The holiday season has arrived, but that hasn’t slowed down Local 1245’s campaign to protect retiree medical benefits at NV Energy.
Union negotiators sat down at the bargaining table with company negotiators for eight days in November, even as members and retirees demonstrated their support at two enormous rallies on Nov. 7 and Nov. 19. Negotiators met again on Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 7-8, but had to cancel sessions scheduled for the week of Dec. 14 when a company negotiator fell ill and was hospitalized.
Two days of negotiations are scheduled for Christmas week—Dec. 21-22—and again for Dec. 28, 29, 30 and 31.
Away from the bargaining table, union members and retirees have kept their heart in the fight, knowing that their retiree medical benefits are at stake. And their efforts are continuing to have a big impact.
On Dec. 17, union members and retirees delivered $4000 worth of food to the Evelyn Mount Community Outreach Program Food Drive in Reno, a clear demonstration of the positive impact that IBEW members have on the local community (beyond keeping the power on). The Evelyn Mount program provides food to the needy in Reno and Sparks during the holidays and to the elderly year-round.
Members and retirees have also been the key factor in the union’s interfaith outreach. To date, more than 20 religious leaders have signed a letter of support for the union. More religious leaders are being contacted as the outreach continues in Reno and spreads to Las Vegas. Expressions of support from religious leaders can be extremely important. Ask your minister, priest or rabbi if he or she has signed the letter of support for IBEW retirees. If they haven’t, contact Mike Grimm so that we can arrange a meeting with them! Mike’s number is 775-720-8021.
Retirees have been active on another front. Disappointed by management’s refusal to take questions at a company-sponsored meeting on retirement benefits in October at John Ascauga’s Nugget, the retirees recently sent a letter to CEO Michael Yackira requesting a personal meeting in Reno. Will the company honor its previous offer to “discuss” proposed benefits changed with retirees?
Meanwhile, back at union headquarters, the Local 1245 Executive Board has authorized $500,000 for a media campaign to expose NV Energy’s attack on retirees. A noted California PR firm has been hired and preparations for the media campaign are well underway, although the nature, extent and timing of the campaign are being kept under wraps. NV Energy has continued to undermine employee morale with talk of layoffs. Office closures, announced earlier in the fall, resulted in the loss of two IBEW jobs at the Elko office. Four positions have been eliminated in the main office in Reno, including two IBEW jobs. The union has tried hard to identify vacancies for those members, and still has hopes that one of them will be retained by the company as an outside messenger.
“This is one of the main reasons we have a union,” said Mike Grimm, who has been working as a temporary business representative during negotiations, “It’s to fight layoffs, especially unreasonable and unnecessary layoffs. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The company has signaled its intention to lay off approximately 100 employees—north and south, IBEW and management—in the new year. Rumors abound that the figure might be even higher, but rumors are a dime a dozen and the union is waiting for more solid information rather than jumping to conclusions.
A parting thought: When bosses terminate employees during the Christmas season, who exactly do they identify with when they watch “A Christmas Carol”?