Local 15 Strikers Remain Solid In Fifth Week of Chicago Walkout
July 24, 2001
Chicagos 1,150 Local 15 workers remain on strike, as they enter a second month of picketing power plants owned by Midwest Generation.
It's time to settle this contract dispute before the people of Illinois wind up suffering the same fate as power-starved Californians, said William H. Starr, President and Business Manager of Local 15. We know Midwest Generation has struggled to operate its power plants under normal circumstances. With the heat index rising well above 100 degrees, it will be an even greater challenge for the company to maintain its operations. Midwest Generation may be owned by a California-based company, but it has a responsibility to Illinois, too.
They were sorely missed when a July 21-22 storm knocked out power to 150,000 customers in northern Illinois. The worst high temperatures and humidity to hit the area in two years is an even greater challenge for the management employees and the few scabs recruited since the strike began.
Despite the weather, Local 15 members are enjoying strong public support. Many local, state and congressional representatives have joined the workers on picket lines outside Midwest Generations seven merchant power plants. Not one member has crossed the line and morale remains high, Business Agent Guy Coffey said.
Public opinion is still pretty strong on our side, Coffey said. Fair and reasonable profitability is certainly a fair goal for the company but seeking to maximize profitability on the backs of workers and ultimately at the expense of Illinois consumers is what this fight is about.
Four hours of talks last Thursday, the first since the June 28 strike began, yielded no positive movement toward an agreement. Until then, Midwest Generation had refused to meet with Local 15 negotiators and a mediator. Coffey said the sides had tentatively planned to meet on Thursday but over the weekend, the company reconsidered, leaving the time for the next meeting in doubt.
The company withdrew its proposal on Thursday, Coffey said. In negotiations leading up to the strike, Local 15 requested no new language and the company has admitted nothing in the unions proposal would hurt company revenues or profitability.
Thanks to $20 contributions from the 7,500 Local 15 members employed by Commonwealth Edison/Exelon, the Midwest Generation workers have a strike fund. Striking members started to receive food and gas vouchers this week, Coffey said.
Local 15 members, who had been working without a contract before the strike, perform operation, maintenance and clerical work at the companys fossil fuel generating plants. Midwest Generation supplies 40 percent of Commonwealth Edisons electricity in the Chicago area.