On July 25, the workers of Gill Ranch Storage unanimously voted Yes to join IBEW 1245. Their victory comes after two months of informational meetings, one-on-one conversations, and an NLRB-administered election held at the worksite. Despite a persistent message from the company’s management discouraging the effort, all six eligible workers participated in the election and voted Yes, sending a clear message that they are united and ready to begin bargaining.
Located 25 miles outside of Fresno, Gill Ranch Storage is a natural gas storage facility with 20 billion cubic feet of underground storage capacity. The facility is connected to natural gas customers throughout California by PG&E’s Line 401 and includes a 45,000 bhp compressor station. It is owned by both PG&E and NW Natural, a utility based in Oregon; the facility has been operational since 2010.
For the workers at Gill Ranch Storage there were many reasons to go IBEW, but the most problematic issue was the lack of clarity around their roles and responsibilities. A recent trend in the gas distribution industry has been to move toward a non-specialized, jack-of-all-trades workforce, but employees often feel that this lack of defined assignments leads to inefficient daily operations.
Operator Danny Bray knows first hand that unionized workers can find balance in matters like this through collective bargaining – he was a union member at NW Natural for many years. It was his positive experience there that inspired him to contact Local 1245 about organizing.
Bray and his coworkers are excited to bargain over wages, vacation time, seniority, retirement, lines of progression and more, but most of all they seek to foster a cooperative relationship between labor and management.
“I hope to accomplish a work environment of stability and direction,” Bray told IBEW International lead organizer Rick Thompson, who worked with the Gill Ranch employees throughout their organizing campaign.
“This team takes tremendous pride in what they do. Above all they want their employer to be successful, but they want to use their experience on the job to help guide that success,” Thompson explained.
In addition, the workers at Gill Ranch look forward to becoming part of a union that understands the inherent dangers of their jobs. IBEW 1245’s peer-to-peer safety initiatives and reputation of vigilant representation were a significant factor in the decision to organize. “I finally feel like we will all have a voice at our workplace to make it a more productive and safer work environment,” said Operator Carlos Villegas. “It gives me and my family more peace of mind.”
Employee James Casey summed up the campaign succinctly.
“What I’m looking forward to with IBEW 1245 is a better quality of life for my family and myself!” he said.