Fighting for Good Jobs and Strong Communities
Community is something we all strive to be a part of. It is a term that has come to embody concepts both mythical and aspirational in today’s increasingly post-industrial America. Many of us recall a time when we felt a greater sense of being part of a larger whole, and wonder whether we can regain that quality in the midst of trying modern times.
At the UWUA, we draw a straight line from those communities in which our members live and work to public policy choices that can be made to give those places a fighting chance to remain the center of healthy, economically stable life for middle-class families. The issues on which the union chooses to engage, and the reasons for doing so begin, first and foremost, with the answer to a basic question – will this affect the union’s members and their communities and, if so, how?
A primary example of this can be found in southern Ohio, where communities are tied to the Dayton Power & Light powerplants in Adams County that are in danger of being closed, despite the willingness of an outside investor to step in and continue to operate at least some portion of those facilities. The leadership of UWUA Local 175 there has been engaged in a battle to save not only those high-quality jobs, but also the entire community that has been built on those jobs and plants. For their part, the national staff does its work at the bargaining table, and through work with elected officials to press the case for those endangered communities.
Supporting the RECLAIM Act
Looking around the broader Appalachian region, at communities scattered far and wide built on the historic economic juggernaut of the coal industry, the union works at the national level to support the RECLAIM Act – bipartisan legislation aimed at pushing mine reclamation money out to affected communities at a faster pace, and in a manner more closely designed to create economic development in many hard-hit areas.
Even more broadly, the Union has been engaged with the Trump Administration, pressing for reforms to the Clean Power Plan, seeking to lessen the burden that communities, already under tremendous economic pressure, are being asked to shoulder. Though many may see such issues solely in terms of headlines and national politics, for the UWUA, these issues turn on the question of local economics and seeking fairness for the people whose individual lives will be affected as a result of choices made by others, far from their communities.
POWERING Michigan communities
In 2016, the UWUA was instrumental in convening a discussion with community planners from across the State of Michigan and representatives from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U. S. Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the U. S. Department of Energy, and the White House to discuss community grant opportunities.
As a result, this summer, the communities of Trenton and River Rouge, and the counties of St. Clair and Huron, received funding from the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative sponsored by the EDA to provide planning and technical assistance in support of projects in communities that have been impacted by coal-fired power plant closures.
Carbon Capture and the FUTURE Act
Looking ahead, the Union sees opportunity for those communities where fossil energy production will continue to provide an economic foundation for decades to come. The FUTURE Act, another bi-partisan effort receiving our strong support in the U.S. Senate, along with its House counterpart, the Carbon Capture Act, is one simple step Congress could take that would tackle a significant energy challenge – carbon emissions – and do so in a manner calculated to provide additional revenue to power producers by supporting markets for the use or storage of carbon dioxide.
The UWUA sees this type of forward-thinking, innovative approach to national energy policy as being essential to the health and economic well-being of middle-class families and their communities. Unlike policy aimed at making it harder for fossil energy to continue operation, the FUTURE Act would actually make life more economically viable for these plants and, thus, for the families and communities that rely upon them for high-quality jobs and tax revenue.
Defending nuclear jobs
In the nuclear power industry, the union has most recently been engaged in the Ohio statehouse, advocating for a recognition of the value that these large, baseload power facilities bring to stabilizing the grid. Although such issues are often framed in terms of national energy policy, for the UWUA the question is very simple: what will be the impact on the union’s members and their communities in Ohio if the future of nuclear power is uncertain?
Going into the fall, as the nation continues clean-up and recovery efforts in the wake of multiple hurricanes, UWUA members from around the country are there on the ground.
As first responders, UWUA members work around the clock to restore power and ensure safe gas and water services are up and running in those stricken areas because it’s their job but, also because one community helping another is the right thing to do.
Our communities are only as safe, healthy, and reliable as the often unseen, unremarked life support systems we collectively refer to as ‘utilities’ can make them. Once we also begin to frame the political issues of our times around helping people in our communities, the right thing to do is pretty obvious in that world as well. That’s why our fight for good jobs and strong communities is so important.
Above right: Joe Schiavoni, center, the UWUA endorsed candidate for Ohio governor, is supporting efforts to protect nuclear jobs. He’s pictured here with: left, Bob Lewis, president, Local 492, AEP Mitchell plant, Moundsville, WV; and UWUA National Rep., Kelly Cooper.
Politics affecting your UWUA community? Help us better speak out for you! Lee Anderson, UWUA Government Affairs Director, firstname.lastname@example.org