A Warm Holiday Meal Brought by Your Gas Workers

gas workersAs President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) I have seen first-hand how corporate greed has destroyed our economy and middle class jobs in America. I have also seen how corporate domination of our political system both helped to support corporate greed and is now powerless in the face of that greed.

Sempra Energy/SoCal Gas, is part of the problem. The energy giant symbolizes the corporate power and greed people across the nation are questioning. We, the workers at Sempra, are conversely a symbol of the other 99% of the population is now fighting back.

As gas utility workers we provide a valuable public service. We make sure our homes have safe and efficient natural gas to keep our homes warm, have hot running water and with safe gas stoves and ovens. Many of us may take this for granted as we warm our homes and cook our meals this holiday season.

For our work we have done well, especially considering our current recession. Too well, says the bosses at Sempra Energy. The 5,000 members of my Union and our sister Union the International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU) have been working without a contract since October 15th of this year. While other gas workers across California have settled fair contracts Sempra (So Cal Gas’s parent company) continues to insist on below standard wage increases and cuts to our retirement and medical.

It is an outrage that at a time of remarkable corporate profits Sempra would insist on takeaways from those of us who do the work. Sempra has reported close to $4 billion in profits since 2008. The top five executives at Sempra have paid themselves $91 million during this time.

Sempra has made these profits, in part, at the expense of customers. Sempra has expanded part time work, increased our workloads and relaxed response times to service calls. As a result, gas customers wait longer for inspections, leak reports, and appliance lighting. This even as the State has put greater scrutiny on gas service since the deadly San Bruno explosion of 2010.

As a public-private partnership Sempra has an obligation to treat its customers and workers fairly. Instead they make billions, pay themselves millions while cutting services to customers. But the workers are fighting back and we will protect our jobs and not let Sempra hold us back.

We are standing up to Sempra not just for our families, but also for gas customers and as an example to workers everywhere. If at a time of great corporate profits we can’t maintain our standards of living, or even get ahead, then when can we?

It is time for the 99% to hold the 1% accountable at work. What better way to start? Thus on behalf of the 5,000 hard working professionals that delver the natural gas to warm your home and light your stove for your holiday meal we say, ‘Happy Holidays’ and ask for your support in our fight against corporate greed and for good jobs and stellar public service.

Art Frias
President, Utility Workers Union of America Local 132.

Published by the LA Progressive on December 23, 2011
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