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Ron Kaye: Glendale Power Assn. vs. IBEW

July 26, 2013

The moral premise of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 as often expressed by union boss Brian D'Arcy is clear and to the point:

"My responsibility is to look after the welfare of my members."

The narrow worldview that puts the IBEW on par with greedy bankers, polluting corporations and so many others in this narcissistic era has worked pretty well for employees of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Through good times and bad, they have gotten raises every year for the past eight years, sometimes as much as 5.9%, and overall make as much as 40% and 50% than others in the city workforce.

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In 2010, that promise of huge raises lured Glendale Water & Power workers to pull out of the Glendale City Employees Assn. and join Local 18.

But instead of pay raises, they have gotten pay cuts. And three years later, they don't have a contract — which isn't exactly looking after the welfare of members very well.

That's what prompted Greg Strong to get the 20 other power plant operators to join him in signing cards to pull out of the IBEW and form their own labor organization, the Glendale Power Assn.

On Wednesday at a hearing before City Manager Scott Ochoa that is required under city ordinance, Strong got to make his case for recognizing his breakaway union, the IBEW got to state why their petition should be denied and other city unions got to have their say.

"We would prefer to choose our unit, our own representatives, our own organization. We have demonstrated that we can better represent ourselves," Strong told Ochoa. "If we get recognized, I know these guys are ready. We feel we can best represent ourselves."

Pressed to explain why other Glendale utility workers, especially maintenance and others who work at the power plant were not involved, Strong said there was interest from a lot of workers besides the operators but they are waiting to see what happens.

"Maybe they're afraid to separate from the IBEW. There's a big intimidation factor," Strong said.

You can't put it more gentlemanly than that.

Local 18 under D'Arcy's leadership has earned a well-deserved reputation as a bully, threatening to shut off the water and power supply to L.A.'s four million people if city officials — many elected with millions of dollars from the IBEW — didn't give into his demands.

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