President’s Message – Listening to Our Members

Listening to Our Members - UWUA National President, James Slevin

Listening to Our Members

Since being elected UWUA president last summer, I’ve embarked on a nationwide listening tour to hear your concerns and identify issues that are affecting you and your families. My goal is to work with you, your local and national officers to create a better workplace and a better life for all of our members.

Although there are differences in our locals, our industries and our regions, I have learned that our members are united, strong and together in their resolve to build better lives for themselves and their families. And our union is central to their ability to do so.

Skilled, proud members

We have a very skilled, proud membership. While experiencing different challenges in your industries, workplaces and regions, you are meeting things head on and are not just sitting back and taking whatever comes your way.

On my listening tour, I ask utility workers to forecast what their lives will look like in five years. You talk about your family, where your children will be in school, plans to get married, or any number of things about your household. No matter the situation, when I talk to a utility worker they have a good idea of where they’d like to be in five years.

In contrast to this, when I ask utility managers and executives to forecast what they will be doing five years from now, no matter what industry they are in — electric generation, distribution, water, or any other — they aren’t able to give me an answer.  It’s startling to learn that, while our industries are going through a major transformation, the people in charge don’t know where they will be in the next five years or what they will be doing.

Our members know what they want for the future while our employers don’t.

My message to employers is really pretty simple: companies need to understand that it’s not just about profits; it’s about the people who make a company profitable. They need to hear our voices loud and clear and understand that this is not a game. This is about people’s lives and their dreams for the future.

I go back to a saying I have, your employer is not your friend. They are more concerned about profits than they are about you and your family. I wouldn’t say all employers are that way but a majority are.

Learn from history

I’m a history buff. When you look at the history of our country in times of war, everyone, workers and corporations, pulled together and worked together. That’s missing in America now. Today’s corporations are not like that anymore. It’s more about profits over people.

Things are not always going to be good. We need to understand that when things aren’t good we need to stick together. That’s what unions are all about, solidarity.

Our job is to make sure there is a place for our members to work. That requires successful companies that can put them to work and treat them well. I constantly remind employers of this and make sure they do not lose sight of the people out in the field who make them a successful, profitable utility.

Next year is a big year. We are heading into an election in our country and some very serious questions face union households. What will the future look like for us?

Unions are all about community, solidarity and having a say in decisions that affect our everyday lives — and that’s exactly what voting is about, too. Are you registered to vote?

In closing, I would like to wish you all the best for the holidays and a Happy New Year!

In solidarity.