Speaking Out: The theme of the upcoming UWUA Convention is Utility Workers: Essential by Industry, Exceptional by Choice. How does this theme apply to how you and your coworkers approach your job?

Richie Hughes, Local 369

“The utility worker being essential needs no explanation. We deliver the products to the public that make everyday life as we know it possible. We perform the highest quality work while maintaining the highest level of safety for our members and the public. We do this from call centers, offices, control rooms, substations, poles, manholes, trenches, and plants. We do this on blue sky days and in the worst weather imaginable, while continuously remembering that we must always be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper in workplace safety. This is how we choose to be exceptional.”

Terry Stevenson, Local 164

“I have 28 years of service at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, and as a mechanic, I am responsible for servicing and maintaining a fleet of vehicles, heavy equipment, and small equipment. Along with my fellow union brothers and sisters at the company, which includes the distribution department, the production department, and the office staff, we work together to provide the best possible service to ensure clean and safe water to the customers. As members of UWUA Local 164, we are able to do our jobs and provide exceptional service in a safe and fair work environment.”

Nyobe Oglesby, Local 470-1

“Labor is one of the basic requirements and one of the top priorities in any industry. As skilled laborers, we often find ourselves in a position or role of necessity — from the mail carrier to the customer service representative, the meter techs to the office support, the engineers to the linemen, and all other departments in between. We all come to work knowing we are essential. We make that choice daily. That, in and of itself, is exceptional!”


Nik Park, Local 483

“Local 483 members operate and maintain natural gas transmission pipelines and storage fields. We deliver comfort to homes and fuel for the power grid and industry. We arrive at job sites every day with the sole purpose of protecting our pipelines and the public. This is skilled work and our members meet any and all challenges. We stop the job when necessary, we have daily job site meetings, and continuously work toward ensuring everyone goes home at the end of the day. This dedication and exemplary workmanship powers our state and needs to be a part of our country’s future.”

Ryan Rokosky, Local 270

“Being an essential worker in the nuclear industry, as a field operator, is a requirement, but being exceptional is a choice. Whether it’s training new members or working side by side with existing brothers and sisters, I try my hardest to help them become the best they can be. The UWUA has given me opportunities to negotiate a contract on behalf of my peers, represent them in the grievance process, and find ways to provide them with better compensation and benefits. By choosing to be exceptional, I have been able to better those around me and have found a way to better myself.”

Scott Carmichael, Local 160-D

“My union brothers and sisters and I are proud to provide an essential service to the many communities we serve. It’s an around-the-clock commitment that requires not only a continual need to refine our training, but to modernize our work practices and procedures and to ensure that our working conditions stand up to the demands of the job. We relish the challenge of delivering an exceptional product to our customers. That’s what they deserve.”


Lauren Paulicelli, Local 393

“I feel the UWUA convention theme is a great way to sum up our approach to our jobs.  My coworkers and I are willing to learn and ask questions of management or of each other so we can be more efficient when communicating with our customers and help resolve any problems the customer may have. Teamwork is essential for our office to run smoothly. Helping each other by taking on extra work, when necessary, relieves stress and creates unity in the office and everyone feels appreciated. Lastly, we work to be both essential and exceptional by being reliable, following up with what we said we would do, and completing tasks correctly. This way no one feels they are picking up the slack and there is less tension among coworkers.”

Gabriel Avelar, Local 18007

“I believe the gas industry is more important than ever. When it is unbearably cold outside, we are the silent workforce helping to deliver natural gas safely and seamlessly to warm people’s homes. My team and I approach our duties with precision and diligence, which I believe delivers the message that we choose to be exceptional.

I was lucky enough to begin my career right out of high school, and so I have grown into the laborer and now foreman I am today. I went to trade school in the evenings to learn new and valuable skills which have been applied to my daily work for more than a decade. One of the best parts of working in a union is the opportunity you get to develop leadership skills. Over the past 15 years, I have worked diligently to be promoted to foreman, and now have the opportunity to mentor the next generation of essential leaders. I hope to inspire them to want to be exceptional as well. I have found it essential to train, as well as motivate, new employees with your own personal experiences, including previous successes as well as mistakes. I have a lot of respect for my fellow union brothers and sisters who came before me and am grateful for the knowledge and experience they imparted to me. I work to pass this along to my crew members.”

Ryan Luptowski, Local 542

“UWUA Local 542 operates and maintains a water distribution system that serves approximately 15,000 customers. We remain exceptional through pride in our work, education, training, and passing our knowledge down to the next generation of workers. Our goal is to provide clean, safe, and high-quality drinking water directly to our customers’ taps.”


Ken Estep, Local 116

“Anecdotally the meter department has often been referred to as “the cash register” of the company. That reflects the importance of what we do every day and the demands put upon us to make sure that we are always at our best and our key role in the company. Meter electricians proudly bear the responsibility of not only knowing metering, but also have a fluent understanding of the distribution system.

Meter electricians operate every day with integrity. We are exceptional by choice because we value a job well done. We require diligence and accuracy at all times. This is not optional! Too much of what we do plays a critical role in the operation and functionality of the distribution line system. Without meter electricians doing what we do best every day the company cannot do what it does best.”

Josh McTaggart, Local 347

“We see our work as both essential and exceptional in many ways: we show up every day for our customers and take care of their needs; our union membership; and we take great pride in our work, doing it right the first time.”