Category Archives: Concerns

PSEW PENSION PLAN UPDATE!

If you do the math, it’s  9.31X40= 372.4X4= $1489.6 which is similar to an average house payment! Why don’t we have an updated pension plan? We spend so much money on our pension and our healthcare! notice the bottom of our pension plan REVISED JUNE 1, 2004! Thirteen years without an update, wth!

PSEW PENSION PLAN

PSEW Pension

 

Solidarity at IBEW LU 46

Looks like there is some solidarity developing at IBEW LU 46! Last week Rank & File members put forward a motion to declare Wednesdays as Union Pride Day. The motion specifically asked the Local’s leadership to send out a “robodial” to their membership asking the members to wear IBEW t-shirts each and every Wednesday starting this week.

This is an effort to show unity for a strong Sound & Comm contract as the unit goes back into negotiations in November. When the Inside Wire unit joins in this effort, not only does it support the Sound & Comm unit, it will also help get Inside Wire members geared up for their contract negotiations starting early next year. If you are with IBEW make sure you and your coworkers wear a union shirt, button, or hardhat sticker starting this Wednesday.

Don’t have a union shirt or sticker? You can show your commitment to solidarity by not wearing the company clothing on Wednesdays, or by wearing a button if you have a company uniform!

Building Trades Wage Package Comparison

How does your trade’s wages and benefits stack up when compared to the other trades?  The package information below includes all wages and benefits paid per hour. The training column is the number of hours required to complete apprenticeship. The figures for training were collected from the applicable apprenticeship programs and building trades websites.

Craft Analysis

Sound & Comm Unit Soundly Rejects Tentative Agreement

NECA must increase wage package, drop its Occupied Premise language

They kept streaming in.

Nearly 200 members of the Sound & Comm unit, or nearly one out of every four unit members, attended a standing-room-only contract vote meeting on Thursday, August 17th. The meeting started late due to the large number of Sound & Comm members who needed to sign in.

Of the 174 members who voted, 173 members saw the negotiating committee’s Tentative Agreement (TA) for what it was: simply not good enough.

The high vote turnout was significant for a unit membership that has been given precious few opportunities to participate, or even be informed, in its own contract negotiations.

The Sound & Comm unit has been working under an expired contract since July 31st. Negotiations between our union and the Puget Sound chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) began over two-and-a-half months ago on June 7th. Since negotiations started, there have been no surveys sent to gather member input and no updates requesting their feedback. Many members say they only found out about the vote meeting through other vigilant coworkers.

Negotiations have not been easy, according to the negotiating committee. NECA has stubbornly resisted our union’s proposals, at first rejecting all of the union’s proposals outright during the second bargaining session (except for Tentatively Agreeing early on to a 3-year contract).

So when the negotiating committee was eventually offered $6.75 over 3 years by NECA, they understandably must have felt like they had made progress. When added to the fact that member opinions were not collected in advance, this could explain why the entire five-person negotiating team unanimously recommended that members vote “yes” on the TA. This recommendation the membership soundly rejected, with nearly equal unanimity.

Since the recently elected Business Manager added extra members to the negotiating committee, the committee has dropped key issues that the former unit’s Business Rep and his negotiating committee members had proposed.

The union’s dropped proposals included a pay differential while working in downtown Seattle to help defray the cost of parking and guaranteed upfront travel pay when working outside of the 35-mile zone.

The biggest issue for members at the contract vote was the insulting wage package (a measly $6.75 over 3 years) and a change (for the worse) in the already weak Occupied Premise language. NECA wants to be able to schedule Low Volt members during swing and graveyard shifts, for 4-day-10-hour (4×10) shifts at a flat rate. This would mean a giveaway on top of what has already been given away before. Currently, employers can waive the 17.3% and 31.4% pay differentials for Swing and Graveyard shifts if they claim that the shifts are due to occupied premise. If employers claim occupied premise, they only have to pay you 10% differential. With the TA language, the employer would be able to schedule occupied premise shifts as 4×10 shifts and get rid of all pay differentials entirely. The contractor would still get their 40hrs from you, and on the cheap.

A Change in Leadership Also Needs a Change in Practices

Our newly installed union leadership notified the Sound & Comm unit about the contract vote meeting in three ways; they mailed a small, easy-to-miss, 6” x 4” size postcard over the weekend, and they sent a robodial and “robo-email” less than 48 hours before the vote.

Many members received none of these communications. A tiny white postcard is easily overlooked as junk mail. And many members have not been added to the robodial and email list. This is unfortunately not different from the method of operating by the former unit leadership, which would repeatedly rebuff member requests to send negotiations updates out to all unit members.

Before June 7th, only one meeting to prepare members for negotiations was hosted by the Hall — on Mother’s Day weekend. No surveys have been sent to the over 650 members to encourage member participation, either before contract negotiations started or after.

“I came because I received a text from a coworker,” said more than a few unit members. This is as much a shining example of the power of members to mobilize each other, as it is an advantage for NECA over the negotiating committee and the union leadership for failure to effectively connect with hundreds of Low Volt members.

Given the lack of communication from our leadership, a near 25% vote turnout is nothing to sneeze at.

As the folks at Labor Notes have pointed out, members get a contract that they can be happy with when their leadership keeps them informed and engaged. Jason Ide, the president of Teamsters Local 814 in New York City, writes:

Surveys can:

  • Get members involved. Contract campaigns ask more of the members at every juncture, from wearing buttons all the way up to walking off the job. Asking members to fill out a survey is an easy first step that will help set the tone for wide participation in your campaign activities
  • Gather contact information. Working cell phone numbers and emails are the foundation of any contract campaign. If you can’t reach your members, you can’t take action.
  • Assess your strength. You should track how many surveys you get from each department, shift, or building, and use the data to assess where you are strong and where you need to do more organizing. If you can’t get members to fill out a survey, you certainly won’t be able to get them to wear a button or strike.
  • Identify and evaluate leaders. You should also track what percentage of their group each steward, business agent, or committee member delivers. The people who can motivate their co-workers to fill out a survey now will be the most effective at motivating those same co-workers to take bigger actions later.
  • Show unity. If you craft your survey correctly, you will have some questions that most members answer the same way. You can use the results at your union meeting as evidence of unity—building members’ confidence in each other.

The Tasks of the Negotiating Committee: Engage, Inform, and Empower the Membership

Going forward, the negotiating committee must work on the areas described above to successfully negotiate a strong contract that members can support. Otherwise, the leadership’s own practices could stymie our success. A few small things they could do right now:

  1. The negotiating committee could email the recently rejected Tentative Agreement to all Low Volt members who have given the union their email address. Members need to know what was voted down to be more informed about what has changed (and what hasn’t) at the next contract vote.
  2. The negotiating committee could post the recently rejected TA on our union’s Facebook page and website so all members can access it.
  3. The negotiating committee could create an online poll that Low Volt members can access to clarify what they’re willing to vote for, not just what they’d vote against.
  4. The negotiating committee could send out an update after each negotiation session to keep members up-to-date.
  5. The negotiating committee could make copies of the next TA available to all members days before the next contract vote so that members have more time to read, think about, and discuss the issues with our coworkers.

Next Steps: We Need an Active Rank-and-File

The best contracts are won when members get involved. The Caucus of Rank-and-File Electrical Workers (CORE46) is a grouping of local electrical workers who want to strengthen our union for the betterment of our members. We believe solidarity and action are some of the most important ways to do this.

Inside Wire members, support your fellow Sound & Comm union members. What happens in their contract will set the terms for your own negotiations next summer.

Low Volt members, there’s no more important time than now to start coming to unit meetings and voicing your opinion. This new contract will affect your life and livelihood for the next three years and many more years to come.

IBEW members, let’s demand $15 over 3 years for the Sound & Comm contract, and an Occupied Premise language that matches the Inside Wire contract.

Contact the Sound & Comm Business Rep, Mark Samuelsen (253-395-6528), to let him know: $15 over 3 Years No to NECA’s Occupied Premise Send NECA Packing!

Local Solidarity

In this month’s copy of Labor Notes, there is a quiz and discussion in the “Steward’s Corner” about assessing the risk of the impact Right To Work (for less) could have on your Local Union. The survey and discussion revolve around the relationship between the leadership at the Hall, representatives, stewards, and the membership. The survey is only 10 questions, but the answer for every question in regards to Local 46 was one of the two worst possibilities. For example:

“What happens when a workplace problem arises that affects many people?”…

  • (a) Members are too afraid or unaware of their rights to file a grievance, much less take collective action.
  • (b) Members call for help, but the union representative doesn’t act.
  • (c) Members call for help, and the union representative files a grievance.
  • (d) Members call for help, and the union representative works with them to make an action plan.

My answer to this question is in bold. This is just one of the 10 questions, but they all have a similar tone and they all illustrate a lack of support from the Hall. Our Local is in serious trouble when it comes to building solidarity with the membership and while we get to experience the short term repercussions of this on a daily basis, we are setting ourselves up for long term issues that could break our union if RTW finally comes to be established in Washington State.

The number of people who are not participating in our Local should be taken as a sure sign of the number of members we are at risk of losing when RTW gives them the option to stop paying dues. Around 20% of the membership are participating in our Local’s elections, that leaves 80% of the members with their hands up saying what difference does it make.  If even half of these members take that thought a step further and instead say, “why should I pay for this?”, then we are going to be in serious trouble.

We cannot sit back and hope that the election will bring a change in our leadership which will lead to increased solidarity. We have to start demanding it from the representatives in our Hall, and from our fellow brothers and sisters in the field. Let us demand that the Hall take our concerns seriously and get them out to our jobs so we can show them the issues in person.

If we don’t build solidarity in this Local, we will not only continue to lose the short game, but we will lose the long one as well.

 

Strength of Solidarity

When faced with adversity the first instinct people tend to have is to stand up for themselves and then look for people in a leadership role to help them. Whether that is a parent, supervisor, an officer, or in our case typically a representative. Unfortunately, when the adversity is coming from that authority figure it can seem like an impossible challenge to overcome when taking it on alone.

Our leadership presented us with a 45000 hour requirement to be able to retire. It was the strength of individual members speaking out during meetings, and ultimately a growing show of solidarity by members going to the Hall in force to show that we were not going to take this weakening of our pension without a fight.

Tosh may claim in the future how he won a reduction to 35000 hours, but don’t forget, he was ready to settle at 45000 back in October. It was the Membership standing together that won the reduction!

In the next fight we have, let us look back on this and know that we can win when we stand together!

Wow, Uncomitted Much?

If you are reading this, then you are probably already aware that a lot of members suddenly had “something else” to do on Thursday of this last week. For most, it was to go down to the Hall and confront the business manager, Tosh, on how the pension changes are unfolding at the expense of the members. We could get into the weeds about the details of those pending changes, but hopefully you already know, and we should really take a stronger consideration of how Tosh has responded to the membership.

Facing 50+ members during “working” hours on a Thursday afternoon supposedly came to a surprise to the BM, so he REFUSED to meet with them. Instead putting off the discussion one more day, with a reason of “I didn’t know you guys were coming. Had I known I would have scheduled time to discuss” (paraphrasing here). This is BS. He knew that the membership was going to be on his doorstep Thursday. The possibility of an action was reported to the Hall on Wednesday the day prior, with a confirmation that the Hall was already aware of the pending situation. I don’t know what you think of this dancing around that Tosh is doing, but he is being untruthful even on the small technicality that this is.

There was a benefit of Tosh refusing to speak to the membership on Thursday. This gave an opening for the Rank & File to organize and come back the next day when with even more members. Estimates have been in the 75 – 100 members attended the meeting on Tosh’s terms and gave him hell about the proposed sNECA changes to the pension. Time and again, Tosh presented the options as something that they don’t have to do, but want your advise on how to proceed. Tosh is looking to make a bad choice for the membership, and then blame the membership for voting for that bad option on a rigged ballot. I’m calling it out as rigged, because the choices here are artificially limited by sNECA and a complicit Board of Trustees.

Three maybe four times (at least), the members asked Tosh, “what are you going to do now?”  The response of “I don’t know”, is less than promising that Tosh is going to take our position seriously. The next pension trust meeting is on the 16th. Time and location is a secret, as they don’t want a picket outside during their meeting. But if they are refusing to listen to the membership, and the proposed changes that we would like to see implemented to save the 30K retirement AND the multiplier, what choice do we have? A picket may be the only thing that the membership can do now to prevent the tragedy that is unfolding.

Pention Write-in: Graph A

The least damaging option presented to the members was graph A. This “solution” keeps the 30K retirement and does not change the multiplier. Unfortunately, this option was pulled from the ballot by our labor trustees because they do not think they can convince the management trustees to accept it.

Don’t believe them! If the membership is willing to put their money (an additional  $0.80/hr) into the pension plan for a solution the Actuary suggested, then we should be able to win the Fiduciary Responsibility argument.

Write in “Graph A”, the choice comes down to $0.80/hr now or 5+ years of additional labor with reduced benefits.