“We’re coming for everybody we can organize,” says Connecticut Local 470 President Moses Rams. “The company is on notice. It’s not a secret.” With strong contracts to support organizing efforts at United Illuminating, unorganized employees there are reaching out to Local 470 to become union members.
Unions improve lives
In the first of what Moses expects to be a series of election wins, on November 4, employees in four job classifications — commercial collections, transmission operators, revenue protection and project coordinators — voted to join Local 470 in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election.
The local will now begin the process of negotiating a contract for the 20 new members with the goal of absorbing them into their existing contract with the company.
“Based on what we see nationally, we know how much better people’s lives are when they have a voice at work as union members,” Moses says. “Our mission is to continue to organize as many people as possible. As a result, we’re organizing people who traditionally were not considered to be eligible for union representation.”
He points to workers who are supervisors in name only but who do not have anyone directly reporting to them. He explains, “One trick that management does is call you a supervisor so that they can pay you less than a union member makes. Many people are supervisors in name only and are eligible for union representation.”
For example, while Local 470 has always represented distribution dispatchers, transmission operators, a group that traditionally opposed representation, now voted to join the union. These workers are responsible for the flow of high voltage electricity from one state to another.
The local also won representation for workers in the revenue protection office who investigate fraud and protect the integrity of the system.
Moses and his executive board have their sites set on organizing utility workers in the renewables sector as well.
United Illuminating is a subsidiary of Avangrid, which owns eight electric and natural gas utilities in New York and New England, as well as renewable generation facilities, mostly wind, in 22 states. Avangrid’s parent corporation, Iberdrola is a multinational energy utility based in Spain.
In addition to the 400-plus members at United Illuminating, Local 470 represents another 100 members working in PSE&G powerhouses and at Southern Connecticut Gas.