by IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell
Much has been made by politicians and economists in recent years about stagnating wage growth. President Obama has called income inequality “the defining issue of our time.” According to the Pew Research Center, real wages for most workers have barely budged in decades, and benefits – particularly for non-union families – have been decimated. Across the country, union membership has declined in tandem with wage growth, largely as a result of globalization and far-right attacks on workers.
The trajectory of the middle class in this country is discouraging to be sure – but our members are on a different track. Thanks to your membership and support, we have been able to secure contracts that have delivered wage and benefit increases that far exceed the national average. Our members enjoy a level of stability and security that define the “American Dream.” But we can never take that for granted; we must continue to fight each and every day to protect, defend and enhance the contracts that our members count on.
Earlier this summer, we concluded a set of negotiations with PG&E, our union’s largest employer, and emerged with a Tentative Agreement consistent with the pattern of substantial compensation increases that have characterized other contracts we’ve negotiated. We were all well-served by our 21-member bargaining committee, all of whom worked tirelessly through marathon negotiating sessions to arrive at the package.
We then embarked on an intrepid effort to communicate with members about the tentative agreement, and explain the various changes and improvements it contained. The bargaining committee, myself and our staff attended unit meetings, visited dozens of worksites, hosted Tele-TownHalls and held shop steward trainings all over the state. We answered hundreds of questions and posted responses to the most frequently questions on our website for everyone’s benefit.
The process reminded me how fortunate I am to work with such dedicated and passionate members. The discourse was largely fact-based, civil and informative, and it’s abundantly clear that our members are truly invested in their contract and the future of our union.
Our members are what make our union one of the strongest in the nation. And when the votes were tallied and we learned that the members declined to ratify the contract (see “PG&E Bargaining Committee Heads Back to the Table”, page 4), I heard the message loud and clear. They want us to do better, and believe strongly that we have the ability to secure and even stronger deal for them. And so, do better we must.
In my view, the fight has only just begun. We won’t give in, and we refuse to give up.
I know for a fact that our union is stronger for having gone through the process of negotiation and debate. I hope that through this effort we will increase the participation level in our union, which is critical to our long-term survival. Every meeting and every conversation we had helps inform how we will move forward. And we will move forward together.