Fresh off two late September winning organizing campaigns in West Virginia and Kentucky, and one in Michigan, trimmers at three more lots of Asplundh Expert Tree Expert Co. voted overwhelmingly for IBEW representation in October.
In Charleston, W.Va., the vote was 29 to 0 for IBEW representation. In Huntington, the vote was 17 to 4. In Milton, W.Va., a voice on the job with IBEW was favored by a vote of 26 to 1.
“This is an exciting campaign to be a part of,” says West Virginia state organizing coordinator Bert McDermitt Jr. Everyone from the IBEW Research Department to International organizers and local union staffs have worked well together to support some “very motivated individuals at Asplundh who are standing up asking for a voice at work.”
Asplundh has negotiated 80 collective bargaining agreements with unions, including dozens covering units of the IBEW. The company, which had annual sales of $3.15 billion in 2013, ranks No. 143 on the Forbes list of America’s largest private companies. Asplundh is the largest single contributor to the National Electrical Benefits Fund.
Asplundh tree Trimmers in Southwest Michigan voted 69 to 11 for representation by Grand Rapids Local 876 on October 2, joining dozens of peers in West Virginia and Kentucky opting for an IBEW voice on the job. Photo credit: Big Dream Photo Works
Huntington, W.Va., Local 317 membership development organizer Danny Dos says many unorganized tree trimmers at Asplundh have met their union peers during travels on utility outages and want to join them to improve not just their jobs, but the company’s competitive position. In fact, Asplundh’s leaders have echoed the same sentiment.
Scott Asplundh, the company’s president, CEO and director, commenting on his relationship with the Brotherhood, said, in a story in Transmission and Distribution magazine:
We put our heads together with the IBEW people and started training crew personnel to be crew foremen. I was surprised at the impact it had. Of course all partners must work together. That’s the theme of the entire operation.
As interest in organizing spreads through Asplundh’s workforce, organizers and affiliated local unions set their hopes on building a new relationship with the company, the kind of relationship Asplundh says leads to a stronger company.
“These are dedicated tree trimmers,” says McDermitt. “We have heard from more senior workers who are preparing to retire, that they are voting for IBEW representation to help both their younger co-workers and the company fully realize their common interests and the benefits that come from an empowered, respected union workforce.”
“The IBEW and Asplundh have much to gain if we devote our resources to working together to find common ground, encourage tree trimmers to be more engaged in their jobs and safety and properly rewarded for the expert service to customers that the company’s name promises,” says International President Edwin D. Hill.