At our union’s convention next month, delegates will participate in four action-packed days built around the theme of “Utility Workers: Essential by Industry, Exceptional by Choice.” Three days will have special sub-themes that highlight steps the UWUA is taking to position itself for a strong future.
Embracing Our Differences
The first day of the convention will focus on how our industry’s future depends on all of us embracing our differences to meet the challenges ahead. This future will be driven by the combination of knowledge and experience of our veteran leadership and the ambition and excitement of a diverse new generation of young members just beginning their careers.
Whether you are a 30-year veteran line worker from Ohio, a mid-career apprentice from Pennsylvania or a 21-year-old trainee from California just entering the profession, our mission will be the same: empower one another with good, family-sustaining jobs.
We’re seeing similar trends in the utility sector as we are across the workforce: more women, people of color and others see that the surest path to the middle class is through union employment. As we take on these new challenges, it’s important that we all share our experiences and knowledge, listen to one another and work together to carve a path toward prosperity.
It is important that all members feel a sense of belonging in the workplace and within their local unions. In the coming years, we anticipate around 70% of current utility workers will retire. That means the next generation now entering the industry, including apprentices just starting their journey, will be the ones leading us into the future. These new voices, new faces, and new leaders bring fresh ideas to our union, the labor movement, and our changing industry.
Leveraging Our Collective Strengths
Solidarity has been key to our victories throughout our union’s 75-plus-year history. So, we’ll explore how we are taking the things that make us strong individually and as locals and combining them to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
A recent example of how we’re leveraging our collective strength is in organizing. This year, we’ve ventured into right-to-work states like Kentucky and Georgia and are seeing success. In Kentucky, we had a small group of gas workers that approached the UWUA to secure better wages and benefits and fairer treatment from their employer. Locals 600 and 612 came together to help these workers organize and are now helping them negotiate a first contract.
In New Jersey, Elizabethtown Gas field workers had long been represented by Local 424. When the company’s call center workers reached out for UWUA representation, Local 424 connected them with Local 601, knowing that local would be a better fit for the workers’ needs. These workers ratified a strong first contract in late 2022. This is an example of how locals can work together to organize non-union units we work side-by-side with in our existing UWUA companies.
We see the power of leveraging our collective strength in bargaining, safety and political action, as well. In Ohio, UWUA locals are working together to pass a state law to make it a felony to assault a utility worker. Six California water locals are working together on a joint safety program that is far superior to what any of them could achieve on their own. The list goes on and shows time and again that we’re stronger when we stand united.
Determining Our Future Together
With climate change and the push for de-carbonization, we see the power generation sector of our industry facing unprecedented challenges. We’re leveraging our collective strengths to ensure that utility workers have a voice in how our industries evolve.
We’ve hired a director of renewable energies to help us stay on the forefront of the new technologies and changes in the industry and to protect the interests of workers and consumers while this evolution unfolds. The UWUA’s Power for America Training Trust is training our members for the needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s utility jobs. We’re making sure the voices of utility workers are heard in national, state, and local policy discussions.
Together, we’re working to ensure that the utility jobs of tomorrow provide the family-supporting wages and benefits that our union has spent decades building and protecting.