Striking Union Workers Speak At County Meeting

OSWEGO, NY – About a dozen members of IBEW Local 97 attended Thursday’s Oswego County Legislature meeting.

A handful of them addressed the legislators during the public comment session following the regular meeting.

The union has been on strike at Nine Mile Point Unit I and II nuclear plants since 12:01 a.m. July 9.

Scriba resident Mike Bradshaw, a member of the local’s negotiating team, questioned the credentials of the managers currently operating Constellation’s nuclear plants.

His primary duty at the plant is testing safety systems, he said.

“Right now they have people out there they say are qualified to do the job that we’ve been doing for 25 years,” he said.

There is a thing called the training exemption form; which takes credit for qualifications that you gained outside the nuclear commercial operating industry, he pointed out, adding, “That means you can become qualified there without going through the accredited training program (the union workers have completed).”

One of the plants was built in the 1960s, the other in the 1980s, he said.

“I don’t want to sound all negative; Constellation Energy does good things for our community, provides great paying jobs to us … contributes to various events, charities,” Bradshaw said. “But there are 500 people out of work because two parties can’t come to a compromise. It’s a terrible thing for the community, our families and everybody. Any help we can get from this legislature to get the parties back to the table and come to a fair, equitable compromise would be appreciated.”

Ken Chirchiro has worked at Nine Mile for almost 20 years.

He said workers at the plant are now doing four days of 12-hour shifts.

“The crew that are replacing us consists of 13 people per crew, of these 13 people, 77 percent of them have never done my job,” he said.

Tim Logan, of Oswego Town, echoed the same sentiments as his co-workers.

“The reason for speaking here today is to ensure you legislators are aware of what is taking place at Nine Mile Point,” he said. “I feel, as do my brothers and sister of IBEW Local 97, that the plants are being operated by inexperienced and unqualified personnel.”

Union workers maintain their qualifications by attending board certified and continuous training, he added.

“Some of the personnel operating the plants have not completed this training, according to Logan. “We ask that you (legislators) do your part in protecting our community by requesting that the NRC audit the qualifications of these personnel and thereby assure the safety of the people of our community.”

“I represent the employees of Local 97 IBEW who are here today,” said Jim Card.

He also called into question the ability and training of the people operating the plants today.

“We’re not getting feedback (about the plants’ safety) from the NRC or anybody. We’re asking the legislature look into this,” he said. “Our 440 member are not receiving wages, which are not putting money back into this community.”

He said he doesn’t want to see a disaster Chernobyl or just recently in Japan happen in Oswego County.

“I know that’s pretty strong language, but when you got people working in there on four-day shifts, not being able to leave that plant, not knowledgeable of the operation of that plant … I’m very fearful of how this plant is being run,” he said. ”I’m asking the Oswego County Legislature to put pressure on this company to get back to the table where we belong. Please, do what you can to get us back to the table. We’re very willing to negotiate a fair contract, that’s all we’re looking for.”

The county is concerned about the situation, said Barry Leemann, chair of the legislature.

“We’ve written a letter to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, offering them office space if they needed it, asking them to check on the safety, making sure the security and safety of our county residents is not compromised,” he said. “We are concerned. We urge both sides to get back to the table.”