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Jersey Central Power and Light
Strikers Hold Line

March 4, 2005

Those who say that American unions have lost their fighting spirit never met the 1,350 IBEW members at Jersey Central Power and Light who spent Christmas and New Year’s on strike and are still holding the line after the company cut off their medical benefits.

On February 26, union-hostile FirstEnergy, the parent corporation of JCP&L, presented members of five New Jersey locals what they termed a "one-shot deal" to settle the strike, which began December 3, 2004, when the company threatened to void retiree health care obligations.

Willis Wardell, Jr., president of System Council U-3, reports that the company proposal was rejected by a "substantial vote" by members. Rich Redmond, Third District International Representative, adds that the company’s first formal proposal to members after 11 weeks on strike came only after the IBEW filed an unfair labor practice complaint against FirstEnergy.

State and federal mediators are proposing a meeting of the parties. The IBEW expressed the willingness to meet "as long as the dialogue will be meaningful."

Third District Vice President Don Siegel
visits striking members on JCP&L
picket line.

On March 2, Third District Vice President Don Siegel attended a strategic planning meeting of striking locals and walked the picket lines with members. He praised the determination of the strikers who have taken on "an 800 pound gorilla in FirstEnergy." As strikers gathered aside barrels of burning firewood keeping them warm in the frigid Mid-Atlantic winter, Siegel pledged the full support of the District’s leadership and membership to a decent contract that recognizes the needs of working families and retirees.

Strikers and their families are hit hard by FirstEnergy’s termination of their medical benefits. In a posting on the System Council U-3 Web site (www.ibew1298.org) the wife of a lineman said: "COBRA for a family of four is almost $1,400 per month.

Some families had to make a choice – cover one child over the other because one has pre-existing medical conditions – and the other does not. No one should ever have to choose between his or her children."

Work schedules, one of the issues in the strike also drew the ire of the lineman’s spouse. She says that she has heard that JCP&L managers who have been working since the strike began are "burned out" from working six and seven-day weeks with few days off. She doesn’t feel sorry for them, because "our husbands have been forced to endure this type of treatment since FirstEnergy took over in 2001. It’s bad enough, she says; that the proposed raise will be eaten up by increased health care costs, deductibles and co-pays. "They don’t need to make us ‘work widows,’ too."

Donations for striking members and their families
may be sent to:

SCU-3 IBEW Strike Fund
Attn: Ron Rittenhouse
540 Marshall Street
Phillipsburgh, N.J. 08865

A Web site covering the negotiations with JCP&L can be visited at www.ibew1298.org.

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