Members of UWUA System Local 102, Branch 180 have ratified a new union contract with FirstEnergy’s Penelec subsidiary in central Pennsylvania. The contract was approved by 57% of members after the company came up with improvements to a contract offer previously rejected by the Branch 180 members, who work from Penelec worksites in Altoona, Shippensburg, and Lewistown, PA.
The UWUA members at Penelec stood up to a 20-week lockout imposed by FirstEnergy last winter after workers rejected the company’s substandard contract offer. FirstEnergy ended the lockout in April, even as workers continued to press for better contract terms.
The new contract ratified in August includes several improvements, including a $2,000 ratification bonus, plus an immediate 3% wage increase upon ratification, followed by an additional 2 ½% increase three weeks later on September 1, 2014. The contract provides for two additional increases of 2 ½% over the life of the three-year agreement.
The agreement also boosted a supplemental stipend for union workers assigned to a Penelec project crew from $180 per week to $225.
Workers assigned to the project crew work on large infrastructure projects.
In addition to the monetary improvements, the ratified agreement included improvements in operational language, including language dealing with how the company fills vacancies, “trouble truck” procedures, and rest periods. The union also won a job retraining program for any meter readers displaced by the company’s ongoing installation of “smart meters” throughout the Penelec service territory, with job guarantees for all impacted workers within 50 miles of their existing worksites.
The more than 140 members of UWUA Local 180 joined forces with other UWUA members at FirstEnergy during 2013 to become Branch 180 of System Local 102. The system local represents FirstEnergy employees throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Progress in Local 102 bargaining
Meanwhile, Local 102 has also been battling for a new union contract with FirstEnergy for 680 UWUA members in the former Allegheny Energy units across the four-state region. Local 102 members rejected the company’s contract offer by an overwhelming 77% vote in September.
As this edition of The Utility Worker goes to press, System Local 102 is conducting another ratification vote on a new company offer that includes significant improvements over the contract previously rejected by members. The local union expects to count the ratification ballots on December 18, after conducting membership meetings to explain the contract terms. In a related development, the UWUA successfully negotiated an agreement with FirstEnergy to resolve a complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board in April 2014 over management bad faith bargaining tactics during negotiations with Local 102.
The NLRB complaint charged the company with failing to engage in negotiations over the effects of its decision to close the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power stations in southwestern Pennsylvania in October 2013. The complaint also charged that management unlawfully transferred a mobile maintenance crew from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, purporting to remove the workers from the protections of the Local 102 contract.
The settlement agreement, which was approved by the NLRB’s Pittsburgh regional office in October, requires the company to provide jobs to any UWUA member who retired early or was laid off as a result of the two plant closures. The company is also required to return the mobile maintenance crew to the Local 102 contract at a new worksite in Pennsylvania. Under the terms of the settlement, workers in the crew can choose whether to remain assigned to West Virginia or to return to Pennsylvania.