SCRIBA, NY – Striking members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 97 have set up a picket line on County Route 1 at the intersection of Lakeview Road.
At 12:01 a.m. today (July 9), the workers from Nine Mile Point Unit I and Unit II went on strike. Their jobs are now being done by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group managers.
According to a press statement from Constellation, they have a contingency plan in place and have trained managers to step in; and “are prepared to safely run the facility.”
However, Ted Skerpon, Local 97 president and business manager, told Oswego County Today this morning that “They (management) doesn’t have the hands-on experience the union members have.” They began job-shadowing the IBEW members just a couple weeks ago, he added.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent three extra inspectors to monitor the two nuclear plants’ operations.
This is the first time a strike has hit the two nuclear power plants.
“IBEW 97 exercised its right to withhold workers at 12:01 a.m. on July 9, 2011. They have approximately 590 members, however the security force is precluded by contract from striking even if the Collective Bargaining Agreement has expired,” said Jill Lyon, Constellation spokesperson.
Both units are operating safely at 100% power, she added.
“Constellation Energy Nuclear Group’s contingency plans have been developed over the course of a year and have been reviewed by key stakeholders including the NRC,” according to Lyon. “These plans have been developed as part of the standard preparation for negotiations so we are prepared to safely run the facility and to preserve the long-term viability of the station.”
The union represents 590 of the approximately 1,000 workers at the plants.
About 460 of them are on strike. Just after midnight, nearly 300 union members, armed with signs, began manning the picket line just down the road from the plants’ entrance.
Mike Bradshaw, a member of Local 97’s negotiating team, said members are taking four-hour shifts on the picket line. The numbers earlier today fluctuated from around 30 to close to 60 at times.
“Morale has been good,” he said. “We have to keep our chin up, gotta stay together.”
He said he hasn’t heard from the company regarding any possible new date to continue negotiations.
“We hope to hear soon. But if we have to stay, we have to stay,” he said. “We have to hold our ground.”
“There was a large crowd (just after midnight). It was great to see so many members coming out and supporting the union; backing up their vote,” Skerpon said. “We expect (we’ll be here for the long haul), and we’re here for it.”
The rank and file voted 425-49 on Thursday to reject what the company called its “last and best offer.”
“A strike is not what I wanted, obviously,” Skerpon said. “However, we need to do what we have to do in order to try and wake the company up. Just bargain in good faith, give us a contract that is fair and equitable. What we have on the table is very fair.”
Some other media coverage has mentioned “general wage increases and all that. That’s not even what we’re talking about,” he added. “We understand what we make. We’re looking at pensions. What we gave in concessions outweighs what they are willing to give back. That’s the issue.”
No meetings or discussions are scheduled at this time, according to Lyon.
Local 97’s contract with Entergy, owner of the neighboring James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, reportedly expires in September.