As the utility industry becomes increasingly multinational, the UWUA is strengthening its bonds with global unions, both to advance international solidarity and to defend the interests of UWUA members working for overseas companies.
One case in point involves Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, which employs 28,000 workers in nearly 40 countries, including Spain, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Mexico. In December, Iberdrola acquired Connecticut based UIL Holdings, now renamed AVANGRID.
The UWUA represents workers at three AVANGRID locations: gas utility workers represented by UWUA Local 380 at Connecticut Natural Gas in Greenwich; electric distribution and other hourly workers, electric dispatchers, field engineers, and other technical employees represented by UWUA Local 470-1 at United Illuminating in Bridgeport-New Haven; and Local 470-1 gas dispatchers at a Southern Connecticut Gas liquefied natural gas facility in Milford.
Spanish union official attends Region I Conference
In May, the UWUA hosted Antonio Rodriguez – a top official for the largest trade union representing Iberdrola workers in Spain – at the UWUA Region I Conference in Providence, R.I. Rodriguez is the general secretary for the Iberdrola section of FICA-UGT, which represents over 300,000 workers in Spanish energy, chemical, metals, construction, and other industries.
In his address to Region I delegates, Rodriguez emphasized the importance of global solidarity in dealing with multinational companies like Iberdrola.
“International solidarity is fundamental to trade unions,” Rodriguez declared to a standing ovation from UWUA delegates. “Unity of action between unions is one of our strongest assets and indeed one of the reasons for our very existence.”
UWUA lays groundwork for work with Iberdrola unions
Placing words into action, UWUA national and local union leaders representing AVANGRID workers met with Rodriguez privately during the conference to lay the groundwork for future cooperation between UWUA and the UGT. Those discussions were led by UWUA National President Mike Langford, and were joined by Steven VanSlooten, UWUA executive vice president; Moses Rams, president of UWUA Local 470-1; and Rob Eubanks, president of the Connecticut Independent Utility Workers Union.
The CIUW represents AVANGRID workers at Connecticut Natural Gas in the Hartford area. Eubanks attended the conference by special invitation of the UWUA national president.
“These discussions were hugely productive,” Eubanks noted. “I appreciate the UWUA’s efforts to bring together unions from the U.S., Spain, and elsewhere to build a strong alliance for all workers at Iberdrola.”
UWUA unites with British unions at Iberdrola
The visit by Rodriguez to the Region I conference followed earlier meetings concerning Iberdrola between UWUA and British union GMB. The GMB is one of the largest unions in the U.K. and represents workers at Scottish Power, acquired by Iberdrola in 2007.
Gary Smith, GMB’s Scottish regional secretary, met in April with UWUA and CIUW leaders in Connecticut to discuss Iberdrola’s acquisition of UIL. The UWUA and GMB have joined forces in the past, especially concerning disputes involving British-based National Grid.
In the April discussions, Smith pledged the GMB’s support for UWUA plans to forge close cooperation between all unions representing Iberdrola employees.
“International solidarity is critical for union workers to keep pace in today’s global economy,” Smith noted. “We are committed to continue our work with UWUA on issues of mutual concern at Iberdrola, National Grid, and other companies.”