The Electrical Worker online
September 2017

From the Officers
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Solidarity in Baltimore

Seven months ago, the workers in the utility industry at Baltimore Gas and Electric voted to join the IBEW. It was one of the largest victories in North American organized labor in recent memory and I want to update you on their progress.

Chartered in April, IBEW Baltimore Local 410 currently has all its officers in place and appointed and trained shop stewards at all service centers.

The negotiating committee, after being elected by all the workers, drafted a contract proposal after many discussions and a survey of the membership and submitted it to BGE. Local 410 Business Manager Eric Gomez and the other members of the negotiating committee say that BGE is bargaining in good faith, and I expect there will be a contract soon.

An interim complaints procedure was hammered out and put in place for the first time in BGE history. It works almost exactly like a negotiated grievance process and is already protecting BGE workers. Union representatives join any Local 410 member who doesn't want to go to a meeting with human resources alone.

As a result, a disabled BGE worker, a no vote during the election, had his job saved after the union intervened on his behalf, standing up and presenting the facts of his case using the jointly agreed upon complaint procedure.

He's a union supporter now.

For the first time in many of their working lives, the IBEW members at BGE are telling us that they can speak up and not have the working rules and working conditions changed at will, they now have a say in the workplace. Now they hold their heads up and leave fear behind.

This has benefited our new members, but it has also benefited BGE. Some of the disciplinary hearings revealed unclear policies and gaps in training. The result are changes that improve everyone's lives instead of a pointless punishment targeting an individual.

And all of this is BEFORE a contract has been signed.

A legally binding collective bargaining agreement, a contract, is the shield that protects union workers and frees us to concentrate on our work and pay close attention to safety so that we return safe every day to our loved ones. The contract guarantees us good wages, decent benefits, a dignified retirement and work rules that allow workers to have their say on all issues.

Every day, the men and women of BGE feel something new: their own power.

Power to speak to the negotiating committee about what they want in their contract and be heard. The power to stand together when a supervisor has a complaint. The power to appoint their stewards, and soon, elect their business manager.

Most importantly, they have the crucial power to say no when they are asked to break policy or do something unsafe without fearing for their livelihood.

This is how Unions are Formed; together we are stronger. When we stand together and speak as one for the rights of every worker, we become as powerful as any company. Men and women who had no voice have one now because they stuck together and joined the IBEW.


Also: Stephenson: Standing Up to Corporate Greed Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer