Our union is a tapestry woven from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints that unites individuals from all walks of life. During the convention, extensive deliberations centered around the themes of “Embracing Our Differences” and “Leveraging Our Strength.”
Delegates from every region throughout our national union delved into resolutions spanning a wide spectrum of subjects, ranging from “Safe and Reliable Natural Gas” to “Support for Nuclear Energy and Workers” to “UWUA Health and Safety.” Amid this varied array, a common thread emerged: despite our varied origins and experiences, the challenges faced by utility workers are deeply interconnected.
Instances of gas bans in Massachusetts mirror those in Ohio, while concerns about electrification resonate across regions like California, Michigan, Ohio, and New York. The looming closure of fossil fuel plants binds countless communities nationwide.
In my role as your re-elected National Vice President, I am dedicated to equipping each local with the necessary tools to confront these shared challenges.
My home local, 369 in Boston, has undergone experiences like those encountered by locals across UWUA’s five regions — attrition, the shuttering of oil and gas facilities, and the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. We have navigated extreme weather events and formidable storms. We’ve adapted our work processes and supported each other through a pandemic. We’ve also implemented programs to train our members for emerging technologies, while ensuring that policymakers heed our members’ expert perspectives on efficiently building the required energy capacity.
My initiation into UWUA was marked by the impact of deregulation, as Local 369 transitioned from negotiating a single contract with one employer to navigating a complex web of 22 contracts involving 14 distinct entities. This experience has deeply ingrained in me the ability to collaborate effectively with our bargaining committees, preserving our legacy contracts, advocating for competitive wages and benefits, and placing safety and job security at the heart of every endeavor.
Our union’s eight decade history serves as our guiding compass. As UWUA members, we have confronted and overcome every challenge thrown our way, emerging with resilience. Drawing from this shared history, we will navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
So how do we fortify our union for what lies ahead? We do so just as we always have — through negotiation, political action, and organizing.
Collectively, UWUA locals have successfully negotiated thousands of contracts. Irrespective of the setting or context, we’ve come to understand that employers will invariably seek to erode benefits and wages. As we gaze toward the future, we renew our commitment to approach the negotiating table armed with data, facts, and transparency, while ensuring our members are fully informed and prepared to fight.
In terms of policy, we ensure our voices reverberate through national, state, and local decision-making processes, influencing every issue that impacts our members, customers, and communities: natural gas, nuclear energy, electrification, fossil fuels, renewable energies, workers’ rights, safety, and more. To dictate the energy agenda rather than merely reacting to it requires the input and collaboration of all our locals.
In organizing, we reach out both near and far, extending a welcoming hand to new members joining our union. We pledge to organize non-union colleagues within UWUA-affiliated workplaces, regardless of whether they are just down the hall or located in a different state. We go outside our comfort zones, even venturing into right-to-work states.
I take immense pride in hailing from a union family and an even greater sense of pride in standing alongside all of you who ensure clean water, reliable power, and safe gas distribution throughout our nation. As we confront these challenges, it remains crucial that we share our experiences and insights, attentively listen to one another, and collaborate to chart a course toward prosperity. This spirit of cooperation echoes the essence of family.
Our divergent perspectives are the bedrock of our strength. The future of UWUA will be shaped by the fusion of the wisdom and experience of our seasoned leaders and the energy and enthusiasm of the next generation of young workers embarking on their careers. Together, we work to guarantee that the utility jobs of tomorrow provide the robust wages and benefits that our union has painstakingly built over generations.
For me, it has always revolved around family, and it always will.