When NV Energy decided in 2009 to slash medical benefits for its retirees, IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell responded with a “Shame on NV Energy” campaign. Besides traditional tactics like rallies that attracted hundreds in Reno and Las Vegas, the union published full page newspaper ads that succeeded in flooding the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) with complaints about NV Energy. Company executives and board members were targeted in radio, television and Google ads, as well as a “Hall of Shame” web site.
The television ad featured Sylvester Kelley, a World War II veteran who had his war-damaged finger amputated in order to qualify for a job at the Nevada utility in the 1940s. Kelley told viewers: “I served Nevada Energy for 40 years. I know the meaning of service and sacrifice. Now when I need help, they won’t lift a finger to help me.”
The Shame on NV Energy Facebook page racked up an astounding 50,000 “likes.” The union even organized a large and boisterous “Shame” rally in New York City to embarrass an NV Energy executive being honored there for supposed “Excellence in Benefits.”
The union also successfully petitioned the PUCN to formally investigate NV Energy’s staffing practices, filed suit in federal court charging that the company had reneged on its commitments, and engineered a shareholder resolution targeting executives’ stock options.
When the union invited its 50,000 “Shame on NV Energy” Facebook followers to rally at the PUCN, NV Energy finally backed down.
Two years later when NV Energy was acquired by billionaire Warren Buffett, Dalzell forged a new alliance with IBEW 396 in southern Nevada and five other local unions at utilities owned by Buffett. It was another example of IBEW 1245 responding to corporate power with new forms of worker unity.