When I was first asked to put together an article about a look back of my career, I thought “Wow, I’ve been employed in Generation for nearly 42 years!” As they say, the days go slow but the years go fast.
My first 20 years didn’t see much change. Then, in the late 90s deregulation of the electric industry occurred, and it’s been constant change ever since. I spent the first half of my career working for one company and have seen 10 different companies since then. What is noteworthy is the fact that even with all the changes and turmoil occurring in the industry, and with either the ownership or the operations of the stations being handed off constantly, we have been able to preserve the primary provisions of the CBAs. I realize the stations have seen a lot of downsizing through attrition but the wages and benefits have largely remained intact.
One large improvement that has occurred is the ability for members to progress up to the top rate in a
line of progression much more quickly. When I first started with Generation, it was not unusual in a station for a member to have a 15-year wait to get to the top rate. Now progressions have been negotiated allowing an individual to test and move to the top rate, sometimes in less than a year. Many of you who never experienced the old system don’t realize the frustration of waiting for years for an opening to occur before you can progress.
So, for most of us, we have done well through the multitude of changes. The Union leadership has always been there to jump in when necessary to fight for the membership during each transition in ownership. Yes, some things are being done different, but overall, our rights and benefits have been protected.
There was one group through all of this who can be considered a casualty of the changes. That was the Mobile Maintenance Department, the “Red Hats.” This is the department I was originally hired into.
There are a lot of individuals in the stations now who can also trace their roots back to the “Red Hats.”
Unfortunately for Mobile, during the GenOn bankruptcy, they were judged not on the quality of work, not on productivity, and not on cost savings, but on what column of an accountant’s spreadsheet they were entered on. The company disbanded them to reduce fixed costs but, all was not lost. Through the efforts of the Local, an agreement was negotiated with a new company. Although eventually the individuals had to transfer to the Trade Union Locals, the work that Local 459 did laid the groundwork for this new company called Plant Services Group - PSG. This enabled the Mobile Maintenance members to have a soft landing and continue working in the stations when they lost their jobs with GenOn.
I can honestly say I am proud to be able to state that have been a member of the IBEW for nearly 42 years and I feel privileged that I have had the opportunity to serve the membership in some role, as an Officer or a Rep. in Local 459 for 34 of those years.