Support the Baltimore Gas and Electric Workers 18 Month Campaign to Join a Union

by Cory McCray

BGE workers

BGE workers

On Thursday, August 26th, a petition was filed on behalf of the BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric) Workers, to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) to hold an election in reference to joining a Union. This is the beginning to the work that was started by a small group of BGE workers during their 18 month campaign. The BGE workers have diligently worked to educate and organize their co-workers on the importance of collective bargaining. They have spent long days and night’s phone banking, visiting homes, and organizing meetings at various locations. Last October, they had as many as 200 BGE co-workers in one location to hear well known labor leader Stewart Acuff talk about the importance of bargaining collectively, the importance of a contract, and job security.

This is not the first time BGE Workers have tried to join a Union, it is in fact the fourth time. In the 1996 vote, unionization was rejected by a tally of 1864 – 790. After this vote was taken there were several ULP’s (Unfair Labor Practices) filed with the NLRB against the company for illegal behavior which led to the second vote in 1998 which the company’s win was much narrower. The tally in 1998 was 1298 – 1178. There was a third vote in 2000 where workers rejected the unionization 1441 – 758.

As many of us look at the numbers, we ask how do BGE workers want a union, when they keep voting it down? Well keep in mind that the company, Baltimore Gas and Electric, has been known to hire union busting companies, such as Jackson Lewis, who is a well known union busting firm and their current lawyer on this case. Jackson Lewis has been known for holding seminars called “How to Stay Union Free” for a cheap price of $1,595.00. A 2007 exposé by a journalist who went undercover at one of these union-free seminars revealed how Jackson Lewis encourages employers to skirt the law when it comes to unions. A Jackson Lewis lawyer reasoned that it is acceptable to fire union organizers, as long as one creates a legitimate reason: “Union sympathizers aren’t entitled to any more protection than other workers.” Jackson Lewis is headquartered in White Plains, NY with 30 offices nationwide. They have been known to consist of a staff of 432 lawyers and have operating revenue of $84 million dollars.

So we ask ourselves how do BGE workers stand a chance against a well known union busting firm that knows how to hold captive audience meetings, dilute and tell half truths through literature, and use scare tactics against employees in order for companies to stay Union free? Well the message has to be clear and the BGE workers have been delivering the facts which are that pensions have been cut or reduced, health benefits have been cut or reduced, and BGE workers are in a position where non-unionized equates to an At-Will employee. Employers have the right to discharge an At-Will employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. A Collective Bargaining Agreement is a contract which equals job security and an outline of the structure of BGE workers employment. BGE workers must remember that for most important things in life a contract is rendered, such as home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, mortgage with lender and etc. We must also remember that all top executives in the BGE structure and union busting firms have contracts.

I applaud the BGE workers for their strong tenacity, quest to join a union, and collective bargaining for a contract with their employer. As witnessed in the past the workers put in a lot of effort to begin the process but with the miscommunication and pressure from the union busting firms, they lose the hold as a unit. Education and support for their fight is what they need. I strongly encourage that you engage your neighbors, friends, and family in conversation about the issues. This is tough fight for the workers and they need our support. If you or someone you know is actively involved in this fight ask questions and talk through issues. It is the only way that the workers will build the confidence that they need to succeed. December 16th and 17th are their election days to fight for what all workers deserve which is a voice in their company to produce a partnership amongst employee and employers. This victory will not be easy, but the fight will be well worth the outcome if it is favorable.

Good luck and I leave you with a quote! “Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.” – JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech, Aug. 30, 1960

Sources – Baltimore Sun, Americans Right at Work, IBEW Local 1900

Cory McCray with AFL-CIO Sec-Treas Liz Shuler at 2010 Netroots Nation

Cory McCray is a member of  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 24. He currently serves as Assistant Business Manager for Local 24 and as Board Chairman for the Young Trade Unionists, an exciting program supported by the Metro Baltimore AFL-CIO.

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