With revenues totaling more than $1 billion a year and 30,000 employees, Asplundh Tree Expert Co., one of the nation’s largest family-owned businesses, has negotiated 80 collective bargaining agreements with unions, including dozens covering units of the Brotherhood.
However, more than 1,000 Asplundh trimmers who clear vegetation for Appalachia Power and Kentucky Power, subsidiaries of American Electric Power are unorganized, as are 20,000 others at the company.
On Sept. 17, by a vote of 32 to 4, Asplundh tree trimmers in Walgrove, W.Va., near Charleston voted to be represented by Huntington Local 317.
“These guys were interested in winning the same kinds of wages, benefits and protections as trimmers working under collective bargaining agreements,” says Lead Organizer Dale McCray.
The Walgrove workers came together and jumped at the chance to wear Local 317 T-shirts early in the campaign to show Asplundh their support for collective bargaining and a voice on the job.
|The wages, benefits and protections of a union contract convinced the tree trimmers to vote for a voice on the job with the IBEW.
More representation elections are scheduled soon at Asplundh lots across West Virginia, where crews of 30 to 50 trimmers shape up for daily duty. McCray expects more success as a growing wave of trimmers opts for representation.
“More trimmers have latched onto the necessity of having a collective bargaining agreement to gain a greater voice in their pay and conditions. And those who have already voted ‘Union Yes,’ are excited about their futures,” adds McCray.
“We are hopeful that bringing more Asplundh under the union umbrella will not just be good for the workers, but good for the company, too,” says IBEW’s Special Assistant to the President for Membership Development Ricky Oakland.
Asplundh is currently the largest single contributor to the National Electrical Benefit Fund, a retirement fund for IBEW members supported by collectively-bargained hourly contributions from employers for each hour worked by members.