Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused massive destruction and upended the lives of untold millions of people. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones and the millions more who are still dealing with the aftermath of the storms.
Even before the hurricanes made landfall, our members, particularly our electric line workers, were mobilizing to restore and rebuild services for communities facing these natural disasters.
We are first responders.
On behalf of all the officers, staff and our entire membership, I want to thank the hundreds of union brothers and sisters who answered the call to do what they do best, respond to emergencies both natural and manmade. Most left their families, traveled hundreds of miles south, and risked their lives to restore power under very dangerous conditions.
Our members know this work requires the utmost care and safety is priority number one. The safety training they receive is second to none.
Still, accidents happen. One of our linemen, Tracy Slaugenhaupt, went to Florida, worked 16-hour days in 100-degree heat and for several nights slept on a cot in a tractor-trailer with 36 other linemen. Unfortunately, Tracy, a 25-year member from Local 102 at Allegheny Power, made contact with 7,000 volts and was severely burned. He is in critical condition. I am asking all of you to pray for Tracy and his family.
More and more people throughout the country understand the importance of the work our members, like Tracy, do. Many in the affected communities have expressed their gratitude to our members through random acts of kindness, such as delivering a few words of appreciation, cookies, or a thank you card.
Now it’s time for our elected leaders to recognize us as first responders as well. When disaster strikes, we are on the scene doing those things that make it possible for other first responders, including police and fire personnel, to do their jobs. We are responsible for making disaster sites safe places to work so that others can do what needs to get done. Yet, we do not enjoy the same legal status as other first responders.
This must change. Now is a good time to talk to our elected leaders, tell them our stories, and push for the first responder protections only the law can provide.
In addition to highlighting the important work our members do, the disastrous hurricanes also reveal the need to fix our broken health care system. Survivors of these disasters, and everyone else, have the right to receive the care they need without concern for their ability to pay.
The UWUA supports single-payer national healthcare legislation that ensures every American has access to affordable and quality health care. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is something that affects everyone and there is no better time than now to do the right thing.
Let your representatives in Washington know: now is the time for both parties in Washington, Democrats and Republicans, to roll up their sleeves for the American people and fix our health care system!
Instead of considering legislation to reform the tax code to put more money in the hands of the wealthy few, Congress needs to pass legislation to reform our health care system to provide universal care to every American.
In this issue of The Utility Worker you will read about our many recent successes as we continue our long tradition of fighting for good jobs, safe worksites, and strong communities. The development of tools to strengthen our position for the coming legislative battles is also covered. We all know that what we win at the bargaining table can be taken away with the stroke of a pen. There is also information about the Oct. 18-20 Power for America National Conference. I encourage you to join us if you can.
Most importantly, get active in your union. You have the power to make positive change. Use it!