By IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell
Local 1245’s members are facing a series of challenges to their job security unlike any we’ve seen since the “glory days” of deregulation in the late 1990s. Some of these threats have been building quietly, and some are exploding onto the scene – but we are taking proactive measures to counteract them all. Our members have asked the Executive Board for help fighting back, and Board members have stepped up to the plate.
When Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired Nevada Energy in 2013 we had our guard up, and had heard from other IBEW locals that they had had a tough time at the bargaining table. To protect our members’ interests we formed a Coordinating Council with six other locals and asked the Executive Board for support.
In response, the Board allocated up to $5 million to defend our members’ interests. We have spent a small fraction of that amount, partly because Berkshire’s progressive management style at NV Energy has turned out to be an improvement over the leadership team they replaced. Thanks to the Board’s support and the hard work of our staff we have already significantly altered the relationship between Berkshire Hathaway and the IBEW. This month there were unit motions addressing specific challenges faced by our members, and the Executive Board responded without hesitation.
The future of Diablo Canyon is questionable, and closure would cost 600 Local 1245 members their jobs. Attacks from environmentalists, the cost of seismic upgrades, and the economic squeeze created by the priority given to wind and solar have converged to put the plant at risk.
To counteract these threats we designed a campaign that includes litigation, participation in agency proceedings, public relations, and community organizing. The Board allocated up to $2 million to support the plan, and it is already paying off. In conjunction with CUE (the Coalition of California Utility Employees), we successfully blocked a legal petition filed by Friends of the Earth that would have shuttered Diablo Canyon. Thanks to the Board’s support and the support of our members, we won this battle – and will continue fighting the war.
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District has won preliminary approval to take over the PG&E electric system in Manteca. If they are successful our members there would be displaced, and a dangerous precedent of successful municipalization would be established. SSJID is represented by Local 1245, and our opposition to the take-over is based on our long-standing policy of opposing changes in ownership.
At my request, the Board allocated up to $1 million to defend the job security of our Manteca members. We’re putting those resources to work on an effort that leaves no stone unturned. We are approaching the task from legal and regulatory angles, and layering in a public relations strategy and on-the-ground organizing push. We have our work cut out for us but feel this is a challenge we can successfully manage. Stay tuned for updates.
Community Choice Aggregation
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows a city or county to aggregate its electric customers and purchase power on their behalf. In theory it is supposed to allow communities buy greener power than what is available from the utility, but in practice that has not been the case. In California the CCA movement has been subverted by the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company. Shell buys fossil fuel power from out of state and pairs it with unbundled renewable energy certificates – allowing it to sell cheaper, dirty power and call it green.
Starting in Marin County and spreading to the East Bay and Sonoma, Community Choice Aggregation has cut into PG&E’s customer base and reduced demand, putting all of our generation jobs at risk. Advocates of municipalization in San Francisco see CCA as a stepping stone to the complete takeover of PG&E, which would impact hundreds of Local 1245 jobs.
The Board has allocated up to $2 million to fight Community Choice Aggregation unless it (1) is not associated with Shell Oil; (2) does not rely on renewable energy certificates; and (3) creates local generation. We are moving forward with a plan to force CCAs to comply with the spirit in which they were conceived: if a CCA can provide truly green power to customers at a competitive price and support local jobs, it is a movement worth supporting. But until then, we will fight to make sure consumers and workers know the truth about the power behind CCAs.
Union Busting at Edison
SoCal Edison (SCE) operates on the southern end of PG&E’s service territory. The SCE Goleta yard is not far from the PG&E Buelton yard. SCE crews in Tehachapi and the Grapevine work in close proximity to PG&E crews, and SCE crews in Tulare County work in the midst of PG&E crews.
Edison recently hired a notorious union-busting law firm to handle negotiations with IBEW Local 47. The proposals made would destroy Local 47’s contract and greatly impair their members’ working conditions. Given the closeness of our crews, what happens at Edison could significantly impact what happens at PG&E. For this reason, the Board authorized up to $250,000 as a donation to Local 47 to support their publicity campaign against Edison.
I believe that standing up for our people early is better than lying down and waiting for our opponents to get stronger. In each of these cases, we’re moving aggressively and proactively to defend our members now, before it’s too late. I want to thank the Board for their willingness to invest in the strength of our union and to fight back against those who want to take our jobs. And I want to thank you, our members, for your support. We are truly stronger together.