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News :: Labor : Organizing
NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
23 May 2005
Company decries union ‘scare tactics,’ Solidarity strong among electrical workers despite heavy handed union busting efforts

The first week of Utility Workers Union of America local 369’s strike against NSTAR has been fraught with drama, mainly stemming from the deregulated Eastern Massachusetts electrical service provider’s blatant and ominous strong arm tactics. Since Monday, May 18 at 12:01 when their contract expired and 1,900 of NSTAR's 3,000 workers represented by the union walked off the job, NSTAR has consistently maintained that Union officials are lying about the reasons the union went on strike. And the same day the strike began Local 369 was informed that the workers’ health insurance had been cancelled.

UPDATE, 6/1/05: 87% of the 1,900 striking NStar Utility Workers Local 369 members last night voted to ratify a new contract. The contract came after a hard fought fifteen day strike that saw an outpouring of solidarity from labor and community supporters.
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NSTAR Worker (Still) On Strike!!!
(Note: I was unable to contact representatives from local 369 or NSTAR for this article because they are in the midst of negotiations as I type. Consequently this article is merely a round up of developments in the work action over the past week taken from immediately available public records. Hopefully I will manage to stay on top of this story throughout the coming weeks and bring regular updates to IndyMedia readers as the strike continues.)

The first week of Utility Workers Union of America local 369’s strike against NSTAR has been fraught with drama, mainly stemming from the deregulated Eastern Massachusetts electrical service provider’s blatant and ominous strong arm tactics. Since Monday, May 18 at 12:01 when their contract expired and 1,900 of NSTAR's 3,000 workers represented by the union walked off the job, NSTAR has consistently maintained that Union officials are lying about the reasons the union went on strike. And the same day the strike began Local 369 was informed that the workers’ health insurance had been cancelled.

According to UWUA 369’s web-site (www.uwua369.org) workers are striking for increased community and worker safety and the maintenance of benefits for retirees and workers currently employed with NSTAR. According to the site, “NSTAR has repeatedly ignored our requests to address stray voltage, manhole explosions and other safety issues,” they have “insist(ed) on the right to send inexperienced workers onto dangerous job sites alone,” and “the right to continue forced overtime practices, resulting in dangerous 20-hour shifts” and proposed to “change the rules” for their pension and benefits programs, drastically cutting “healthcare, life insurance, and pension benefits for our fixed-income retirees.”

NSTAR spokeswoman Caroline Allen responded to questions about NSTAR’s safety record posed by Peter J Howe in a May 16 Boston Globe article by pointing out that the company has spent more that $100 million on power grid upgrades since 2001, saying “we resent the attempt to use safety as a scare tactic.”

Where the health and safety of their workers are concerned however, NSTAR is willing to use much more serious scare tactics. The same day that workers went on strike, UWUA local 369 was informed by a Blue Cross representative that NSTAR had cancelled benefits for striking workers. In a press release the union described the benefits cancellation as “harmful retaliation.” Local 369 President Gary Sullivan pointed out that “NSTAR’s negligent actions put the well-being of nearly 2000 families in jeopardy.”

Sullivan noted that NSTAR is in the midst of “one of their best years ever,” and has committed to raising their “dividend at a 4 or 5 percent rate going forward.”

This morning, according to the Globe, union members voted unanimously to”offer union strike funds to cover the costs of fitting a new prosthetic leg that” Jordan Simpson, “(T)he six year old daughter of a striker has been awaiting.” The offer resulted from a spontaneous motion at a meeting this morning attended by 1,500 striking workers.

According to the Globe, Sullivan said they are facing dozens of similar situations stemming from the insurance cancellation. “The union is also scrambling to find help for strikers and their family members who are undergoing cancer treatments or due to give birth.”

The Globe article also stated that Thomas May, the CEO of NSTAR, had offered to pay for the girl’s leg, but that Mark Simpson, a 19 year veteran of NSTAR had refused to, “accept any special treatment and will not take medical aid from NSTAR unless the utility has signed a contract that restores company-paid health insurance for all 1,900 striking workers. “

Union and NSTAR representatives returned to the negotiating table this afternoon. According to reports, union representatives are “not hopeful”. Tune in next time…

[Editor's note: Photos taken by Jonathan ( jonnyrebellious (nospam) gmail.com), originally posted at http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/37225/index.php .]
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NSTAR Worker (Still) On Strike!!!
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NSTAR Worker (Still) On Strike!!!
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NSTAR Worker (Still) On Strike!!!
See also:
http://www.uwua369.org
http://www.massjwj.net

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
I went to pay my NStar bill earlier this week - and was unable to do so by phone because of their crappy "negotiation" techniques, their telephone operators were on strike because of their greed and apparent inability to profit-share with workers.

This drives home how Big Business is truly concerned with profit, and little else.

Keep striking folks! You deserve more!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
This is from CapeCod Today.
Nothing but truth here!
NSTAR Strike - Public Relations Snafu
Thomas May, Chief Executive Officer of NSTAR, may be spending a little too much time in his luxury seats at Fenway Park. He may not be paying attention to what folks are saying about this company on the Internet.

A decision by NSTAR to cut worker health benefits less than 24 hours after the strike began has turned into a monumental public relations snafu for NSTAR.

There was a time when large corporations could take advantage of favorable relations with the media to control the flow of public information about a strike. A seasoned Communications Director could pepper the media with a few well chosen tidbits about labor’s restive position on various negotiating points and the media would do the rest. They’d make chopped liver of the Union.

Public sentiment would eventually turn against the striking workers, political pressures would come to bear, the union would run low on funds and a viola - the strike is settled.

The first few days of the NSTAR strike played this time worn tune of undermining labor in the press. The only reports you got from the Union were sound bites coming off the pickets lines.

Then, a funny thing happened.

The Union got on the internet and started telling their side of the story. Web sites popped-up overnight, bloggers chimed in, and dozens of lineman got online to tell their side of the story. That’s when the tide turned.

NSTAR is now in the middle of a public relations snafu of their own making.

From blog posts by lineman to Cape Cod Today, we have the following updates to offer regarding NSTAR’s business practices and labor relations.

First of all, while lineman earn $97,000 a year WITH overtime, Mr. May’s total compensation last year WITHOUT overtime was in the neighborhood of $4-5 million.

We were able to confirm that linemen are being asked to work excessive overtime. The source of this problem seems to be staff reductions mandated by the company and not the “out-dated” work rules that the company claims are hurting profits.

A lineman reported:


“When I came to the Cape as a Linemen there was 52 linemen covering the whole Cape. That was about 7 years ago. We now have about 23 rated "Qualified people" Linemen and 3 in training. As for the Island. There is 4 rated and 2 in training.

We all know the Cape is growing and the work load has only gone up. We are very short handed on the Cape. When all you have is 23 linemen in the pool to call upon the overtime will go way up.”

We also learned that there is some substance to the allegations that work conditions are unsafe.

A lineman reported:


“NSTAR pushes its work force to work long hours and then gives them the bare minimum of rest time before they are expected to get back to work. Long hours of work can put you the customers in DANGER as well as the linemen.”

If you are concerned about safety issues you will be very concerned about what this lineman had to say:


“Mr. May has also told the public that the System is in good hands and being serviced during this work stoppage by managers and outside crews. The public may be interested to know the company has only 21 "qualified" management workers. Qualified means they have done the job in the past, of the 21, 16 are physically able to perform the job. As I just mentioned 21 have done this in the past. OSHA law requires a lineman to be qualified only if he has performed the work within the past 12 months.

IT TAKES 5 YEARS OF TRAINING TO BECOME A "QUALIFIED" LINEWORKER.

These people became "QUALIFIED" overnight!”

NSTAR has notified the press that they are willing to hire and train 130 plus new lineman, but they failed to report pension rule changes that NSTAR wants.

A lineman reported that:


“NSTAR is attempting to force it's Union to accept a 2 tier pension system (any new hires going forward would receive less benefits) as well as decrease 401k contributions the company makes even while increasing the amount the employee has to pay towards health insurance.”

We also learned that NSTAR wants to reduce benefits paid to retired workers. The union is striking in part to protect retirees from loosing benefits.

When you add all this up, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these folks went out on strike.

It does not appear that NSTAR is acting like a good corporate citizen. NSTAR does not appear to be negotiating in good faith. Today, talks broke off after just 3 hours. The two sides could not even sit in the same room with one another.

This will be a long strike and NSTAR's reputation will suffer.

It's too bad. The next time Mr. May goes to the ballgame, no one will want to sit next to him.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
I work in the call center at NSTAR and I can tell you that the claims about our salaries are false as well. I've worked there a little over 3 years and I can assure you the average salary is NOT $56,000.00. The people who make even close to that have worked a lot of over time. In some cases the overtime was volunteered for but in some cases it was forced too. That's because the call center has been understaffed for about 2 years now. They have not replaced the people who have left. And when there is a storm, we are REQUIRED to come in and/or stay long past our shifts. During the last big snow storm that hit the cape, there were people who worked 16 and 24 hour shifts and were not allowed to leave. On they're "8 hour break" they were not even given proper facilities to rest; not a bed, not a sleeping bag, nothing. The company needs to realize if it were not for their workers, they would not be as profitable. We only want proper pay and benefits for the excellent work we perform.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
As a Lineman in the Underground Division of the company,the System is running on Band-Aids & Bubblegum. The cities of Brookline, South Boston, Brighton, &West Roxbury have been victims of neglect as well as the rest of the Electric System. While the Company sat back and watched, these areas suffered numerous outages due to poor upkeep/maintenence. So bad that Cronies from NStar had to attend meetings with local business groups to explain how they were going to fix it. Next time Ms. Caroline Allen "brags" about the Billions that the company put into the system,please know that it was because NStar was under serious pressure from the affected parts of the city. Not "for the safety of it's workers and the community'. Talk about smokescreens!! Ms. Allen, you'd make a bad car salesperson too ! Hold the line, keep the faith my Brothers & Sisters!!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
Am I the only one that doesn't understand the the problem? Union workers will be getting a raise, and Nstar's asking them to cut down on hours by changing to shifts. What's wrong with that? From what I'm reading, the workers feel as though they're working too much and are forced into overtime...wouldn't this shift solution end that problem? If I'm wrong, tell me. I'm trying to make sense of it all.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
You're wrong.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
Dear LU, Obviously you don't get the whole picture. NStar wants to CUT certain benefits to its retirees, increase cost of health care to all employees including retirees. Stop vision care & dental care to retirees. The group that he wants to add shifts to are the Overhead Lineman ( the ones that work on the poles). The wage increase would not cover the increase in health care if NStar got their way. If you listened to Tommy on NECN , I don't think he has a clue who works for him. There are Lineman that work underground in Manholes, stockhandlers( warehouse), clerical, cleaners, Engineers. The companys' proposal affects all of us , not one group. The Union has made it clear ,we're not out on the street becauseof money. Healthcare benefits, you know the ones Tommy took away. It's corporate greed, plain and simple. After the summer of 2001, the really HOT one , Tommy sent all employees a letter telling us that Company comes before family. It's bad enough that we all have missed out on our kids sporting events, dance recitals even possibly weddings of some sort. Not due to outages, but for routine non-emergency work. It has to stop!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
With you (indymedia) pushing for an open border with Mexico, maybe some cheap Mexican labor will do the work of the union. Your immegrants will have work and the power will be on and probably more reliable than any union could ever provide.

You are not working and you expect health insurance? Please explain. Who should pay for your insurnace?
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
To all the NSTAR workers on strike for decent benefits:

Keep up the fight! Boston is behind you, and Boston believes in you!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
Bob, you don't quite understand. The insurance was already PAID IN FULL until the end of the month. Tom May wasn't going to get that money back. He basically canceled it to spite the union.

And as for "the consumer shouldn't have to pay for it" line, that's crap too. If there were any truth to that statement at all, customers should see some sort of a discount on their next bill. Somehow, I doubt it will happen.

I'm a customer as well as a union employee. I would bet money that there will be NO discount on our next bill due to "all the money the company is now saving" by not paying our insurance benefits. They did it to break the union. It sure as hell wasn't the best PR move on their behalf.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
I came out to join the protest yesterday, which, despite the rain, was very vibrant. Though we can't make it out to picket lines very often, know that many students, like myself, stand with you. solidarity forever.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
The NSTAR workers digust me. We are working for social change and you are whining about wages and healthcare when you are grossly overpaid?

Maybe you should have shown some concern for the un-documented immigrants who have their power turned off every day by your company? Hopefully your jobs will be given to individuals who have been truly oppressed.

Perhaps we should contact the company and see if their former greedy boss will hire immigrants?

You are all greedy!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
"The NSTAR workers digust me. We are working for social change and you are whining about wages and healthcare when you are grossly overpaid?"

WAY TO MAKE THE MOVEMENT LOOK LIKE A TOTAL JOKE. Enemies of the working class, get out of the movement. You are not working for social change, you are working for your own middle class ego. Ignore "scum for social change." Get out there and show some solidarity with working folks on strike!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
24 May 2005
Bill, if they are "un-documented" then they are illegal and shouldn't even be in this country to begin with.

All we want is what anyone wants, benefits and pay that are equivelent to the services we provide. Are you saying we should just want to work for sub-standard pay and benefits?

We work hard to keep our communities safe and the electricity on. All we want is for the company to do the same (as dogs and other have been hurt by stray voltage and man hole covers exploding) by giving us the proper work crews and the proper compensation.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
call center worker...

I support the NSTAR strike all the way! But go easy on the un-documented immigrants…they are here mostly because they too are trying to make enough to support they families which is impossible with the unsafe working conditions and poverty wages of their own nations. They just want their kids to be fed, safe, healthy and educated...same as you!

Solidarity!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
Oppressed!!! Give me a break. Sure , hire these immigrants and Tommy May will pay them minimum wage. They'll have no voice in their future. Go ahead play right into the hands of Big Businees Greed. As far as their power being turned off..... it's not the Union cutting them off ,it's the Company. I work out in the field , this Company has no sympathy to anyone.Just know that not everyone would do what we do. Handling live electricity at 600 volts to 25,000 volts ALIVE in Manholes, on Poles in rain& snow. Next time your on your computer dictating propaganda about oppressed immigrants and there is a Hurricane, and your lights are on .... Thank the Union Lineman both Overhead & Underground.....not NStar upper Managment.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
It's true. It's NSTAR policy that to apply for service you must have 2 forms of ID. Either a SSN card and a driver's license or a driver's license and a passport. You need two forms of official photo id. And this is required for anyone who wants service with NSTAR, not just people from other countries.

People are given one week to mail or fax the info into the call center. No id, no service. End of story. Sadly its because the company has many people who owe NSTAR money and to get around paying their old balances, they put service under false names or even their minor children's names. But yes, this is an NSTAR policy. So if you don't like it, take it up with them.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
I feel bad for the people on strike but I don't like what I'm seeing on the news. I saw some picketers yelling racial slurs at a car (with an asian person) passing through. Strike or no strike, there is no excuse for this behavior! Play it fair and fight the GOOD fight...don't stoop to new lows.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
I agree with you, "customer". If they're going to fight for their own union rights, they should be more mindful of the human-rights of others. Don't make an embarrassing racial scene, just being seen is enough.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
I am an NSTAR customer who would like to vocalize my support for the union's seemingly fair and just demands. Is there a phone number or email I can use to urge NSTAR management to come to an agreement with the union?
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
I'm a strong supporter of the strike and have been to a few rallies in the last couple weeks. But I'm also dismayed by some of what I'm reading on this page--it looks a bit like some people who don't care about working people are trying to stir up trouble.

The labor movement has ALWAYS been made up both of folks who've lived in ths country for generations and new immigrants. Some of those immigrants don't have their paperwork in order, and others do. But everyone is just trying to make an honest living.

And just as long as there's been a labor movement, bosses have known that they can try to play people off each other. So:

--Tom May offers the bullshit claim that he cut health insurance so that customers wouldn't have to pay for it--trying to split NSTAR workers and customers who work someplace else.

--Somebody named "Bob" suggests that immigrants for taking NSTAR workers' jobs--trying to split native-born and immigrant workers (of course, he then goes on to say that strikers shouldn't have health insurace, showing that he's really on Tom May's side).

--This "bill jones" person suggests that strikers don't need to worry about health insurance while immigrants do--trying, like Bob, to split native born workers and immigrants. (Of course, Bill talks about immigrants like he isn't one himself. Makes ya wonder if he really cares about immigrants or is just trying to split people!)

We can divide ourselves if we want to. But we'll all be in a much stronger position to fight Tom May and all the other CEO's out there if we're working together. Instead of squabbling with each other, let's support each other as we go up against corporate greed.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
25 May 2005
Local 369 is also calling on customers to show their support by paying their energy bills at a rate of $3.69 per day:

http://www.uwua369.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id

This is both a show of support for the union and more work for the company to process.
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
27 May 2005
i am a lineman in the west and to all those who think that it is an overpaid job. The death rate used to be 1:2 and average lifespan was 4 years when there were untrained lineman. The very CPR that saves many lives was sponsored by the IBEW brothers because so many were killed. Death, maiming, and injuries are something every lineman deals with during his/her job. Those who go to college have less training than a lineman and many are paid more while they are doing less dangerous jobs. Complaining about us being overpaid is stupid. For those that complain about us being overpaid why don't you try our job. Where I work there is about a 93% failure rate for newhires just to get into a 4-5 year program to become a lineman. Get your lazy butt off your chair and just try and do our job!!
Re: NSTAR Workers (Still) On Strike!!!
01 Jun 2005
I got this information in an e-mail from Jobs with Justice:

87% of the 1,900 striking NStar Utility Workers Local 369 members last night voted to ratify a new contract. The contract came after a hard fought fifteen day strike that saw an outpouring of solidarity from labor and community supporters.

Facts about the settlement (from Boston Globe, June 1, 2005)

WAGES: A four-year contract that gives them 3 percent annual wage increases in each of the next four years.

WORK RULES: NStar can assign more crews to afternoon and evening shifts to reduce overtime for day crews, and a few hundred employees now working 8-hour shifts must work 8 1/2 hours. In exchange, several job categories get extra 1 to 2.5 percent raises, and union members can continue to use overtime to increase vacation pay and 401(k) matches.

HEALTH INSURANCE: NStar gets to increase employees' share of costs from 15 percent now to 20 percent by 2009; retirees keep dental and vision care but have to pay more.

STAFFING: NStar agrees to add 150 new positions, including dedicated system-maintenance jobs, but 20 are call-center agents working part time instead of full time.

For more details about the NStar workers, go to the union's website www.uwua369.org
depression
30 May 2006
Nice site... Cool guestbook...