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Strong Union Contract Ends Eight Week Work Stoppage

18 August 2014
Photo UWUA
Utility workers in Pittsburgh, USA, have ratified a new union contract that includes solid job protections for working families and ends an eight-week work stoppage by nearly 150 union workers at four Pennsylvania-American Water worksites throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Members of UWUA System Local 537 voted by a strong majority on August 16 to ratify the four-year labor agreement. The new contract turns back bargaining demands previously made by management to eliminate long-standing protections in the union contract against subcontracting of workers’ jobs. The agreement also drops management’s previous demands to substantially curtail employee sick leave benefits.

“The sacrifices made by UWUA members in Pittsburgh over the past 60 days have clearly paid off with a strong labor agreement that will protect workers’ job security,” declared Kevin Booth, System President of UWUA Local 537. “We can now return to work delivering essential public services to our customers without fear that management will destroy working families’ jobs through unfair subcontracting.”

The Pittsburgh employees were forced onto picket lines on June 18 to protest a series of unfair labor practices committed by Pennsylvania-American Water and its New Jersey-based parent company American Water. The new contract marks the first time in more than three years the Pittsburgh employees have a ratified labor agreement. The previous union contract expired in May 2011, after workers rejected management’s demands for the unlimited right to destroy every worker’s job through subcontracting.

Pennsylvania American employees in Pittsburgh went without any wage increases for four years while fighting to win a fair labor agreement. The new contract provides significant “catch-up” wage increases to help make up for the loss of any cost-of-living adjustment over those four years, but the union emphasizes that the Pittsburgh work stoppage was never over wages.

“This dispute has always been over the basic right of utility workers to have some semblance of job security for our families,” stated Booth. “Our members have won everything they have fought for over the past three years, with a solid union contract that protects workers’ jobs against unfair management subcontracting demands.”

Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO ∙ www.uwua.net ∙ August 2014

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