Secretary-Treasurer’s Report, Fall 2015

Year-End Review, and Looking Forward to 2016

Mike Coleman, UWUA National Secretary-Treasurer

Mike Coleman
UWUA National Secretary-Treasurer

As we enter this holiday season, it is important to review this past year’s events and look forward to next year’s opportunities. 2015 was a year of transition for our National Union.

As an organization, we held our 30th National Convention in July in which we elected our National Officers and Executive Board Members. As importantly, we reviewed our National Constitution and its governing principles. At the convention, the delegates reviewed and discussed ideas that help update and/or improve those governing principles. Delegates passed several amendments to the National Constitution, as well as many resolutions that promote the interests of our organization. (The full list of amendments and resolutions can be
found on our national website and our UWUA app).

Resolutions call for action

There are some resolutions that pertain to specific industries (e.g., electric, gas, and water), while some embrace rebuilding America infrastructure and retraining America. We also identify concerns such as workers’ rights, benefits, and safety issues. However, as a whole, these resolutions touch on the diverse issues that face the Utility Workers Union of America. We cannot just talk about these ideas or resolutions at a convention hall; we need to communicate and implement them.

These resolutions are templates that will hopefully spur discussion and/or review at your local union meetings or at the coffee shop. I encourage you, as a UWUA union member, to read all of the Convention resolutions and single out one or two that peak your interest. Ask questions, for example: What is the potential impact of right-to-work legislation on my rights as a worker? How does the Power for America (P4A) program help our local union train its members and/or promote new careers in the utility industry, and how could this potentially increase our local union membership? How would the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund help our members in contract negotiations as it relates to managing my family’s health care costs?

uwuamag_fall2015_mike-coleman-quoteThe National Union is promoting and nurturing these ideas with National Officers, Executive Board Members and Staff Representatives continuously working with local leaders to help promote and implement these ideas and programs.

For example, we currently have several employers contracted to participate in the P4A program, and are actively meeting with several large employers to join. We all know of the concern about our aging work force in the utility industry and that there is a wave of retirements pending in the next couple of years. The employers and the union share common ground on this issue. Therefore, we strive to work together to reach solutions that are a win/win for each side. We need to recruit and train the next generation of utility workers, and who better to do it than us. Ask the question, “How can our union participate or expand the program?”

UWUA National funds work
Yet another program, the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund, has over $50 million in assets and has become a very helpful avenue in managing medical costs. For over 10 years, the fund has been working for employers and our union members. Many collective bargaining agreements have been reached due to the distinctive flexibility of the fund. The fund has several mechanisms including: HRAs, HSAs, VEBAs, and is a Self-Insured Plan. Again, ask the question, “How can our union participate or expand the program?”

Looking forward, it is essential to have quality leadership and a membership that is educated and informed. To better prepare for future opportunities, in 2016, we will ratchet up our regional conferences to educate, train, and promote new ideas. These conferences will include training on representational rights; grievance processing; legislative action; and financial obligations and responsibilities.

Understanding that not every member can attend the national convention or the regional conferences, communication is vital. It is imperative that we continue the discussions and encourage participation and new ideas at the local union meetings or at the coffee shop. And when possible, we must capitalize on technology, which is why we have invested in updating the national website and promoting the UWUA app. We are working to share or sub-app the National UWUA app with our locals at discounted group pricing. I encourage you to access these tools, and please share your ideas and suggestions to tackle future challenges and opportunities.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. I hope to see you at the regional conferences or at your local shops.