In a move that can only be interpreted as “retaliation,” Missouri American Water Company (MAWC) will replace 17 jobs of Utility Workers Local 335 members with scabs by outsourcing the union’s work to a non-union contractor.
The replacement comes on the heels of the union’s tough testimony at recent Public Service Commission hearings over MAWC plans to substantially raise sewer and water rates from 19 to 76 percent with an average of 24 percent in the St. Louis metro area. For months the union has also conducted picketing at the homes of company officers protesting the unilateral implementation of a “give-back” contract. Several weeks ago the company “tested” outsourcing some trenching work to another non-union firm while union members who do that work sat idly by.
[frame src=https://labortribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/71055429.jpg" width="250" height="150" align="left" style="2" linkstyle="none"]This latest outsourcing involves the locating and marking of water lines before a contractor needs to do digging. This work has traditionally been done by Local 335 crews. Last week American Water announced it would hire non-union USIC Locating Services, a division of United States Infrastructure Corp. to do the work.
While the company says there will be no layoffs as a result of the latest outsourcing, these workers will be re-assigned to the construction department where they will have to pass a physical and obtain a commercial drivers license.
“If they can’t meet the job requirements, such as lifting 65 or more pounds regularly or digging with a shovel and spade, we’re not sure what will happen,” said Local 335 Vice President Al Ratermann. “They were quite vague about it when we asked.”
Local 335 President Tom Schneider noted that Local 335’s members doing the locating work “have done a great job. There’s no one that can do this job more efficiently and productively than our members.”
Local 335 has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over this subcontracting (and other issues) because the unilaterally implemented contract gives the company too much authority and in effect, bypasses collective bargaining.
“The new contract gives the company the right to literally do whatever they want, in effect completely by-passing the collective bargaining process,” said Mike Evans, the local’s attorney with the law firm of Hammond and Shinners. He notes there is case law on this matter.
Notes the union’s charges: “(the) Company’s imposed agreement give(s) it such broad discretion as to limit future collective bargaining and disparage the Union before its members.”