By Ron Cochran
The month of December started on a very good note with signing up new members and administrating the Oath of Obligation to our Brothers and Sister working for Utility Partners of America (UPA) on the SMUD AMI project in Sacramento. This was followed by a two-day Linemen Safety seminar in Vacaville, CA.
We spent most of December trying to organize new companies working within our jurisdiction. We have had some great success with this effort and signed several contractors to collective bargaining agreements.
We participated in a meeting with Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) in Denver over use of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s). A couple of us were able to follow the Business Manager through a couple of his work days on December 3rd and 4th and attend these meetings. Wow, what a whirl-wind in two days. After a couple of pre-dawn hours of returning emails and phone calls, early on the 3rd, there was a senior staff meeting in the Vacaville office followed by a commute to another meeting with a local Building Trade Union over jurisdictional issues and a joint organizing effort. We then traveled to the airport to fly to Denver, Colorado, to meetings with WAPA on the 4th.
Denver was great, we got to the rental car late in the evening, dark and 8 degrees outside. We had to work to open the frozen-shut car doors and we were off and running again. After an hour drive on icy roads we got to eat and then get to our hotel. Rooms were 58 degrees and we were happy about it after the 8 degrees outside. The rooms finally warmed up and everyone had emails to return. By midnight everyone had a warm place to sleep and we were done for the day.
The next morning we met with two officials from Fed-OSHA at 7 am, which turned out to be a great meeting. These Fed OSHA guys were from the trades and truly believe in apprenticeship programs and safety. We then traveled to the WAPA headquarters in Lakewood, Colorado, to meet with the WAPA administrators and pitch the use of PLA’s on future projects WAPA puts out to bid to construction contractors. This was the first ever meeting of this kind with WAPA. They were very interested in how a PLA would affect their business.
PLA’s are not anything new, they were first used in the 1930’s in the United States. Projects like Grand Coulee Dam, Shasta Dam, Keswick Dam, and Trinity Dam all were constructed under such PLA’s. President Obama issued an Executive Order in February, 2009, suggesting the use of PLA’s on all Public Works projects exceeding 25 million dollars in value. For more information on this visit://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nec/StrategyforAmericanInnovation/,//www.justice.gov/jmd/pe/pdfs/exec-order13502.pdf. This Executive Order opened the door to the Business Manager landing this meeting with WAPA.
Following that meeting we made our way back to California and to our homes late that night. This is the pace that Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell maintains, working hard for the membership. We are scheduled to meet and make a presentation to the Regional Managers of WAPA early in January 2010.
WAPA still has not awarded the Sacramento Voltage Support (SVS) project. We expect the bid award to be announced soon. We are still working on the SWIP (//www.swipos.com/about.htm) project in Nevada; we have a meeting scheduled on January 4, 2010, with the contractors bidding on this project. The SVS project should start in the end of the first quarter of 2010. The SWIP project is set to start construction in the second quarter of 2010, although we think the 4th quarter is a more realistic time frame.
The conduit system project in Oakland is wrapping up between Substation C to Substation X. Most members on that project will be laid-off soon, with a small crew staying to do cleanup work. We are not sure if the transmission cable will be installed in 2010, but it’s likely it will be. PG&E has released information related to the 2010 construction budget. It looks good for transmission and substation work in 2010. We should be able to keep our local work force busy throughout the year on this work. PG&E pole replacement project is flat for the second year in a row; we are all waiting for the perfect storm. This is similar to the early 90’s when PG&E slowed their pole replacement program, then the perfect storms of 1995 hit (one in January, one in March). There were wide-spread extended outages. We are all waiting to hear the opinion of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on PG&E’s reduced pole maintenance program.
There is a bid out for a fair sized trolley project in San Francisco on Hayes Street right now. We are told there will be around 20 million dollars in trolley construction and maintenance in San Francisco in 2010.
The pole test and treatment programs are starting up again with crews in the Rio Vista and Fresno areas with two different contractors performing this work. The AC load control program is still active although slow.
The Automated Metering (AMI) replacement programs are the shining light with current construction slowed down. Wellington currently has over four-hundred members working on PG&E property and we expect them to expand to over five-hundred by mid 2010. UPA has over a dozen working on SMUD property right now and we are expecting over seventy members working by June of 2010. We are also following the progress of AMI bids in the State of Nevada. We understand there are stimulus dollars for this work in Nevada; we have high hopes that this will be done by our union brothers and sisters. We will be discussing this more with Local 396 early in January as this work will overlap in their jurisdiction. There are also more prospects of AMI work on the natural gas side of the business in the southern end of our jurisdiction.
We just completed our first utility-owned solar project at the end of November. This project was constructed in the Vaca-Dixon area. The solar farm was about ½ MW in size. We currently have 250 MW of solar fields under PLA’s with our local utilities. We estimate they will construct 50 MW a year over the next 5 years. This is great work for our groundmen and line equipment men classifications. We also expect most of this construction to happen in the second and third quarters of 2010. We are hoping to get into Book 3 and Book 4 for some of this work. All in all we think we can keep our local members busy through 2010, but we are not sure how many travelers we can support if there is no pole replacement work.
Information sharing through technologies; yes we’re still working with the techno stuff. The yahoo group site doesn’t get many site hits; we still have a lot of hope for the large group texting. We have been testing the group texting, hit or miss; it will just require more time to perfect it. This will have a big impact if we can develop large work groups to get real time information to you. The members working on the AMI work will number six-hundred-plus by June 2010; this is a great way to get to that work group. Getting everyone involved is the key to all our success.
We recently sent out a mailer to the Outside Line members (OSL) to vote on a modification to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This language was added to clarify 6.10 of the CBA. The results were posted on the Local’s website in December. I bring this up as the voter turnout was less than 20% of the voter block. We really need to find a way to involve everyone in their union business. The 20 percent who turned out to vote decided the fate of the entire OSL membership.
Recently, the International Office signed a National Storm Agreement that directly affects the Local 1245 OSL members; this stirred a strong debate at our last unit meeting. I mention this on the tail of my comments of getting all the members more involved in their IBEW. It’s in the wind that there are more agreements being negotiated at the International level without our involvement. It is very important that your voice is heard, please get involved.
Ralph Armstrong continues to work hard on your safety issues in conjunction with the day to day business of the construction units of Local 1245. Mr. Armstrong continues the debate over required PPE with the local utilities that are not furnishing PPE/climbing gear to their linemen as required by OSHA. Elizabeth McInnis continues to work with the construction unit and her other utility assignments. Ms. McInnis’ construction efforts most recently have been working to help organize non-union contractors in our jurisdiction. A couple of weekends ago, she helped facilitate an OSHA ET&D 10-hour training class in Reno, Nevada. I understand it was a good class and she got to chain-up her vehicle in the snow in both directions on Highway 80. Mark Anders was the instructor for this OSHA ET&D 10-hour training in Nevada. He is a longtime member of Local 1245 and a staff member of the California-Nevada JATC. The OSHA ET&D 10-hour training will be required by Nevada State law to work in Nevada as of January 1, 2010. We will be holding training classes in Vacaville on the second Saturday of each of the first ten months in 2010. This becomes a special skill dispatch on January 1, 2011. All three of us look forward to seeing everyone on our job site visits in 2010.
Happy New Year
Ron Cochran is Assistant Business Manager, Local 1245.