UWUA Gas Conference – Phoenix, AZ February 2012
UWUA President Mike Langford opened the conference of National and local Utility Workers reps working in the gas industry. Union Chief of Staff Stewart Acuff spoke on the importance of gas safety, especially regarding the question of “fracking.” Brother Acuff noted that natural gas is key to taking on the U. S. dependency on foreign oil, without losing sight of the need to meet safety and health concerns raised by various groups around the country.
Andrew Weissman, a gas industry consultant, spoke about the fracking process. Similar to drilling for oil, a hole is drilled thousands of feet deep, and pipe is placed in the hole. A combination of chemicals and water are used at a high pressure to separate shale for the release of natural gas pockets. The natural gas is then extracted and captured at ground level. The process has raised safety issues as to the chemicals used in the process, and what effect fracking may have on the water table and quality of the ground water if contamination occurs.
Mr. Weissman’s opinion was that the process was perfectly safe and presented no hazardous exposure to the environment and humans.
The next speaker was Mark McDonald, President of the New England Gas Workers Association. Mr. McDonald’s remarks dealt with the gas industry and the effects of deregulation on the industry. He noted the loss of good-paying jobs, and the need to hold the fracking process to a high safety standard. Some companies’ safety records have been called into question. He addressed the use of government legislation as a valuable tool to hold companies accountable regarding safety, and the use of fracking in their operation.
Michelle Cooke, the interim director of Consumers Protection and Safety Division for the California Public Utilities Commission, spoke on gas safety regulations, and how they are changing as the gas industry grows faster day by day.
Linda Daugherty, deputy associate administrator for Pipeline Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, addressed questions raised by consumers, environmental groups, and elected officials across the country. She called for the immediate upgrade to the regulatory standards at the federal level, and spoke to emerging safety issues.
UWUA Water Conference – Chicago, IL Fall 2012
UWUA members working in water and wastewater came together to share common workplace issues and concerns in their industries. Delegates from about 30 locals attended this two-day conference.
Safety topped the list of issues addressed, and UWUA National Safety Director John Devlin was on hand to discuss solutions. John also spoke about successful safety programs in different areas of the country, and offered many ideas for the attendees to utilize back at their locals. Speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois State AFL-CIO also contributed.
Inter-Union Gas Conference
The Inter-Union Gas Conference of the AFL-CIO continues to grow in reputation as an outlet for sharing ideas and information amongst gas locals throughout the United States and Canada. The conference was created in 1980, and is hosted annually by participating international or national unions on a rotating basis. The participants are: Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP); United Steel Workers (USW); United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA); and the United Food and Commercial Workers/International Chemical Workers Union (UFCW/ICWU).
The conference is open to any national or international union that includes gas workers and is in good standing with the AFL-CIO. Contributing unions agree to take part in the rotation to allow their members to attend. It was hosted in 2011 by the USW in Reno; in 2012 by the IBEW in Portland, OR; and in 2013 by the CEP in Niagara Falls, Canada.
In 2014, our National hosted the conference in disney world, around the theme of pipeline infrastructure and worker awareness. The conference was well-attended, and the participation during the panel discussions was informative. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was the keynote speaker.
The conference included a wide variety of panel discussions and workshops. Mornings consisted of workshops on distribution, service and clerical, transmission, storage and field operations. Panels throughout the afternoons involved pipeline safety, training veterans, best practices for O/M, training, operator qualifications and leak reduction. Delegates heard a history of unions, and information on investing and retirement.
In the fall of 2015, the UA will be hosting the conference in Las Vegas.
Good Jobs, Green Jobs National and Regional Conferences
Since 2011, thousands of people have come from all over the country to attend the yearly Good Jobs, Green Jobs conferences. The UWUA has been a convener of the conferences, along with numerous unions and environmental, community and business groups. Participants share ideas and strategies to create good jobs while preserving our economic and environmental security.
In 2012, Regional Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conferences were held in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Detroit. They discussed creating green jobs in communities from South Carolina to Tennessee to Florida to Texas, and rallying in support of the workers at American Reclamation, a recycling center where workers are organizing to improve working conditions.
Speakers included National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Larry Schweiger; Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen; BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! National Co-Chair Mark Schauer; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigos; Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa; White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley; Senator Chris Coons (D-DE); Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA); Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA); Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter; BlueGreen Alliance Foundation President David Foster; White House Council on Environmental Quality Deputy Director and General Counsel Gary Guzy; Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman; United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard; Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift.
At the regional conference in Detroit, the UWUA spoke to the need for a national policy that ensures that green jobs occur on the high road, and called for attention to a job transitional strategy to maintain high wage jobs and employment in the energy sector.
The 2013 National Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference was held in April in Washington DC. The UWUA presented a workshop about the need to invest now in America’s aging infrastructure. Speakers included UWUA President Langford; AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka; Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA); Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Governor Pete Shumlin (D-VT); and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The 2014 National Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference was held in February in Washington. The UWUA presented on the impact of increasingly severe weather on the nation’s infrastructure and population. The Union also spoke about the importance to upgrade our nation’s aging electrical transmission and distribution grids.
UWUA President Langford spoke during a moderated panel on the state of America’s Infrastructure Deficit, and federal, state and local policy solutions to update the infrastructure, build good jobs and address climate change. Other speakers included Richard L. Trumka; Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); President Bob King of the United Auto Workers; Administrator Gina Mc- Carthy of the Environmental Protection Agency; Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD); Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
The 2015 National Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference was held in April in Washington. The theme for this conference was “Working to Energize America” by repairing our failing energy infrastructure, making our current energy generation more efficient, and growing renewable energy throughout the country – creating and securing quality, family-sustaining jobs along the way. Speakers included Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The UWUA spoke about the need for transitional assistance for workers and communities who are affected by power plant closures, and how such assistance benefits local economies. In another workshop, the Union called attention to the correlation between union density, economic disparity and environmental damage, and the need to ensure that “green jobs” are good jobs through collective bargaining.