our Attorney put on the best case possible. We received the Arbitrator’s award at the end of November 2021 and the termination was upheld by the Arbitrator. We are in the process of picking an arbitrator and getting dates for an arbitration on healthcare cost and what the Company (EH) is contributing at Beaver valley.
We picked an arbitrator with DLC over job erosion of the MAMS department and the use of contractors, we had a date of December 21, 2021 for the arbitration.
In August we started contract negotiations with EH for the Beaver Valley contract, while still working with DLC on a WFH MOU and also a Remote Reporting MOU for field workers so they could report closer to home.
In August we also received the arbitration award for the Sr Operator that was terminated from DLC for sleeping (case was heard in April) we lost this one even though we made the best case possible to try and get his job back.
OSHA was on DLC property to investigate a complaint filed by someone that had to do with energizing lines while we had personnel in a manhole, this ties in with the Underground department accident that happened in April.
On September 30th we met with the members that work at BV to take a strike authorization vote which passed overwhelmingly and gave us the support and leverage we needed to push the Company to give us the improvements that we needed to have a fair contract. The membership ratified the contract in the middle of October. It was a 3 year agreement with wage increases of 3.75% each year along with $3500 lump sum payment each year of the contract. We did agree to freeze the pension in exchange for what I call an enhanced 401K which in the long run could be better than a pension.
For the members at Port Authority, we came to an agreement that would allow the Customer Service Reps to work from home and we are trying to expand that to other departments.
At DLC we picked an arbitrator for a grievance that deals with how the company considers qualified vs unqualified contractors in their calculation on the amount of overtime that is offered.
In December we started preparing for the People’s gas contract negotiations whose contract expires on January 22, 2022.
For DLC we reached a tentative agreement on a Remote Reporting MOU for different departments in the company and over a 3 day period went to the different locations and groups to have them vote on it. The MOU was voted down by the groups mainly due to distrust of the HR department and a few things that the Company would not change in the MOU.
The MAMS arbitration that was scheduled for December 21st was settled a few days prior to that date. The Company agreed to bring the total number of MAMS employees to 21, they currently had 10 so we were agreeable to that number and felt it was a good outcome for the Union.
We also reached a tentative agreement on WFH (Work From Home) MOU and held a vote virtually with the members that were affected. The MOU passed easily.
We also came to an agreement on Paid Parental Leave Policy which is beneficial for our members as they will get additional paid time off, please make sure you read the policy.
We had an arbitration with EH (Energy Harbor) on December 8th over their portion of the Healthcare payments, this was an expensive arbitration but well worth it so they understand we will arbitrate over issues that we feel need arbitrated. In the beginning of February, we received the award from the arbitrator who agreed with us which means Energy Harbor will need to pay a bigger portion of the Healthcare and also reimburse our members for going back to when they took over for First Energy. We are still in the process of coming up with the final total, but it was definitely a huge win for those members.
Our Union had the Annual Christmas Party/Dance that was held at the Rivers Casino and it was well attended with over 250 people and I believe everyone enjoyed it….Great job by Al Dean and the Community service group (anyone interested in joining that group please call the Hall).
People’s Gas contract negotiations have continued and we agreed to an extension while we continued to negotiate.
We started contract negotiations with EH for the Maintenance Planners that work at BV, the Company and Union both agreed to put them into the main BV contract but carve out some provisions that only apply to the Planners. Over the next month we met several times and worked out the details and took a tentative agreement back to the Planners to vote on the contract in early March at which time it was ratified by those members. They received the same wage and benefits as the main contract and again I feel it was a good contract for our members.
People’s Gas contract was tentatively agreed to in February and ratified by the membership in the middle of February. It was a 4 year agreement with wage increases of 3% …3% …2.5%....2.5% along with other improvements, the members were happy with the terms of the new agreement as were we.
Port Authority implemented a vaccine mandate policy in the beginning of February which stated that all employees must be vaccinated by March 15th or they would be terminated. ATU Local 85 filed an injunction to stop the mandate but it was rejected so our only course of action is the grievance process.
In February we started contract negotiations with GenOn which covers Cheswick and Brunot Island Power Plants. Cheswick has been sold and scheduled to close on March 31st which is the same time the contract expires. Cheswick has been sold to Charah solutions who plans on demolishing the plant and redeveloping the land. The employees working at Cheswick at scheduled to be laid off on Sunday April 3rd at the end of their shift. DLC has offered to hold a job fair for the laid off Cheswick employees to see if they are interested and qualified for any of the vacant positions in the company. We are also reaching out to the other companies that we deal with to see if they can help also. I wish all of those members the best and we will continue to help any way we can to help them find employment else were.
As many of you already know I retired as Business Manager effective March 28, 2022, I want to thank everyone for their support and help during my time as Business Manager. This Union belongs to ALL members and is only as strong as it’s membership makes it, so it’s up to you and your involvement and the help that you give this Union leadership. Due to retirements over the last 4 years the current union leaders are much younger than when I took over. I believe the leaders in place today are extremely dedicated and eager to make this union even stronger, but they will need everyone’s help in doing so.
Josh Ewing is the new Business Manager and has been handling 2 of the recent contract negotiations (People’s Gas & GenOn) and has done an unbelievable job on those contracts. I have all the confidence in the world in his ability to lead this union to even more improvements.
Thanks again for allowing me the privilege to be the Business Manager of IBEW Local 29, I can only hope that we have made the membership proud to be a member of this local, I know I was proud to lead it and thankful for the help and support of the other Union Officers.