By Tom Dalzell, Business Manager
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think that we are headed for a good year in 2013, thanks to the hard work of our members on a number of fronts in recent years.
It will be a relatively light year in terms of the collective bargaining. For the first time since 2007, we have no general negotiations with PG&E. This gives a chance now to work on a number of operational initiatives without the drama of general negotiations. We have a staffing agreement for Electric M&C and are close to a final agreement on staffing for Gas M&C — huge steps forward.
The public sector remains a challenge, but we are seeing a slight thaw in some quarters and hope to emerge from three years of finance-driven assaults. We go into bargaining with NV Energy in a few months, our largest negotiation for 2013. We recently resolved the retiree medical issue with NVE after three years of fighting. It remains to be seen whether the collaboration and pragmatism which characterized the retiree medical issue will carry over into the negotiations. We hope so.
In 2012 we learned the truth of the old adage that all politics are local. We were especially successful in Merced, helping elect two labor-friendly men to the Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors. Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts have elections this November, and they will be key battlegrounds for our new approach to politics. We will also look for new opportunities to develop our membership’s leadership abilities by assisting other unions in their battles. This approach has served us well. Many of our members gained valuable experience assisting crucial union fights in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, and in the 2010 California governor’s race. That experience enabled them to play a leadership role in our successful battle against Proposition 32 last November.
Our members have stepped into leadership roles on safety. Through peer-to-peer safety committees they are working with our members in electric, gas, and tree trimming. Our safety stewards are working at local headquarters every day, helping to make sure that safety remains everyone’s first priority.
Our linemen members are now fully participating in the American Public Power Association line rodeo and the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas City, celebrating their craft and competing for glory for their union. We plan to send teams to gas and tree trimmer rodeos this year as well.
Thanks to the recent action by our Executive Board, our units now have community funds to boost unit participation and to get our units active in local community events. The idea for these funds came from the units, and I am enthusiastic about the possibilities for this program.
Our local union sporting events continue to grow. They bring members together away from work, and involve members who may not otherwise be involved. In addition to the golf, softball, clay shooting, bowling, and soccer tournaments, we are looking for other opportunities. We hope to pilot a motorcycle run this year and create other opportunities for our members to have fun together.
We continue to pay special attention to our young members, knowing that our future as a union is dependent upon their taking the torch from us. Many of the leaders we identified in the first wave of youth training several years ago have moved into positions of leadership within the bargaining unit, and a number have come on staff. We continue to expand our base and are proud that we were honored by the California AFL-CIO last summer for our young worker program.
Lastly, we are financially stable, which is not something that many unions can claim. I applaud the foresight of the members who asked for and supported the dues increase in 2008, and I am thankful for the courage of the Executive Board in supporting the change in dues structure. When we needed resources to fight PG&E and NV Energy, and in the public sector, we had those resources.
In an era when many unions are simply retrenching, we are moving forward. Thanks to your hard work we are gaining real traction and proving that a strong union can make a real difference.