April 8, 2014
For immediate release:
Altoona, Pa. The Utility Workers Union of America welcomed FirstEnergy’s decision to end its lockout of 142 utility workers at its Penelec subsidiary in central Pennsylvania, but criticized management for unilaterally implementing unfair cutbacks in customer service standards, employee working conditions, and benefits.
FirstEnergy announced yesterday that it was ending the lockout – which management imposed on UWUA members at Penelec three days before Thanksgiving 2013 – and that all workers would return to work on Monday, April 14. At the same time, Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy announced that it was unilaterally implementing huge concession demands without reaching any agreement with the union.
“We are pleased that FirstEnergy and Penelec have ended this irresponsible lockout and that our members will finally be returning to work,” stated Bob Whalen, UWUA System Local 102 president. “Even so, we condemn FirstEnergy’s attempt to circumvent good faith bargaining by implementing concession demands designed to undermine customer service and fair labor standards. The UWUA will continue challenging FirstEnergy’s unjust conduct.”
UWUA leaders also credited Penelec workers for standing strong despite the lockout lasting more than four months.
“We couldn’t be prouder of the courage these workers have shown by not giving in to FirstEnergy’s assault on their families’ standard of living,” stated UWUA National President Michael Langford. “We will continue to follow their example as we negotiate fair labor agreements for all UWUA members at FirstEnergy.”
The UWUA has been in negotiations for a new labor agreement at Penelec since last summer. In addition, the labor agreement for more than 700 utility workers at West Penn Power and Potomac Edison – where FirstEnergy is demanding similar concessions – is scheduled to expire on April 30.
The UWUA is also locked in contract negotiations with FirstEnergy at Mon Power’s Harrison generating station in West Virginia, where workers are demanding a fair first union contract more than three years after voting for UWUA representation in October 2010. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board recently issued a second complaint challenging illegal management conduct at the Harrison plant. A similar NLRB complaint last year resulted in a $1.25 million backpay settlement for Harrison employees.
The UWUA represents 50,000 employees in the utility and related industries throughout the U.S., including 3,200 workers at FirstEnergy utilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
For more information:
Robert Whalen, President, UWUA System Local 102, (724) 454-4407
Mark Brooks, Utility Workers Union of America, (615) 259-1186