In New Jersey, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 94 is hard at work organizing new job sites. One site, the Cogen Plant in Linden is set to have their union vote on Thursday, January 26th.
The Co-Gen plant in Linden NJ employees 39 people and provides steam and electricity to the oil refineries outside of New York City. It also provides 700 Megawatts of power to New York City through an underground cable. While it is not the biggest power plant, it plays a vital role in the electrical grid.
The plant has been privately owned since 1992 and has been non-union the entire time. According to Local 94 Business Manager Bud Thoman, for most of the 25 years the workers were treated pretty well. They were well paid and had a good benefits package. However in the last few months, the company, which is still profitable, has tried to takeback many of the benefits.
The organizing campaign started 3 months ago, when one of the employees called Local 94 based in Hightstown, New Jersey. Thoman and his Business Agent sat down with the workers and talked to them about the new cutbacks that the company was making. After the meeting, Local 94 and the interested employees began collecting union authorization cards. On January 4th, Local 94 filed for an election with 26 of the 39 employees in the bargaining unit signing cards. The cards were certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and an election was scheduled for January 26th.
Since the organizing drive began, the company has spent significant amounts of money to try and break the union. They hired a high priced anti-union law firm from Philadelphia to come in and pressure the employees to vote no. Thoman said that the employees are now subjected to daily captive audience meetings that can go on for hours. While the company is spending their profits trying to break the organizing drive, Local 94 is continuing to hold meetings with the employees and reassure them to vote for the union. All of this is done without the Local receiving one cent from the Linden employees. That is because IBEW locals do not charge perspective members’ dues until they receive their first contract and the membership ratifies it.
While Local 94 expects to lose a few votes due to the ardent anti-union campaign, they are still hopeful that they will win the election. Thoman said that part of the reason why they file with more than 50% of the employees is to build in a buffer against the anti-union campaign. 20 votes are needed to join the union. At a meeting on Monday, the members seemed excited about the upcoming vote and were looking forward to a positive result.