When the federal government decided not to pay IBEW 1245 members at Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) the wages they’ve negotiated and earned, the union pushed back. After a lengthy arbitration, the union has succeeded in winning back pay for the workers at WAPA.
The IBEW has represented electric transmission workers employed by the federal government for decades. In 1977, when the Department of Energy was established under President Carter, these IBEW GCC1 members were transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) with special bargaining rights established by Congress (Section 704 of Public Law 95-454).
IBEW has negotiated many contracts with WAPA over the years, but even since the economic downturn began four years ago, the federal government has consistently refused to honor the IBEW’s negotiated wage increases, citing policy issues like sequestration, federal wage freezes and the government shutdown as justification to not pay these workers the wages that are due to them.
IBEW took this issue to an arbitrator earlier this year to get back the wages that members at WAPA had lost. The arbitrator listened to the facts and reviewed all documentation and notes concerning negotiations and history. In the end, the arbitrator upheld the law which has been in effect since 1978, and ruled in the union’s favor of back pay retroactive to October 2013 for all negotiated wages for GCC1. This ruling sets an important precedent; an unfavorable decision by the arbitrator in this case would have had negative impacts on all unions that bargain with the federal government.
“During the period of time that the federal government arbitrarily decided not to honor our negotiated agreement, the morale of our members at WAPA was very low. The trust that had been established with management was tarnished, if not broken,” said IBEW 1245 Business Rep Sam Glero, who represents workers at WAPA. “The arbitrator used a lot of common sense by stating in his decision and ruling that ‘a hand shake agreement has value and means something.’ Of course, the law means something as well.”