Shortly after 11:59pm, on Friday, March 6, when UWUA Massachusetts Local 369’s contract with Exelon expired, the 36 members at the Mystic Generating Station went on strike.
With numerous negotiating sessions proving unsuccessful, workers sounded the alarm to raise concerns that Exelon, one of the largest corporations in America, was cutting corners. Including deferring maintenance, jeopardizing public safety and the retention of highly skilled plant operators.
Gaining public support
Striking workers quickly gained the support of the state’s labor movement and local elected officials, including Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and three days later they reached an agreement on a new contract with the company. The five-year agreement guarantees job security, a signing bonus, annual raises, and increased sick and vacation time.
Still, as Local 369 President Craig Pinkham says, “Not every work stoppage is a about economics and money. Sometimes contract language on workers’ benefits, working conditions and safety far outweigh a general wage increase or paid time off.”
Protecting members from possible sale
With Exelon preparing for the possible sale of the Generating Station, the company proposed language giving a new owner the right to amend, change, and impose conditions without the union being able to grieve or arbitrate them.
“That would wipe out our level of health care benefits, 401(k), pensions, and retiree medical care. We couldn’t allow that,” Pinkham says. And in the end, the local secured contract language protecting members from any changes with a possible sale.
The Generating Station is a 2,001-megawatt fossil power plant, the largest in Massachusetts, providing electricity for millions of people, homes and businesses in Greater Boston and throughout the state.
“This strike resulted in a huge victory for the community and the workers who spoke up,” Pinkham says. “Because of this strike, and all the community support, today this plant is being run by highly skilled workers with continued protections and improved working conditions. Safety concerns are being addressed and crucial maintenance upgrades are going to be made.”
The new contract was unanimously ratified, 36 – 0, by the members. “The results of our ratification vote confirmed we did the right thing,” Pinkham says.