By Tom Dalzell, Business Manager
We all face choices. We face them every day. As Americans we celebrate our freedom, but freedom is just a word until we put it into action with our choices.
Calpine workers are facing an important choice and their decision will be known on January 26. They are voting on whether to be represented by our union. Choosing a union will open up new possibilities for them: a real voice on the job, the opportunity to directly address issues they care about, including their wages, benefits and working conditions.
We know from our experience at other employers that bringing a collective voice to the bargaining table opens up new possibilities for our lives, for our standard of living. In unity there is strength and the Calpine organizing committee has shown true grit in making the case for having a union. These workers have faced professional union-busters hired by management, and they have stood their ground with courage and integrity. They have taken risks so that others will have a choice. That is America to me.
Our members at PG&E also face an important choice in coming weeks. In a mail ballot that will be counted on February 17, Physical members will be deciding on a new Physical package, and all members will be deciding on a new Benefits package. The problem of rising medical costs is a national problem that cannot be ignored. The status quo is going to change. The question is: can we find creative ways to respond to these pressures and shape the change?
Our bargaining committees for P&E Benefits and PG&E Physical spent nearly a full year grappling head-on with very tough issues. I believe their efforts have produced some very creative responses to difficult problems. But now their work is done and our members must make a choice. It’s your choice and your future, and I know you will want to be fully informed and make a decision that is best for you and your family. Your ballots should be arriving in the mail shortly after January 17. Watching CalPine workers fight for a voice at the table reminds us that we shouldn’t take for granted the rights we have as union members at PG&E.
More choices will confront us in this New Year. The presidential campaign is making most of the noise, but state and local elections are equally important. City councils, municipal utility districts, irrigation district boards, and of course the state legislatures in California and Nevada make decisions that affect our standard of living, sometimes very directly. With the current gridlock in Congress it is tempting to say “a pox on both their houses.” But this is not something we can afford to do. Like the vote at Calpine, like the vote on the PG&E contract, voting for our political leaders is how we choose our future. However imperfect the options may seem, it is our American birthright to decide for ourselves the best path forward.
I wish everyone a prosperous, healthy 2012. Nothing you do in the New Year is more important than working safe and being able to return home to your families when your work is through.