PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Making Our Voices Heard

President, James Slevin

I recently traveled to the West Coast to attend our Region V conference in Redondo Beach, CA. For myself, the officers, the staff and the Region V members who participated, this gathering signaled a step forward in our return to normalcy. The conference offered a meaningful reunion and kicked off the first of four educational regional conferences we’ll be hosting around the country this year.

Members who attended the Region V conference enthusiastically participated in the workshop sessions, attentively listened to speakers including special guests and UWUA staff and asked thoughtful questions about the information that was presented to them. I couldn’t have asked for a more engaged group, and I’m energized by the discussions that took place.

One of the highlights was hearing from the dynamic group of Region V committee members who offered insight into how their work impacts members at their locals. Their remarks truly captured everyone’s attention in the room. We heard testimonials from them about how the UWUA has shaped their careers and what their committee priorities are in the immediate term. I look forward to hearing directly from more of our members at upcoming conferences. Next up, we’re off to Cleveland for the Region II/III conference.

While these gatherings offer a reason to celebrate, they’re also an opportunity to strengthen our solidarity and fortify relationships between locals in preparation for fights we face together, including efforts to eliminate our jobs, regulate our industries out of existence or close the facilities where we work.

While we’ve known about the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant closure in Michigan for years and have been planning and preparing for it, it’s still difficult to see a closure taking place either at this plant or our other generating facilities that have closed. Palisades is yet another reminder of how we cannot let our guard down with regard to plant closures.

It’s why we’ve all got to keep fighting to elect lawmakers who hear us, respond to our needs and advocate for our jobs no matter what job you have in the utility industry. It’s primary election season and the mid-term elections are right around the corner. We are committed to identifying and supporting pro-worker candidates around the country who will make our voices heard. More to come on this in the coming weeks and months.

In this edition of The Utility Worker, we shed some light on a threat that’s intensified recently as a result of international tensions and that impacts us all regardless of the industry where we work: cybersecurity in the utility sector. The number of cybersecurity attacks on our utilities continues to go up. The cover piece puts all of these attacks in perspective, touches on the most common types of cyberattacks on utilities and offers a reminder of why we all need to be alert all the time. I hope you’ll check it out.

Onto more positive news. I want to draw your attention to a story about Local 116 members in Ohio who are taking control of the safety culture at work. The members participated in the Power for America Training in Action Virtual Conference last fall. They took quick action in response to the information they received during the training. They are working to eliminate some of the roadblocks the company has thrown their way, but it’s an inspiring piece about the power of collective action beyond the bargaining table.

If you’re on the fence about participating in your own regional conference later this year, seek out the “Speaking Out” column in this edition to hear directly from your fellow members about why you should participate.

Lastly, check out the wins secured by 5 units, spread out across three states who all work for the same employer, Columbia Gas. Management intransigence and stonewalling tactics were no match for members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland, who through their solidarity and strength, delivered a win for themselves with their newly ratified contract.

I hope to see more of you in person soon. In the meantime, stay safe and be well.