Executive Vice President’s Report, Winter 2016

Successful Training Programs Protect Good Jobs and Builds the Union

Steven VanSlooten, UWUA Executive Vice President
Steven VanSlooten
UWUA Executive Vice President

In this issue of The Utility Worker, we highlight our Power for America Training Trust’s continued growth. We are expanding our successful Utility Workers Military Assistance Program for veterans to include the National Guard. We are constructing our second building on the Potterville, Michigan campus to allow us to train welders. We are adding new class- rooms and curriculum to accommodate more apprentice and incumbent worker training in more utilities.

Our multi-employer Training Trust is making a mark in our industry. Our model, utility workers training utility workers, works. We couldn’t have implemented and executed it at a better time.

The graying of the workforce brings the retirement of increasing numbers of experienced utility workers. With each retirement, decades of knowledge about a particular utility walks out the door. That knowledge is lost forever.

We’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t have to be that way.  We have found a way to capture the knowledge and pass it along to the next generation of utility workers.

The industry is changing at a pace no one has ever seen before and needs a trained, experienced workforce to handle it. We are able to provide the necessary training from experienced workers to do just that.

UWUA members are the highest skilled, safest, most productive workforce in the world. Our Power for America training programs are making sure that this continues to be true into the future.

There’s another aspect of the training that doesn’t get talked about so much: the importance of having the union at the center of training. Not only do utility workers know the best, safest, most cost-effective way to get the job done, we know that to get the job done right, you have to take care of the person doing the job, and their family.

uwuamag_winter2016_exvp-quote-300x291The only way to ensure workers and their families are taken care of is through a collective bargaining agreement that includes good wages and benefits, and protects safe working conditions.

Throughout our 70-plus year history, we have succeeded in winning, and then protecting, these things for utility workers. That’s a major reason why utility workers have the highest unionization rate of any other workers in the private sector in this country, 21.4% in 2015.

That is incredible when you think about it. Working people and their unions have been under attack by corporate America and their handpicked politicians for decades.

The unionization rate in the private sector is now below 7%.

States, such as West Virginia and Michigan, the historic heart of the American labor movement, are now so-called “Right-to-Work” states (we call them Right-to-Work-for-Less states). Still, as utility workers we are holding our own. As the industry with the highest rate of organized workers, you know we are in the crosshairs of those who would like to destroy unions in order to take complete control of the workplace.

The only way we have been able to win and maintain such a relatively high unionization rate is through our collective action. Working together toward a common goal is what we do on the job and in our union. We know cooperation and solidarity on the shop floor gets the job done right. And, we know that’s what it takes to win and protect our contracts.

Utility workers training utility workers

Experience is the best teacher. That’s why we want to make the benefits of being a union member a reality from the first day someone is hired by a utility. That is our goal with the Power for America Training Trust. From day one, we want utility workers training utility workers, through a union-backed, apprenticeship-type program.

We do that in order to protect our members and their con- tracts, and to bring what we enjoy to other workers and their families. The benefits are also shared by our employers, who know that our training is top notch and cost-effective, and the public, who get the best-trained people delivering vital services.

Continuous learning ensures utility workers have a career that lasts a lifetime. We want to be the ones providing the learning opportunities, the training, to incumbent UWUA members and future members. By doing the above, we are building a better future for our Society through Union Strength and Solidarity!