PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Breaking Down Barriers and Fostering Collaboration in 2024

National President, James Slevin

It’s easy to get bogged down by the work tasks on our plates. We can quickly lose sight of the big picture including all the ways the work we do — regardless of which utility sector we work in — is interconnected. We’ve all experienced moments of feeling very siloed in our work, which has a negative effect on our ability to perform our jobs.

That’s why in this first edition of The Utility Worker magazine in 2024 we’re showing you some of the ways we at the UWUA are committed to breaking out of our siloes — whether they’re created by employers who want to sow division amongst us or whether these divisions are created by a lack of awareness of the work others do in our industry. I know for sure that when individuals in the call center and field or technicians have even just a little bit of insight into what it takes to perform other job functions successfully, it makes us all work better together.

This is why I came up with an idea for a new regular feature in the magazine called “How It’s Done”, which will spotlight various job roles and responsibilities across the union. This new feature is a result of hearing feedback from members. For more insight on what we hope to accomplish through this regular column, check out Vice President Pinkham’s column on page 7 of this issue. He shares some great insight about how a “Walk in My Shoes” program in his workplace early in his career changed the way he related to his coworkers and broadened his perspective.

In this quarter’s “How It’s Done” column, we profile five individuals from the water sector from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California to better understand everything that goes into delivering clean, safe drinking water to homes and businesses. I encourage you to take a moment to see what makes water treatment challenging and rewarding for Mike Valenti (Local 393), Heather Novak (Local 648), Tom Carchedi (Local 425), Adam Solliere (Local 160-D), and Cody Sinnott (Local 160-D). Some of their insights may surprise you.

Another way we’re working to break down barriers and create more connections among UWUA members is through our regional conferences this year. Four conferences will be held starting with Region V in April (view the full schedule at The conferences offer a chance to level up your training and network with your peers who might have experience navigating an employer issue you or your members face. Those who attend will also have a chance to hear from labor leaders like Al Davidoff who will share his inspiring story about organizing a union at Cornell University.

The regional conferences are a great follow-up to the convention and offer a path forward for getting the work done that we’ve identified and prioritized in the resolutions that were passed at the convention last summer. Being together in person to connect with national labor leaders who are at the forefront of the labor movement and your union siblings is an important way to break down the siloes and reinforce the notion that our solidarity extends far beyond our own locals. Being a member of the UWUA means you have the full force of all our members behind you!

The last time we held our regional conferences in 2022, I was so impressed to see the ways our membership has changed to include more women and younger members. I was also impressed by the work committee members are doing and the updates the committees gave in 2022. Once again, I look forward to meeting new members, hearing how things are going in your locals and talking more about how we can support your work. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned member, we look forward to welcoming you to the regional conferences this year. Reach out to your local union’s president if you are interested in attending.

As we kick off 2024, I hope you will seek out new ways to connect with your colleagues and with members of the labor movement in your community. Whether it’s through attending an upcoming regional conference, participating in your state’s labor federation activities, or checking out the new feature in our magazine, it’s always worth the time to make new connections and strengthen our solidarity.