IBEW Local 1245 retirees brought the fight to save their medical benefits directly to the top on Aug. 5 when they picketed an NV Energy Board of Directors meeting being held at the Peppermill Casino in Reno.
Vickie Borst, a retired 26-year customer service representative for the utility, said the company was forcing retirees to absorb all future increases in their medical premiums, which in the near future could eat up a retiree’s entire pension check. She is also concerned that the level of service to the customers has been allowed to decline.
“All the offices in the districts have been closed. If you want to speak to a customer service person, you can barely reach them, and when you do, they probably don’t live locally, they don’t you, and they probably don’t care,” Borst said. “This is totally against everything I worked for and loved doing for 26 years.”
Borst said the retirees had requested to meet directly with the Board of Directors. When their request was denied, they gave a packet of materials on the retiree medical issue to the Peppermill’s concierge to deliver to the Board, then set up a picket at the entrance to the hotel, where a steady stream of vehicles peered at the Shame on NV Energy signs. Many motorists honked in support.
Javier Garijo, a retired troubleman with 36 years of service to the utility, said the company should honor its previous commitment to pay for retiree medical care.
“I earned what I retired with. And then after I retired they changed my medical and that’s wrong,” Garijo said.
As a troubleman, Garijo was on-call 24 hours a day to help make sure customers had service.
“I worked as much as 49 hours at a stretch during storms. We started whenever the power went out and we didn’t stop until every single customer was back on power, and that happened quite often,” Garijo said. “We did what we had to, and now we’re hoping the company does what they promised.”
Bob Vieira, a retired Sierra Pacific Power troubleman and 44-year IBEW member, blamed NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira for the retirees’ predicament.
“For 63 years Sierra Pacific Power kept their word to the retirees, and this is the first guy who ever broke his word to the retirees. They’re not holding up their end of the bargain. After 33 years of hanging out in snow and putting lights on and everything else, I’m actually angry,” Vieira said.
Borst said the erosion of their medical benefits would hit older retirees especially hard.
“It will devastate them. It could cause more health problems for them,” she said. “But understanding from the company isn’t there–they don’t care.”