EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Patrick Dillon- Executive Vice President
Focusing on Our Mission
At the Utility Workers Union of America’s 31st National Convention, I had the extreme honor of being elected to the office of National Executive Vice President.
Not only is it an honor to join the national leadership of this great union, but stepping into the shoes of retiring President
D. Michael Langford and Executive Vice President Steven VanSlooten, carries enormous responsibility.
That responsibility was defined and memorialized with the passage of 28 resolutions during the convention that all centered around the theme of the convention, Our Mission: Protecting Our Legacy, Building Our Future. This mission has been a guiding principle of the UWUA for many years, however, today’s rapidly evolving utility industry makes it all that much more important to focus ourselves on this mission.
Attacks on nuclear and coal
One need look no further than the effects of the energy industry’s response to environmental concerns over climate change to see the need for the UWUA to not only protect our legacy, but also build our future.
For example, for years the UWUA has supported, defended and lobbied for the production of electricity through the use of nuclear energy. Although electricity produced with nuclear energy remains among the most efficient and cleanest sources of electricity, the constant attacks by anti-nuclear groups, coupled with the decreased cost of electricity produced with fracked natural gas, has caused owners of nuclear power plants to commit to permanently shut down of those plants. In Massachusetts, New York and Michigan, Entergy has announced plans to shutdown its UWUA represented nuclear plants, even though these plants remain profitable and provide a significant percentage of electricity in all three states. Although the UWUA continues to lobby to keep these plants online, our efforts are running out of time as evidenced by the shuttering of Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Massachusetts last May and the planned closing of the others only a few short years away.
The story is similar for UWUA’s coal-fueled electric generating plants. For years, coal plants have been affected by constant attacks from environmental groups resulting in changes to environmental protection laws. Today, as in the example of nuclear plants, the abundance of relatively inexpensive fracked gas is causing the owners of coal generating facilities to close them.
Threat of ‘electrification’
Meanwhile, in California and other West Coast states, the attacks have begun on natural gas, and not just on the use of natural gas to produce electricity. Recently proposed state legislation and ongoing local government actions in California aim to not only eliminate the use of natural gas to produce electricity, but also to prevent the new installation of gas infrastructure in new construction. These efforts, referred to as “electrification,” represent a monumental threat to our members’ livelihoods, and it is incumbent on the UWUA to protect its legacy by being actively involved in opposing these efforts. The leadership and members of Locals 132, 483 and 522 in California are actively opposing statewide and local legislation that seeks to limit or restrict the installation of new gas infrastructure.
With the efforts to address climate change negatively impacting the livelihood of so many UWUA members, it can be very difficult to see any positives. However, as the production of electricity and the energy industry change, opportunities are created. At the same time that the Utility Workers are supporting and defending their members and the work they have traditionally performed, the union is actively working to gain representational rights within new areas of the industry. On the East Coast, the Utility Workers are working with several potential owners of offshore wind farms, to ensure that UWUA members will operate and maintain them. In Michigan, the Michigan State Utility Workers Council and the Power for America Training Trust Fund are working together to develop a renewable training center to equip Utility Workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to operate and maintain all forms of renewable energy including, wind, solar, and battery storage.
As the utility industry evolves, workers within the industry have a choice, to bury their heads in the sand and let what happens happen, or, as the UWUA will do, protect our legacy while building our future.