Published 10 Oct, 2014
Weeks of around-the-clock negotiations with employer National Grid have yielded a major coup for Local 101. Managment was singing to a different tune after more than 1,000 members rallied for a fair contract outside of company headquarters last week. Pending ratification by the membership, the contract settlement will give members close to 14% in wage increases over five years—compare that to the wage freeze demanded by National Grid as late as last Wednesday!
Local 101 President Mike Conigliaro said on Monday, “I’m very proud of this tentative agreement and the united power of our Local and the TWU. What we achieved here—and it was no small feat, coming from where negotiations started—we achieved through locking arms and speaking with a single voice. This gold-standard contract is a testament to TWU solidarity, and the support of our International.”
Local 101 represents over 2,500 utility workers at the multi-national electric and gas company National Grid, working in Brooklyn and Queens. Every year, our brothers and sisters respond to over 25,000 reported gas leaks, carbon monoxide calls and gas outages. They repair broken gas mains, install new gas mains, bring service to new homes, repair contractor damages, and respond to thousands upon thousands of customer inquiries and billing questions.
At the start of contract talks—which the local proactively initiated far in advance of the standard timetable—management demanded that Local 101 workers accept a five-year pay freeze or agree to enormous out-of-pocket increases in health care contributions. This was from a company that in the last year alone reported a “return on equity” of 9% and a U.S. profit of over $13 billion in their latest filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
From the outset, Local 101 made it clear that its priorities in negotiations were to secure a fair and reasonable wage increase, enhanced on-the-job safety protocols and maintenance of current health care benefits. Without these components, no deal. That spirit drove over 1,000 members into the streets last Thursday to rally for a fair contract outside of National Grid headquarters at One Metro Tech Center.
Aside from skilled negotiating, the hallmark of Local 101’s successful contract fight was solidarity and broad-based support. TWU engaged local political heavyweight NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and a range of allied labor leaders, including NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and NYC CLC President Vincent Alvarez, in the fight.
Speaking to members at Thursday’s rally, TWU International President Harry Lombardo said, “There are people from every division of the TWU here, and we’re going to stand with you for as long as it takes. I pledge to you that whatever it takes—and if it means we have to shut this company down—we will be with you.”
Members will vote on the contract settlement within the next two weeks. Pictured below: Local 101 leadership with International President Harry Lombardo and TWU Transit, Utilities, Universities, and Services Division Director Jerome Lafragola, immediately after both the union’s negotiating team and management representatives had signed off on the tentative agreement.