March 2011

Organizing Wire
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Calif. Satellite Techs Go IBEW

More than 20 satellite technicians at the Point Mugu Naval Station in Southern California joined San Bernardino Local 543 last fall, winning a 5-percent wage increase and other benefits in their first contract.

Lack of clarity over wage scales convinced employees of Rome Research Inc., a military contractor, that they needed the stability of a union contract. One of them contacted Local 543 organizer Ray Nichols about joining the local last summer. Forming a volunteer organizing committee, pro-union employees quickly signed up the majority of the unit.

Having more than 10 collective bargaining agreements with other units already, the company agreed to majority sign-up.

"Management was very responsive to the whole idea of the union," said employee Josh Collas. "They were used to dealing with union workplaces and didn't see it as a problem."

A subcontractor that works for Rome Research opposed the drive, spreading anti-union information among employees, but most workers stuck with the IBEW.

"We went in there to confront anti-union rumors, and challenged each one," said Local 543 Business Manager Jerry Koger.

New Local 543 member Mike Whiteford, a 30-year veteran of the communications industry, having been in a couple of unions in his professional career, says that he did not consider himself either pro- or anti-union before deciding to organize. But he was particularly impressed with the professionalism of the IBEW, he says.

"It was a great experience all around and it has already paid off for me and my co-workers," he says.