Con Ed Workers Poised To Strike On June 20th
(NEW YORK CITY) - Con Edison Workers could walk off the job on Saturday (June 20th), now that Members of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2 have authorized a Strike against the Utility Giant.
LaborPress recently sat down with UWUA President James Slevin to find out more about the challenges facing the Union, all those who have continued working through the Coronavirus Pandemic and what the future might hold.
The UWUA represents more than 50,000 Workers in eight fields: Electric, Gas, Water, Nuclear, Call Center, Professional Technical (such as Engineering, Specialized Clerical and Accounting, that all pertain to Utility) Public Sector, and Renewable Energy.
Their reach extends to five regions across the country, from California to New York, with the North East, Region 1, being the biggest, and different states in between.
LP: How have closures of different regions affected your Members and how are re-openings taking place?
UWUA President James Slevin: All fields are classified as Essential Workers, so all have been working. All Office Workers, such as Call Centers and Engineering shifted to working from home. We will still be doing that for a while. A lot of areas are still capacity issues, so we can’t bring our Workers back into those areas.
LP: Have any jobs been lost permanently due to the Coronavirus crisis?
JS: No, we’ve had no areas of loss. There were some very small lay-offs in the West Coast area, but they only lasted a very short time - they were permit issues. The work will still be there, it only has to be done with a different approach.
LP: How many cases of COVID-19 were there among Union Members? How many deaths?
JS: We don’t know the total number, but almost 10% of our Locals said 5% of their Members (had been sick). There were thirteen fatalities, with New York first, then Detroit, but safety has always been our priority. We had safety committees even before COVID-19. We’ve approached it in a pro-active way. We’ve been making companies do great practices with social distancing and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I think if we hadn’t had these practices the numbers might have been different.
LP: What are some major challenges facing the Union and its Members at this time?
JS: There are shortages in the Utility Field. A tremendous amount of shortages in staffing levels. Utilities just have minimal staffing. They’ve had to rely on mutual aid. For example, it’s hurricane season. (This presents problems such as) there is still a quarantine period if New York Workers go to Florida to work. Do we allow them to go? In Florida and Texas there’s an uptick in the virus - do we allow New Yorkers to go there? And can utilities spare Workers when they leave their own areas? There is also an aging workforce - that needs to be examined. We see what the COVID-19 crisis has caused among the aging population. Working in this heat and with face masks may cause some to say they’ll take early retirement.
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