In 2018, IBEW 1245 worked diligently to incorporate a number of key worker protections in the language of SB 901 (Dodd), the Wildfire Conference Committee bill, which would be triggered in the event of a change of ownership or bankruptcy of a California IOU, including PG&E.
In either event, for full-time rank and file employees who were employed by the utility for at least 90 days before the event, no reduction of employees nor reduction in wages or benefits can occur for a minimum of 180 days. After that, any reduction in employees must be reviewed and approved by the CPUC, based on the standard that the reduction of those employees does not adversely affect service or the ability to respond to emergencies. These restrictions apply to the new owner for a two-year period.
Also, the nature of the change of ownership of PG&E is limited to acquisitions approved by the CPUC based on public interest in maintaining reliable and efficient electric and gas service. The standard adopted in the law is based on the recognition by the California Legislature that electric and gas service are essential services.
Below is the actual SB 901 language from Section 854.2 of the Public Utilities Code as findings of the Legislature which establish the need to create these limitations for new owners after a bankruptcy or change of ownership of PG&E. Please note that this language applies equally to electric and gas utility workers.
(1) California’s electric and gas utilities provide essential services to California residents and businesses, which are necessary to maintaining the vitality of California’s economy.
(2) Consistent with Sections 913.4, 961, and 977, an adequately sized workforce of experienced electric and gas utility employees with the appropriate training and skills, as well as the knowledge of an electric or gas utility’s facilities and equipment, is essential to the safe, efficient, and uninterrupted provision of electrical and gas services. (italics added) Safe and reliable electric and gas utility service is vital to public health, public safety, air quality, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
(3) Changes in the ownership or control of an electrical corporation or gas corporation may create uncertainty regarding the safe, efficient, and continuous provision of safe and reliable electrical and gas service to California consumers, leading to economic instability.
(4) Mass displacement of electrical corporation or gas corporation workers as a result of a change in the ownership or control of an electrical corporation or gas corporation causes excessive reliance on the unemployment insurance system, and public social services and health programs, increasing costs to these vital governmental programs and placing a significant burden on the state and California taxpayers.
Securing these protections for our members was no easy feat, but IBEW 1245 and our Business Manager, Tom Dalzell, lobbied legislators aggressively to ensure they would be included in the final legislation, and we are proud to have enshrined into law some of the most robust utility worker protections in the nation.
Contact your business rep if you have any questions.
–Hunter Stern, IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager