Delaware Utility Workers Strike
June 18, 2010
After failing to come to a last-minute agreement, more than 700 members of Wilmington, Del., Local 1238 went out on their first-ever strike against Delmarva Power and Conectiv Energy June 18, protesting management’s proposals for big cuts to the utilities’ pension plans and other benefits.
Both companies, owned by Pepco Holdings Inc., are demanding cuts to pension benefits for surviving spouses and the elimination of retiree health benefits for new hires.
Delmarva also wants to alter job security language for new hires, removing tenure protections for workers with less than 10 years on the job.
Delmarva and Conectiv serve customers in Delaware and in parts of Eastern Maryland and New Jersey.
Members of Local 1238, which include linemen, power plant workers, mechanics and clerical staff at the utilities, have been working under a contract extension since February 1.
During negotiations, Local 1238 Business Manager Paul Simon said management signaled that it would demand big givebacks from the union with little room for discussion.
“We weren’t asking for unreasonable wage increases or anything like that,” Simon said. “But it was made clear to us from the beginning that the company was looking for large concessions and they weren’t willing to adjust their position.”
He says that despite the struggling economy, both Delmarva and Conectiv continue to show a profit and management is just looking for a way to squeeze its workers in preparation for making a request for rate increases from the state.
Both companies demanded similar concession five years ago during more flush economic times, but the union forced them to back down.
“Too many utility companies are using the recession as an excuse to chip away at everything we fought for,” Simon said.
The membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike.
“Our members don’t want to be out on strike, but they are saying that we need to stand up for what’s right,” Simon said. “Our grandparents fought hard to make sure these jobs are good ones and unless we fight back now, management will keep coming back for more.”
For updates on the strike, check out www.ibew.org.