When Utility Worker Union of America members joined together in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for their first constitutional convention on April 6, 1946, they made history.
Like the founding fathers of the United States, their goal was to form a more perfect union and hammer out a constitution to do so. Generations of utility workers have lived by the constitution and struggled to achieve its goals, as expressed in the preamble.
UWUA Constitution Preamble:
We are an organization of men and women of every race, religion, age, and ethnicity, who are committed to a society where all workers and their families live and work with dignity; where there is an economic and political mandate for a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth for all those performing useful service to society; where workers have a collective voice and power at the workplace; where economic well being is achieved for our members and all workers; where work is satisfying and fairly rewarded.
In this, the third, and final, installment marking the UWUA’s 75th anniversary, The Utility Worker briefly covers the union’s history in the 21st Century, which lays the foundation for the future.
A 21st Century Union
At the turn of this century, the UWUA embarked on a number of initiatives to defend the gains its members had made at the bargaining table, protect jobs in the rapidly changing utility sector and secure the good wages, benefits and working conditions for the next generation of utility workers to enjoy.
Building on the experience of taking on deregulation and its negative consequences, the union opened a new front in the fight to protect its members. Engaging regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels, sometimes siding against employers, other times with them, in rate case after rate case, the union proved it could positively influence boardroom decisions that directly impact members.
A Union With Solutions
Knowing the utility workforce is aging, the UWUA established the Power for America Training Trust (P4A) to ensure the industry, and future utility workers, get the appropriate training. At a time when unions are being vigorously attacked, this training includes first-hand experience on the value of union membership.
With so many military veterans coming home, the UWUA set up the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP) as part of P4A. With vigorous training from union members, UMAP has placed hundreds of veterans in good union jobs.
Union training union has proven to be effective, cost-efficient and a win for everybody.
When members reported on the difficulties they faced with decaying infrastructure, the union embarked on a nationwide Repair America campaign, drawing attention to failing infrastructure and promoting solutions to create middle class, union jobs.
Just Transition To A Low Carbon Future
As U.S. industry market forces and environmental stresses point toward transitioning to a low-carbon future, the UWUA has taken the lead in advancing policies that would avoid the mistakes made during the deregulatory process in which the interests of the industry and investors were protected while workers, communities and ratepayers were often left behind.
Working with allies in the labor and environmental movements, the UWUA is pushing for a “just transition” to ensure: 1) displaced workers from closing power plants receive support, including wages, benefits and retraining; 2) expand existing economic development programs to enable communities to respond to power plant closures or downsizing; and 3) support vital elements of the energy transition, including support of climate resilient infrastructure projects in communities where plants are closing.
Meanwhile, the union continues the fight to protect its members’ jobs in fossil fuel and nuclear plants.
With unprecedented man-made and natural disasters devastating communities, the UWUA is working to secure first responder status for members.
Union Safety Committees
Protecting its members is at the core of everything the union does. And nothing is more important than ensuring a safe work environment.
Whether at the local, national, or industry-wide level, the union’s safety committees are proving that utility workers are the experts when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace.
Through safety committees, the P4A and UMAP, UWUA members proudly proclaim they are the safest, most productive, highest skilled workers in the world.
As the public’s support for organized labor grows, especially among young workers, the UWUA is poised to bring the benefits of union membership to a new generation of utility workers.
This is what UWUA’s founders envisioned and fought for when they joined together 75 years ago to form a more perfect union!