May 18, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY – Workers at Allstate Power Vac in Brooklyn demonstrated at Con Edison’s annual shareholders meeting May 16, urging the company to pressure its contractor to sign a union contract with its employees.
The utility hires Allstate to clean underground electrical equipment before its own employees maintain it. The Allstate workers, in crews of two to four, operate flush trucks that power-wash transformers and power lines.
Allstate’s about 75 employees voted last November to join Teamsters Local 813, but management is “dragging their feet” in negotiations for a first contract, says a Teamsters Joint Council 16 spokesperson. “We’re not getting any closer to finalizing a deal.”
“We do the same work as Con Edison employees, operating flush trucks and cleaning underground electrical infrastructure. But we are paid a fraction of the wage earned by Con Edison employees and lack the safety protections they receive,” said a petition union officials delivered to the company board of directors. “We ask that you make it clear to Allstate Power Vac that you will not accept unfair labor practices and that you expect the company to negotiate a fair contract with industry standard pay rates and working conditions with our union.”
“It is dangerous work at substandard conditions,” Local 813 President Sean Campbell told the shareholders. “I am asking you for your intervention and convey a message to Allstate to bargain in good faith so that all Con Ed workers may enjoy high standards.”
Allstate workers start $12-$13 an hour, far less than Con Ed employees doing the same work, the Teamsters said in a statement, and they fear being punished for trying to refuse unsafe work.
The company at first scheduled talks on the first contract during the workday, the Teamsters spokesperson says, but it refused to pay workers who took time off to participate—in fact, it also docked the other members of their teams. When the meetings were switched to after work hours, he adds, company representatives would leave because they didn’t want to work late.
The union chose to pressure Con Ed, he says, because its contracts provide much of Allstate’s business. “Con Ed is so important to Allstate that you know they’ll listen.”
“We work side-by-side every day with Con Ed workers and Con Ed takes their safety seriously. So why shouldn’t its contractor Allstate Power Vac be held to the same standard?” worker Reginald Riddick said in the Teamsters statement. “We all signed the petition because Con Ed can make a difference and protect its front-line workers at Allstate Power Vac.”