Local 102 Welcomes New Members

In January, 11 building maintenance workers cast their votes in favor of UWUA representation. They’ll now be part of the 900-member-strong Local 102 and join a union family that includes linemen, substation, and meter service workers at West Penn Power and other FirstEnergy-owned companies throughout Western and Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.

Travis Beck, the local’s president, said, “My members interact with these guys every day. They maintain the service centers where all the trucks and equipment are stored that 102 members use.” The maintenance crew is responsible for fire protection, making sure the buildings’ heating and cooling systems are working, fixing the garage doors, and changing the light bulbs.

“We’ve been talking to this group off and on for years, but in the past, there was never sufficient interest,” Beck said. He attributes the recent change in this dynamic to corporate takeovers and changes in management and culture. “In the past, the company had always gone out of its way to ensure maintenance workers had the pay and benefits to keep them out of the union. When FirstEnergy took over, that atmosphere changed. It implemented a lot of changes in work rules and job requirements and started contracting out work. These workers no longer felt secure.”

At the same time, a few of the long-serving maintenance crew retired and some of the new hires came from companies where they had been union members. “These new workers came from places like Westinghouse and knew the power and protections union membership could mean for their job,” said Beck.

In mid-2022, the timing was finally right to bring the unit into the Local 102-fold. All of the maintenance workers signed UWUA cards, which Beck presented to FirstEnergy. The company declined to offer card check recognition, insisting on an NLRB election. The votes were tallied in late January.

Beck plans to add the maintenance unit as a new classification in the local’s master contract with FirstEnergy. That agreement is up for renewal on May 1. The new members want job security and written job descriptions with clear progression paths to be among the union’s demands as bargaining gets underway. He said, “Pay isn’t so much an issue. The biggest changes this group will see as union members will be in job protections and benefits.”