Union Contract Protects Jobs As Members Adapt to Changing Energy Needs
With the decline of coal-fired power posing a real threat, UWUA members in fossil plants are rightfully concerned about their future. Fortunately, as Ohio Local 270’s experience shows, when plants close, all is not necessarily lost. There is work beyond coal.
MOA gurantees security
“Ever since FirstEnergy announced in January 2012 that the Ashtabula, Eastlake, and Lakeshore fossil plants would close, there’s been a great deal of stress on the members that work there,” explains Frank Meznarich, president of Local 270. “We were able to sit down with the company and negotiate a memorandum of agreement whereby the company would provide a guaranteed job opportunity for each and every member in fossil who wanted to stay. For those who wanted to go, we negotiated a favorable voluntary separation program.”
Countless meetings and negotiations with the company resulted in five new job classifications and the upgrading of two existing ones to keep people working.
“Upper management realized that our members had skills that could be used at the Perry Nuclear plant and in Energy Delivery and agreed to cross train them, if needed, to qualify for new positions,” Meznarich said.
Skilled workers wanted
Dave Zrubek put in 14 years at the Ashtabula plant and another 17 at the previously shuttered Avon Lake facility. He’s now working as a maintenance mechanic at the Perry Nuclear plant.
“To get us through this whole ordeal we’ve learned to adapt, kept an open mind, followed our contract, and stayed steadfast in negotiations with the company,” he explains. “I’m not saying it’s all roses, it never is. It’s worked out. We are all making a decent wage. Our benefits are great. When you have 20 years in, you don’t want to throw that away.”
Zrubek’s message to his union brothers and sisters in other coal plants: “We’ve got skills and there are jobs out there. There are bumps in the road, maybe cuts in pay, but the work is there.”
As a union officer, Meznarich adds, “For us, there’s a great deal of satisfaction knowing we were able to keep everybody working. That’s the first goal, keep everybody working.”
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