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

(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 ( 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…
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