ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE
"Testimony concerning unfair labor practices in New Jersey"
Committee Room 9
June 19, 2003
MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE PRESENT:
Assemblywoman Arline M. Friscia, Chairwoman
Assemblyman Joseph V. Egan, Vice-Chair
Assemblyman Gary L. Guear Sr.
Assemblyman Robert J. Smith II
Assemblyman Guy R. Gregg
|Gregory L. Williams||Beth Schroeder||Victoria R. Brogan|
|Office of Legislative Services||Assembly Majority||Assembly Republican|
|Committee Aide||Committee Aide||Committee Aide|
Meeting Recorded and
The Office of Legislative Services, Public Information Office,
Hearing Unit, State House Annex, PO 068, Trenton, New Jersey
ASSEMBLYWOMAN ARLINE M. FRISCIA (Chairwoman):
The meeting will come to order.
Roll call, please, Gregg.
MR. WILLIAMS (Committee Aide): Assemblyman Gregg.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Here.
MR. WILLIAMS: Assemblyman Smith.
ASSEMBLYMAN SMITH: Here.
MR. WILLIAMS: Assemblyman Guear.
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Here.
MR. WILLIAMS: And Chairwoman Friscia.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Here.
Iíd like to welcome our guests today as we discuss a serious
situation that is affecting the working men and women of this state. Despite
lengthy contract negotiations between labor and management, we have been
seeing a serious rise in claims that seem to challenge these very contracts and
threaten the quality of life here in New Jersey.
So I thought, today, we needed to hear from the parties directly
involved in whatís happening here in New Jersey, in the workplace, so we can
determine whether or not we need to draft new legislation that will protect the
rights of both labor and management.
I feel that suspensions and litigations should not be the first
recourse. We need to investigate whether new legislation is necessary in order
to protect and foster a cooperative spirit here in New Jersey between labor and
On that note, I would like to begin with our testimony. I welcome
all of you today and thank you for coming. I think this is a very important
issue. You work in the private sector, primarily. The public sector in New
Jersey has an expeditious procedure for resolving these issues. But,
unfortunately, the private sector does not have that same access to the Public
Employment Relations Commission. And thatís the reason I wanted to give
people the opportunity to come here today to air what the problems are, with
the hope of finding some way to resolve these disputes in a more amicable way,
without it being costly, and lengthy, and creating a lot of problems where itís
So with that, Iím going to call-- Iíll take it in order of the way I
received these. Weíll start with Chubby Wardell, from System Council 3 of the
C H U B B Y W A R D E L L: Good morning.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Welcome to the Committee,
MR. WARDELL: Thank you.
You have-- First of all, Iíd like to thank you for having this meeting
and inviting us here.
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Push the button. (referring to PA
MR. WARDELL: Itís a red button now.
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Yes.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Weíre backwards here, redís on.
MR. WARDELL: Okay, that sounds good.
I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about some of the
problems that we have going on at Jersey Central Power & Light, which is a
FirstEnergy-owned company, from FirstEnergy of Ohio.
I have been involved with the union as the President of System
Council Business Managers since 1987. Prior to that, I was president of a local
union, representing people in the Jersey Shore area of Local 1309 at Jersey
Central Power & Light, at the time. I started there in í73. I originally was a
lineman for Jersey Central. I started working there in November of 1962. So
all my experience, in all the years I have -- about 41 years -- has been spent with
that company. And I have negotiated every contract, or been on a negotiating
team, since 1973.
Through the years, naturally, with any company and union, thereís
always difficulties and problems, because thatís the nature of our business. And
weíve been able to resolve them either through general discussion, arbitration,
In 2000, we were made known that Jersey Central -- or at that time,
it was called GPU -- had been up for sale, and is being bought by FirstEnergy of
Ohio. It ranks itself as the fifth-largest privately owned utility in the country.
We were-- When they started the merger proceedings, we were
asked to come on board as a union to assist them in getting the merger approved
through the State, and the FCC, and the government, because we had the
nuclear plant at the time. And we agreed, and entered into an agreement that
would extend our contract for two years. It was supposed to be up in 2001 --
and extend it to 2004. And we would have a no-layoff clause during that time
span, and the company agreed to honor the contract, and all the provisions of
the contract, or any other provisions that we may have, jointly.
When they took over in the winter of -- January of 2001, they came
in rather strong, but they did say they wanted to meet with us, and they told us
some of their philosophies, and how things would be. And then, probably, a
month later, I received a letter from them saying that they were no longer going
to live up to a policy that we shared with the former Jersey Central Power &
Light, which was a progressive disciplinary action on accidents that were
involved with failure to follow instructions or rules.
We had a procedure in place that if you did something wrong, the
discipline would follow a process. And some of the things, like failure to wear
your rubber gloves, was a stronger discipline than not wearing side shields on
So they informed me of that. I told them it was an agreement; they
didnít care. I sent a letter saying we disagreed, and they started, at that point
in time, disciplining people for having accidents, whether or not the accident
was one that were caused by your own behavior of horseplay, or not wearing the
proper equipment, or doing a wrong procedure.
Their policy at the time, and still is to this day, if you have an
accident, no matter how small, itís because you were inattentive, and itís your
responsibility, and youíre disciplined. Now, since Iíve worked here, weíve had
a form to fill out. If you get injured, but youíre not -- itís not a major injury,
you just hurt your finger, or you felt a pull, or a small cut on your hand, or
whatever it may have been, they have a minor accident report slip that youíre
supposed to fill out. Now, this is described to you when you become an
employee there -- that you must do that. Itís for your benefit, because if you do
get a serious injury down the road because of that, it may help you in a comp
case or asking for a claim.
Well, weíve done that for years, and thereís never been a problem,
because if you had this minor accident report, we would use that document to
help train people. "I did something wrong here. Be careful you donít do this."
Thatís all it was. Well, now, even the minor accident report-- If you fill out a
minor accident report and say, "I slipped on the ice and felt a pull in my leg" --
it doesnít require doctors looking at it, it doesnít require medication, you just
said that this happened -- you are met with and disciplined -- suspensions,
written reprimands. And this is an ongoing policy with this company and has
been for well over two years.
We find that disgraceful. We have a-- At the present time, OSHA
is looking into that, because itís, sort of, like, chilling. Itís causing people that
have injuries not to report them. They donít want to report the injury because
if they do, they know that they will be suspended, particularly if itís a result that
you have to go to the doctor. So we have people out there that are actually
afraid to say, "I injured myself on the job."
That, to me -- and their accident rates, certainly, have dropped.
Theyíre very proud that they came into an OSHA recordable of about anywhere
between 8 and 12 percent, down to about three, now, or two, which is a
significant improvement. But at what cost, I ask? Certainly, people are being
more attentive, but a lot of the things that, normally, would have been reported
are not being reported now.
Also, when they started with their accidents in the -- probably the
summer of last year, they came to us and told us that they were having a
problem with call-out response and, quite frankly, we concurred. The people
werenít responding to call-out response. And the call-out response, if you donít
know, is if--
We have a 24-7, 365-days-a-year emergency coverage. We have
people that work those shifts. Theyíre called troubleshooters -- respond to
emergencies -- small emergencies -- and, if necessary, they call the headquarters
and request a crew to come out, whether it be a substation crew, a conventional
underground crew, or line crews. And the dispatchers then call the people at
home to tell them that thereís an emergency and please respond.
For years, the system has worked quite well. We had-- In a district
-- for an example -- of 20 linemen, thereís no -- the list is an opportunity. So
using myself as an example-- If Iím first on the list -- thereís an emergency that
the troubleman requires help -- the company calls me, I respond, Iím charged
with a call-out, and I go to the bottom of the list. And now thereís 19 people
ahead of me.
Whatís taking place now is that we did meet with the company, and
we tried to resolve the issue. We had recommended that if they want people to
be on-call, then we negotiate a standby policy, similar to what Public Service
has. If they require people to be on standby, they compensate them. I believe
Public Service is eight-hours pay for the weekend, which gets applied if theyíre
called out. Some organizations have payment for carrying a pager so that youíre
We suggested some of them, and they didnít want that. They
wanted the same system that they have in Ohio, which is that you volunteer to
be on-call for the weekend, and you must respond. And if they donít -- the
volunteer happens to not be there, then they go to the call-out list. And if you
donít respond from the call-out list, youíre disciplined in Ohio.
Thatís not satisfactory, so we offered to go back to a negotiated
system thatís in our contract, that we do not utilize. And we call it a20-40.
And what it requires is, every employee must make 20 percent of the response --
the call-outs. And the place where they work, the district, has to maintain a 40
percent response. It becomes a little bit confusing, but the reason itís done that
way is that if there are people that canít make the 20 percent -- as long as your
district is doing 40, the calls are being responded. Because 40 represents
responding at all times, but you, yourself, are only getting 40 percent. I donít
know if Iím confusing you with that.
But we worked that system with the prior company for about three
years, and then they felt it was no longer needed, and they just went into a
normal pattern and no longer used it. But it was still in the contract for a while.
We suggested we do that. They said, "No, we need you to be on standby for
Then they explained that they were -- since we were unable to come
to an agreement, they were going to implement their own policy. I tried to get
them to tell me what it was. I finally had to send a letter, and they sent me their
policy. And, basically, youíre on-call seven days a week, 24 hours a day. What
they explained to our members was that, "You must leave us with a telephone
number where you can be reached. And if the primary number is your home,
and youíre going to leave home for any reason, you must leave a telephone
number that we can contact you." So if youíre going to your motherís house,
your daughterís, or the store, you have to leave them with that number. And if
they call, you must respond to a call-out.
If youíre going to a football game, then they tell you that you have
to be contacted. So it forced our members to go get pagers, which the company
did offer to provide for free, or cell phones. A lot of people went to go buy cell
phones so they had the number to carry with them, because they were concerned
that they may be disciplined.
Well, in December, after they imposed this rule, finally -- of last
year -- the first week, we had a number of people that didnít respond and were
disciplined, severely, with suspensions anywhere from one day to a week. And
thatís been ongoing since December of 2002 and continues to this day. Weíve
had-- Before you is some documentation of what Iím talking about. Itís on a
longer paper, there -- actually statements of the grievance that has been filed.
The policy-- If you have an answering machine -- the company
calls you -- they will take that answering machine and leave a message that,
"This is Jersey Central. Weíre calling to have you come in -- call-out. Please
call back as soon as you get in." Now, that message may have been left for you
at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, when you were leaving to go on vacation for the
weekend. And when you return on Sunday, you were supposed to call them. If
you do not call them on Sunday, no matter what time, you will be suspended
from a day to a week. That is documented.
If you are out of state, they want to know where you are out-ofstate.
We have one individual that was in Pennsylvania. He had his cell phone,
responded to the call, and said, "I can come in, but itís going to take me three
hours to get there." And they said, "Fine, come on in." And it was not a storm
or emergency. And he traveled three hours to get to work, delaying the time the
people were out of lights. There were other people on that call-out list that they
could have utilized, but they waited for him.
The entire system is absurd. We have tried to negotiate a number
of times with the company to get something, but itís to no avail, because, quite
frankly, their policy is, if weíre not like the unions in Ohio, then theyíre not
going to do anything differently here in New Jersey. So we canít -- weíre at a
deadlock with that. Henceforth, we are in arbitration over that issue.
The papers that I-- The one -- the long one that I gave you is the
documentation that has the responses. And these are taken right off of
grievances that are filed by the members. And, actually, the number on the --
in this column is the grievance number. But one of them is, "Daughter -- young
child took phone call from company and gave her a message to tell her father
to call in. She did not give him the message." He had a five-day suspension.
An individual was deer hunting, five day suspension; not at home when the
company called, no one answered the phone, five day suspension; not at home
at 6:41 and at 6:45 p.m., when the company called, and there was, thus, no
answer of the telephone -- I had a 40 percent call-out response in 2002 -- and
he received a three-day suspension. And it goes on. You can read it for yourself.
I think it would be redundant if I read every one to you. But they are legitimate
The other package that I have are letters that were sent to Wage and
Hour to ask for the Wage and Hour to listen to what we have to say, because
we definitely feel that being on-call all weekend long is a violation of the Wage
and Hour. We are definitely on a standby system. The company maintains
that we are not, but when you donít have the freedom to go away and not go
away without a cell phone or a pager that makes you come back to work, then
weíre on standby all the time.
They have attacked, pretty much, every portion of our contract. As
usual, with any contract, itís all interpretation of how you feel -- and believe in.
And they have challenged almost every issue that we have, and will continue to
do so. And, quite frankly, theyíve told me that, in 2004, when that contract
expires, we are in for a lot of changes, including our health care, our dental, our
pension, our weather clause, the overtime issues, response times. Almost every
article will be challenged in 2004, and I think itís going to be a very, very serious
negotiation with this company, because, in my opinion, they have no regard for
their employees and their employeesí family life. Itís just amazing.
Thereís some further testimony youíll hear. Iíve asked the union
presidents that I have on my System Council to get more specific with some of
the details that these people are going through. And, quite frankly, youíre going
to hear some really amazing stories that are quite factual. And we are quite
concerned, not only with where weíre going to end up as a union, but where
these people are going to be with the stress that theyíre under. We have more
people on stress leave than weíve had in our history, presently, today.
So weíre looking-- I wish I had a magic thing to tell you that if you
would enact this law, it would help me. Iím not sure what you people could do,
but Iím sure that you can hear the plight that weíre in. And wherever you can
give us a hand, even if itís developing some sort of legislation that protects
employees from being constantly harassed for all call-outs, safety, attendance--
And I donít mean where theyíre exceptional, just routine things. Weíd
Do you have any questions for me?
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: You mentioned that the issue on
the call-backs was in arbitration right now.
MR. WARDELL: Thatís correct.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: How long did it take to get there,
MR. WARDELL: It took a few months. There is a couple of dates
that we had that the company had postponed. And, most recently, we had dates
scheduled. Unfortunately, I didnít bring my date book with me or Iíd give you
those dates. But we have three arbitrations going on at the same --
simultaneously; and one of them is a 16-hour work rule, that weíre in
disagreement with, that I didnít get into here.
The first case -- the second day of that hearing -- was going to be
six months from now. We got the arbitrator to get closer dates, and the
company is unable to make those dates. Weíve had a little problem getting
them to keep and make the dates that we have arbitration hearings. But we
have four days scheduled, the last one being in September, I believe.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: So itís a matter of these dates
being stretched out and no settlement of the issue for a long period of time.
MR. WARDELL: Thatís true, but the arbitration procedure -- one
of the ways you get a date is for the arbitrator, and two attorneys, to sit down
and get a date that theyíre free. So, quite frequently, itís difficult.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Okay. Well, I appreciate your
testimony today. Unfortunately, you donít have an answer to the question Iím
seeking an answer to, but maybe it will shed some light on it and give us some
direction. I really appreciate your coming here today.
MR. WARDELL: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Now, if you want to call all the
people up that you brought with you, weíll take them all up at the table at one
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Madam Chair, could I just ask one
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Sure, Iím sorry.
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Chubby, is this -- any of this scheduled
overtime, or is it all emergency overtime?
MR. WARDELL: Well, emergency has to be defined. It is
emergency overtime, but it could be for a flickering light call, change a meter, a
wire down, something thatís not life-threatening. So it is all related to
Okay. I guess we could have -- Ed Stroup, I guess, is first on the
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Letís have them all. Who else is
with you, Chubby?
MR. WARDELL: I have Ed, Carol, Bones. These arenít aliases,
theyíre real names. (laughter) And Danny Clare. I believe they will give you--
And Iíve asked them to be as brief as possible -- but giving you descriptions of
whatís actually taken place.
Do you want them here?
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Yes, please.
C A R O L S C O T T: Do you want us to do two at a time?
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Okay, we can do two at at time.
The other two sit back. Please identify yourselves before you start.
E D W A R D S T R O U P: Hello, my name is Edward Stroup. Iím
President of Local Union 1289. Iíd like to thank you for the opportunity to
speak to you today and tell you of our plight.
Chubby did a nice job with a lead in. Thereís a couple of points Iíd
like to highlight.
He talked about the trouble shifts. The company has created a lot
of these problems themselves. Theyíre not posting jobs. As jobs naturally
vacate, people bid out, they have not been filling them. Trouble shifts are one
of those jobs. Theyíre people that are on all the time, ready to go, ready to
respond in the middle of the night, and they commonly do not fill those shifts.
And they have attrited jobs out there, open jobs, that they have not filled in
those and many other positions. That creates and adds to the response time
problems and creates more call-outs.
Additionally, Iíd like you to understand how many call-outs there
are, because I think thatís important. There are-- We have some line people
here that can tell you, probably, better than I can, but tremendous numbers of
call-outs. You can be called multiple times over the weekend. The list spins
frequently. So itís not that youíre occasionally getting a call-out, it goes around
quite a bit.
Iíd like to also speak about the effect this has had on our members,
so you can understand how big a problem this is. This has affected our
members deeply. They have no free time. They cannot come and go of their
own free will. It has gone as far as affecting their families and their family lives.
They canít plan to go to the beach on the weekend. They canít go to a Giants
game. Their every movement is restricted, not only on the weekends, also
during the week. This is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week issue. It never
ends. The people are never free. They have to be able to respond all the time.
Weíve had people with funerals and with memorials for people that
have passed that have said to the company, "I have this planned through my
family. My family is coming, and I need to not be available for this period of
time." And theyíve been told, no.
I would like to relate one story to you. In my local, I have a lady --
I try not to ask -- but Iím going to say sheís just under 60 years old. She has an
elderly mother who is very sick. She works five days a week, Monday through
Friday. On Saturday, her day off, she was at home with her personal phone and
called her sick mother to talk to her mother. She was on the phone with her
mother for about seven or eight minutes. During that period of time, the
company called her for a call-out. Of course, they got a busy signal. They
called her a total of four times in a total time span of five minutes from the first
to the last call. They suspended her the following week for three days.
She ended up having a nervous breakdown over it. She is already
upset with her problems with her mother. And she had a breakdown over this,
because she no longer has control of her own life and her own mother. She says,
"I canít even speak to my sick mother, on my day off, from my home phone."
And that ate at her. She ended up having a breakdown and was out of work for,
Iím going to say, approximately a month and a half on stress. Chubby related
how many people we have out on stress.
Thatís one story. There are many more. I just want you to
understand how deep and how far this problem goes, and how itís affected not
only our members, but their families and their daily life. Itís a major problem.
And I donít have an answer for you, either, of exactly what you can do to help
us, but anything you can do would certainly be appreciated.
Itís gotten to the point where the people are afraid to come to work,
theyíre afraid to report accidents, theyíre afraid to come to work. The stress
level is extremely high. Many of these people are linemen, and troublemen, and
are up in the air often in bad weather conditions -- dangerous jobs. Their mind
needs to be focused on their job and performing their job safely, not on the
terror campaign that this company has instituted.
And if I can veer, for a moment, from this subject -- FirstEnergy. If
you donít mind, Iíll be very brief. I also represent members at Oyster Creek
Nuclear Generating Station, who have been forced out on strike by AmerGen
Exelon. Itís an out-of-state corporation that has come in and completely gutted
the heart of the contract -- job protection, job descriptions, and many other
Anything you can do to help there would be greatly appreciated.
They want to lay off and get rid of our members who are highly trained and
highly skilled. Used to have a thousand people at that nuclear plant. Over the
period of the last four or five years, itís been reduced to 450. Of those, 213 are
the hands-on workers who do radiation protection, control room operators, INC
techs, highly technical jobs. They now want to have another reduction of
almost 15 percent of those people and, at the same time, bring in non-union,
out-of-state workers to replace those jobs. There are many problems in their
last, best, and final offer. They are not willing to move off of that and have
forced us to a strike.
We would like to negotiate and resolve that issue. We donít believe
itís good for anybody. The people that are highly trained and highly skilled in
this nuclear plant are no longer running it. Theyíre outside walking up and
down in front of it. And non-union people have been flooded in there, who do
not know that plant -- which is the oldest nuclear plant in the country -- to run
it. We believe there are safety issues involved.
And I know weíre not here for that. I appreciate you letting me
speak on that for a moment today. But I would appreciate anything that you
could do there to aid us.
Thank you very much for your time, and Iíd be happy to answer
any questions you may have.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you for coming.
Are there any questions?
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Perhaps I should have asked this
question to the previous speaker, but it seems everybodyís going to have pretty
Iím not sure, Assemblywoman -- Madam Chair, that this is the
forum that this is going to get solved in, because we have very strict labor laws
in our State, and in the country, that have created, in some respects, a wall
between employees and management. And that wall has been good and bad,
sometimes. Thatís what occurs. Itís the rules people chose to follow.
But I am interested in asking a question on the procedure. And
correct me if Iím wrong in explaining what I thought was testified to. There was
a policy for bringing people in on their time off, weekends or whatever days
theyíre not scheduled. And it was in place, and that system was a system, as
explained -- was a rotating system -- that your name would go up the list as calls
would occur. And then, ultimately, after your day came when you were called,
then you would go to the bottom of the list. And my assumption would be that
if you were at the bottom of the list, youíd feel more comfortable not being
called. Youíd probably know that you wouldnít be called, because you know
that theyíd have to go through all the people in front.
The new company comes in and, of course, may have different
ideas, because theyíre based in a different world, and negotiating different rules,
and are comfortable with their rules. So they came in and -- and this is where
I want to be clear -- they came in and said they would prefer to change that
system and say, "Instead of just a rolling system, it changes by how often you
come in-- We want to let volunteers do it, first. And then if we donít get
enough volunteers, then we fall to a list." Is that correct, so far? Through the
I apologize. I should have gotten the question out earlier.
MR. WARDELL: Thatís all right.
That was one of the items that they said that they would be willing
to have a staff of volunteers, and on no amount of numbers, that would be on
call and carry pagers or cell phones. And they did say-- That was one of their
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: And then after that, then it would go
to a -- if they couldnít get enough volunteers-- Iím just trying to get back to
MR. WARDELL: Then it would go--
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Then it would fall back to a list.
MR. WARDELL: Thatís correct.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Now, would that list be similar to the
list that you had, kind of a rotating list?
MR. WARDELL: Yes.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Thank you.
The only reason I ask that question is that -- and you can stay up
here -- is, it appears to me that -- Iím not a union negotiator -- but I like that
program better than the one you have now. It certainly would be better for you
to have volunteers, and then fall to a list that you used to have, even though
you may not like the new program. It seems to be far better than the one that
youíre testifying that seems to be. Itís very troubling that youíre on-call 24
hours a day, seven days a week, like you own the business, like many people are
in the State of New Jersey -- and not knowing when youíre going to get called.
And any time a call comes, it could be a consequence for you.
Why would you have not agreed to their program? It certainly
seems to me, as a layman, not a bad system.
MR. WARDELL: Thereís a couple of reasons. One is, the program
that we had before FirstEnergy -- I wonít call it a voluntary call-out system --
but if you were first on the list, and happened to be at a wedding and called out,
it went to the second person on the list. And it could eventually go to the third
and fourth. But there was enough people to respond to the calls. And thatís
been our system forever.
We have, in the state, a couple of utilities that already utilize
standby time, and thatís what that is -- that voluntary-- Itís having an
individual be on-call 24 hours a day. And they canít leave anything. They have
to be there. If they donít respond, for whatever reason, or if the workload
becomes too much for those three, six, or whatever the amount is, of individuals
that are being required to do this, the next people in line are subjected to be
called. If they donít respond, they will be disciplined. So itís not as simple as
it may appear.
Everyone has an opportunity to work overtime, but if we go with
the volunteer system, then we get into the -- the volunteer is the person that gets
all the overtime. And you have circumstances in your life that you cannot
guarantee the employer that youíd be available 7-24. And although I would like
to work overtime, I already know that I have committee meetings I have to
attend on this night, I have my church on Sunday, and whatever it may be. So
if they call me on those days, I wonít be able to respond, because I have other
equipment -- excuse me, commitments. So Iíd like to do that, but I canít,
because I know Iíve got -- I already know that Iím not going to be able to make
all the calls.
Now, can that be worked through? Possibly.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: The only reason I bring it up -- and I
donít want to belabor the issue, Madam Chair -- is that it seems to be better
than what you have been imposed, and thatís the way the game works because,
ultimately, it is a negotiation of what they wish against what you wish. And
ultimately, when the contract comes up in 2004, thatís when the ball game will
start. I think everybody understands that. So weíre talking about what happens
between now and 2004.
MR. WARDELL: Yes. The problem that I have is that I have a
negotiated document that tells me what Iíve negotiated, and this, what theyíre
imposing, is in violation, in our opinion.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Of course.
MR. WARDELL: And so as a union officer, if we actually
conceded to that without an argument, then our members probably wouldnít
elect us, because we just gave away a portion of that contract. Thatís one of the
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: I can understand that, but I just
wanted to be clear that there were options that you could take that might be
better for employees in a shortened term. You donít have to legally make a
commitment that youíve agreed upon. And after 2004, youíve just agreed upon
it, while you agree to disagree. Lawyers are very good at that. I am not one, but
I know how good they are at it.
MR. WARDELL: Either am I.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: But I just wanted to understand it in
my mind, and now I understand it even better -- that this is, certainly, an
argument between management and employees of who has to work harder.
Management would prefer to work less on having to find the person to come in.
They only have to make one phone call.
In your case, you would like to not have to worry about ever
working, so you get both sides. In other words, you can get called if you want
the overtime, and if you donít, you can pass it on to the next person. It makes
it easier (indiscernible).
So, I mean, I understand the two issues, and I guess, in 2004,
someone will figure out exactly where it falls. Again, Iím not so sure if anything,
in this Committee or the Legislature -- can do to change that, because it does
appear that 2004--
MR. WARDELL: I think, more than the issue-- The company
imposing a procedure that we donít care for is that -- that after imposing it, the
discipline is such a severe and heartless discipline that it makes negotiating a
little bit more difficult. I mean, youíll hear some testimony about some of the
things that have taken place, and, quite frankly, I believe youíll be quite amazed
that they take that type of action.
ASSEMBLYMAN GREGG: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for coming back.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you, Chubby.
MR. WARDELL: Youíre welcome.
MR. STROUP: Just very quickly, Iíd like to respond to your
question. There are approximately -- well, there are 2,080 work hours in a year.
We have members that have worked, for the last three years, between 1,500 and
2,000 hours of overtime. So that shows you how much theyíre working, and
they have still been disciplined for missing a single call-out. Theyíve doubled
their hours of work every year over the last three years and are still disciplined
for missing a single call-out.
Also, in response to your question, Iíd like to say that in our
contract -- you heard it referenced before -- the 20-40. Twenty is an individual,
40 is a district group. Thatís in our contract. The company itself, some time
ago, felt that they no longer needed that, that the call-out response was good
enough that they set that aside. They had the ability to reinstitute that at any
time. Thatís in our contract, but they did not do that. They were not willing
to do that. Instead, they implemented this horrendous policy thatís severely
affected our members. So there are major problems with it.
And Iíd like to thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you.
G A R Y D O B R I N S K Y: Good morning.
Iím Gary Dobrinsky. Iím President of IBEW Local 1298, out of
Morristown, New Jersey. And I want to thank the Committee for having us here
The first thing I would like to call you to is a script language for
management personnel that I brought with me. Itís just horrendous that an
employee has to go through this every time theyíre called out.
Number two, if the employee rejects the call-out, you need to tell
him, "Iím giving you a direct order to come to work. Do you understand? And
if youíre not, you may be subject to disciplinary action." Well, thatís the case,
and thatís why weíre here to testify.
I have one individual who is terminated right now. Started out with
this policy on a 28 percent call-out response. He had 28 percent coming in on
December 6, when they started this policy. When he was terminated, he had 66
percent call-out response. So thatís just-- And this employee was trying to do
everything he could to look into -- look out for their policy. He bought himself
a cell phone that he never had.
The first time, he was disciplined for five days. He had the new cell
phone, he put it on his night stand. Thatís the number -- as you heard Chubby
testify earlier -- that he gave to the company, because that was going to be his
primary number now. He gave that number to his company. He had the cell
phone on his night stand, and the cell phone went dead -- not having a cell
phone for very long. He came in that morning -- said, "You didnít call us back.
Youíre getting five days suspension."
The next time, he was in New York state, and his cell phone didnít
ring, because he was out of cell phone territory. Well, here we go -- on the
Sunday -- on the way home, it comes back -- you know, you get the little beep.
He listens to the message, and it says, "This is Jersey Central on Saturday -- you
had a call." Here it is, Sunday night. Well, he knows that call has been taken --
already been covered. Thereís no major storm that went through, so he knows
the call was just covered. He comes in Monday, he gets a 10-day suspension.
The final time, they said now, "Okay, youíre wife answered the
phone." She gave him the message the next day. The same thing, they were in
New York state. He didnít get the message himself. His wife got the message.
She said, "Iím not going to bother him. Weíre up here. Iím just not going to
bother him." The same thing, Monday he comes in, heís terminated. So thatís
just some of the stuff weíre going through here.
Weddings, birthdays; anybody, they canít -- theyíre not able to just
enjoy themselves. Theyíre afraid to answer the phone. They answer the phone
on a wedding, theyíre direct ordered to come in.
Thatís basically it. I needed to tell you that story. I have one
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you very much for coming
MR. DOBRINSKY: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Any questions?
ASSEMBLYMAN SMITH: Yes, I have one question.
Is it permissible for one employee to cover for the other? Letís say,
for example, you had a wedding, or birthday, or going out of town, honeymoon,
can you get a buddy that you work with to cover?
MR. DOBRINSKY: No, right now the company is saying that you
have to respond. Itís your duty to respond. You cannot pass that off. It used
to be. Sure, we just used to go right to the next person. It was a call-out
procedure. You got called out. You said, "No, I canít come in. Iíve got my
children here. I canít get a babysitter," whatever. Maybe you took some
medication. A big thing is, maybe you just worked 60 hours of overtime
because you were on continuous overtime. This call-out response has nothing
to do with the overtime that youíve been working already. You just finally want
to get a weekend to yourself and relax. Nope, you must come in. So thereís no
passing it on right now.
Anybody else? (no response)
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you.
Carol, do you want to come up?
Hi, Dan, how are you?
D A N I E L W. C L A R E: Hi, good morning.
Dan Clare, President of Local 1303, IBEW. Iíd just like to thank
you for having us here today.
In our local, which is a part of everybody elseís, weíre there seven
days, 24 hours a day. Our people are forced--
Assemblyman Gregg, you asked a question about -- hey, why didnít
you do this other thing? We did. We went out to our people, and we asked
how we can improve. And the company was trying to improve the call-outs. Itís
in our best interest to serve the public.
Weíre professional workers. We went out and, voluntarily, went
to our people, and they actually improved for a full month in most places. We
said, "Hey, guys, take calls, come on in." And it did improve. For them to--
When you say volunteers, volunteers mean the six junior guys that
are in whatever district. We have many districts. If they donít get volunteers,
then the six junior guys are the volunteers. And once youíre-- The way it was
explained to me -- the way it works out there -- is once youíre that volunteer and
you have that pager -- everything you hear us telling you right now would be --
Dan Clare missed a call-out. By the way, Iím a lineman, so I live with this
every day. Dan Clare missed a call-out -- Iím suspended. Three times with
these people, I lose my job. Iím gone.
As far as our contract goes is, what it was, was we had -- itís
opportunities. Itís negotiated, itís in writing, itís a legal document -- that the
company agreed to when they acquired us. They agreed that they would abide
by our contract in order to come into New Jersey and have a great power
company. And that opportunity list -- what it would do is, if I wasnít available,
theyíd go to the next guy. The older members -- and we have many, many older
members that have been out there working for the public for many, many years
in storms, in the worst conditions. Theyíre 58 years old, 60 years old. We had
an age list. That way, the company didnít need to call them. Theyíd be off to
the side, and you could go to the younger guys like myself.
And what their policy has done is, basically, forced people who
donít want to work to come in, and thereís people that do -- who would work,
but thatís all gone. So on the flip side, you have all these suspensions going on.
The thing I would ask you to do is -- weíre going before Wage and
Hour, where weíre hoping that our attorney is going to present-- Our attorney,
Ed Cohen, couldnít be here today. He would have liked to have come. And he
could have presented this probably a lot better than, like, I can.
But Wage and Hour is looking at our case. And if there isnít
anything, legislatively, that you can do, maybe, if you know somebody over
there, you can make a phone call. But our attorney has said that if they can do
a stop and desist--
Anyway, on the call-outs -- just like everybody else said, thereís
people that have been called out. Itís a seven day a week, 24 hours a day--
One-thirty in the morning, my phone rang. I didnít hear it. The next -- three
days later, I was in the office. They were looking to suspend me. I make just
about all my call-outs, because I know -- I try to keep the pressure off the other
Everybodyís a nervous wreck over it. With all the things that go on
in the company-- Being a lineman, you go out there -- itís not like-- Iím not
going to say itís the hardest job, but youíre up there, youíre moving phases,
youíre in a dangerous situation almost every day. And what scares me the most
is, we used to come to work, and weíd talk about what we were going to do, and
weíd do our job. Now guys are so concerned that theyíre going to lose their job,
or their going to be suspended, theyíre up there in the air working in storms and
normal day work, or whatever, and itís becoming dangerous. Itís killing our
members. I think-- Iím not going to quote any numbers, but we have an older
Thatís pretty much it for the forced overtime. If you know anybody
in Wage and Hour -- if you canít do anything else for us, please--
The other thing is the chilling of our employees. Iíll just hit on it
real quick, because Chubby, I think, did a very good job. Chilling, as itís been
explained to me, is when youíre -- the minors that they spoke about-- Iíll just
say a couple incidents. A guy goes out, and he cranks down a strap -- a 5,000
pound strap that holds poles that weigh 2,000 pounds a piece. A 138-pound
guy goes and cranks this strap down. The strap breaks, a mechanical defect --
breaks. He reports it, because it breaks. Youíre putting a lot of tension on that
strap, the strap lets go, of course you go flying. So the guy puts in a minor. He
says, "I was doing this, and the strap broke."
Well, he was disciplined for it. He was given a written. He didnít
have his feet in the right place. And what that does -- especially in something
like that. Youíve got to picture this. Three or four 2,000 pound poles going
down the highway strapped down with those straps -- mechanical defect --
okay? That guy should, really, be treated as a hero because of his injury. He
reported it. Some family in New Jersey didnít lose their lives. But yet, he gets
disciplined, because he didnít have his feet the right way. What Iíve been told,
the word ischilling.
Another guy -- dragging wire through the woods. Weíre linemen.
We have to put wire in trenches, we climb poles, we do all kinds of stuff.
Thirty-eight years in the company -- I donít know his exact age -- 38 years of
being a lineman. Heís dragging wire through the woods alongside a trench in the
snow. He steps, because a bulldozer had gone by -- the snow covered the track
-- heís pulling the wire, he steps into the track, falls off balance, falls backwards,
gets a sore back, he puts in a minor -- doesnít even go to the doctor -- puts in a
minor -- three days off, three days suspension. And if that doesnít tell the guy
working next to him, "Hey, you put in a minor, guess whatís going to happen."
The guy with the pole trailer -- in my opinion, he saved peopleís lives. We
actually had a catastrophic event, not because of a strap, but because of a pole
breaking. A car was just literally torn apart over it.
So these minors that Chubby said are a way for the company to
gauge -- "Hey, is the workforce working safely? Are there mechanical defects?
Are there near misses?" And if Iím afraid to report that, or Iím afraid to --
because I hurt my back Iím going to get three days off, and the letterís going to
say, "This is going to lead to further discipline or termination." Itís ridiculous.
For years, and years, and years the company told us, "Hey, anything happens,
we want to know about it. We want to know about it, because if we get a lot
of these, we may be having a fatality, or something might be a mess out there."
Well, you know what? You put in a minor, three days off, discipline.
I can only tell you itís a very dangerous job to begin with. We work
professionally. We try to use all of our safety gear. When you go and you have
a little accident, and they turn around and do that to you, what does it do to
your workforce? And I can tell you, as a union president--
A guy with 37 years was talking to me. He said, "You know, I cut
my finger. I canít bend my finger." I said, "Hey, why didnít you turn that in?"
He goes, "Danny, Iíve got five years Iíve got to make it here. I canít afford to
lose my job yet." And the guy didnít report it -- nerve damage, or whatever kind
of damage. Heís out there working with his finger like this now. Thereís many
So what I would ask on this chilling part is, there is a bill that
protects workmensí comp issues. But if you canít make it to that level, if Iím
afraid to report anything, or I make sure I go to my own doctor-- If thereís
anything you can do to-- I mean, Iím sure thereís protections there, but--
Thatís my issue.
I guess I donít want to talk your ears off, because Iíve been known
to do that. (laughter)
And I just have to say, too, what Ed Stroup had said about Oyster
Creek. I know itís an unrelated issue. It scares me, because weíve got a nuclear
plant out there in New Jersey thatís operating, right now, that killed a bunch of
fish. In the newspaper, in theAsbury Park Press -- had you read about it -- they
openly admitted that they didnít listen to those union people who knew the
business, knew how to run the plant, and they turned around and did the
opposite of what those people, who knew how to run that business, were telling
them, and killed 6,000 fish. They said it was horrible. The fish were trying to
jump out of the water, it was boiling.
And those very people in theAsbury Park Press -- itís on record -- the
manager openly admitted he didnít listen to those trained employees, and they
did what they wanted anyway.
I look at it-- I go down to that picket line, and I look in there, and
I say, "Oh, my god. Weíve got a nuclear operating station thatís not being run
properly. And if something goes wrong, guess what? Weíre all-- What are we
worrying about -- chilling?" Thatís a bigger issue.
Iím sorry, I didnít mean to run on.
Thank you very much for your time.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you for coming, Danny.
I appreciate your testimony.
MR. CLARE: Any questions? (no response)
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Carol.
MS. SCOTT: Hi, Iím Carol Scott, and Iím President of 1309.
What I would like to say, in general, first of all, is, weíre really not
here to crybaby. Our employees, our union members, are, fundamentally, in a
very, very desperate rage over this company and their antics. The call-out, the
discipline for getting hurt on the job -- those are two very major issues. And itís
really-- It fundamentally comes down to the fact that thereís no reasonableness
on the job anymore.
And Iíll give you an example of the discipline for a minor injury.
And, actually, this woman wasnít even hurt. She was going to lunch. There was
an internal stairway just three steps up. She had a pocketbook in one hand, her
lunch in the other. She walked up the steps, she had her hand on the railing,
and she tripped. And she just put in a minor because thatís what we do. Thatís
what OSHA says to do. It shows trends and stuff like that. She was given a
written reprimand, the point being that she did not pick her foot up high
That is on record. That is the beginning. When we talk about
unreasonableness, weíre all very, very mature people. We all live our lives.
Maybe we throw our little tantrums once in a while, but weíre all professional,
and weíre all reasonable, and we have all invested our hearts in this company
for the last 20 or 30 years. So weíre not silly when we come here and talk about
My call-out issues are probably minor compared to some of the
other guys, but, again, the unreasonableness-- I had a lineman who works
midnight to eight. He gave them his cell phone. This was December 6. This
is when they instituted the policy. He came home in the morning, he plugged
his cell phone in to recharge it. It had snowed. He went out to his driveway.
He came in, the company had called. He had documentation from Verizon
saying that because his cell phone was weak, it would take the message, but it
wouldnít ring. He was given an indefinite suspension on December 9 --
something like that. He had two children -- right before Christmas. This was
the company coming out of the gate saying, "Weíre serious about this policy."
This was to show everybody how big their muscles are. "Iím going to put you
off the property."
And we had about 30 people in the very beginning of this
implementation of this policy who were indefinitely suspended. They walked
off the job not knowing if they even had a job -- because another guy I had at
the same time gave them his cell phone number. Nobody wants to put their
careers at risk, here. He set his cell phone up by his bed. He fell asleep on the
couch, he missed a call-out at 11:00 at night, and he was indefinately suspended
the next week, also.
And Iíd like to clear up something that you were talking about
earlier when you talked about this volunteer thing. We were in negotiations
with the company. We hit a loggerhead. Okay? They wanted us to carry
beepers. We said, "Fine, weíll carry beepers. We want to be paid for them,"
because we also do have a pager policy in our company. I also represent the
customer service center. And we have 10 people on call every weekend. Weíve
had this since 1997. And those people are paid a nominal fee to carry the
beeper and be prepared to come in when that beeper goes off.
The company doesnít want to pay us to be on standby. We hit a
loggerhead. We offered the old policy at 20-40. They didnít want to do that.
We said, "Fine then, come up with your own policy, because weíre not being
able to agree on anything." And they came in the gate with this policy thatís
unreasonable. Okay? Thatís the evolution of this.
Weíve all negotiated contracts. Weíre here to do whatís right for
the company and to do whatís right for the members in a reasonable sense.
Okay? But this company cares about two things, and two things only. They
care about control, and they care about money. And this company reminds me
of the old school down south, when the mills were in operation, and the mills
would build their towns. And you lived in their house, and you bought groceries
out of their grocery store. Okay?
Iím going to take a left turn, because I have another issue that is
tremendously passionate to me that doesnít have anything to do with call-out,
but it has to do, again, I think, with the fundamentals of the philosophy of this
company. And that is, we all, as you all know, have benefits when we work for
a company. We have absentee benefits, we have, if weíre lucky, prescription
care, we have health care, we have all of that.
Well, since this company has come on board, they have (sic) not
only recognized our contract and honored it, like we honored our end of this
bargain in 1999, or whenever it was, but they have now put us -- the benefits
that weíve negotiated -- we now have to jump through hoops to get them.
Okay? They have-- We have a prescription plan, of course, and we also have
a mail-in prescription plan, which is, if youíre on a maintenance-type drug that
you take all the time, you can get a 90-day prescription from your doctor, send
it in, and you get your prescription by mail. Okay?
Well, now theyíre interfering with that. Now theyíre contacting the
doctors, and theyíre saying, "Well, do you really have to have this prescription?
Do you have to have it all the time?" We now have people who are sending
these prescriptions in, and now theyíre not even getting them. Now the people
have to go back to their doctor two or three times. "I need this, they blocked
this prescription, blah, blah, blah." Okay?
And more importantly than that is, theyíve hired this company
called the Reed Group. The Reed Group -- if I have a heart attack and Iím out,
I have negotiated benefits. I have sick leave, I have a disability plan, whatever.
Okay? And my doctor says, "Carol, youíre going to be out for six weeks."
Okay. Now the company is almost requiring me -- because we havenít taken
this far down the road enough -- almost requiring me -- theyíre asking me to sign
a letter that releases my medical records to this Reed Group so that this Reed
Group -- who is nothing but a wizard, in my opinion, behind some curtain --
can sit there and manage my health. And theyíre going to get a hold of my
doctor and say, "Can you put her back to work, maybe, in four weeks or five
weeks?" And as far as Iím concerned, thatís just a little bit too much invasion
into my personal life.
If we canít trust the doctors that we choose-- I didnít choose the
Reed Group as my primary care physician. So if we canít trust our doctors, then
take them out of whatever medical plan we have, whether itís Blue Cross,
Prudential, Etna. Kick them out if theyíre not good enough to manage their
own patientsí care. That, I think, you guys can do something about. You can.
We have a letter, now, thatís being put to our members. And like
I said, we havenít gone down this road far enough, but you can see the writing
on the wall. It says, "You should sign this. And if not, your benefits could be
stopped." So if Iím out on six weeks, and letís say Iím on short-term disability,
and I refuse to sign this because I donít want the Reed Group in my business,
I donít want the Reed Group harassing my doctor-- And theyíre going to say
what? " Youíre not going to get your benefits." Itís not anybodyís business
except my doctorís. And if heís not good, or sheís not good enough to manage
my health, like I said, kick them out of whatever insurance company we have
in their plan.
The other thing is -- and this will just give you an idea of the
company weíre up against. Okay? They want us at work all the time. It
doesnít matter. I have the nightmare cases of call-out where -- and this is
generic for all of our locals. Whenever our people go anywhere, whether itís
their motherís 50th anniversary, or their fatherís 80th birthday, or their
anniversary, every family is going now, wherever theyíre going, in two cars,
because if theyíre going over to your house for your fatherís birthday and you
get beeped, youíve got to come in. So do you drag your whole family back
away from this gathering, or do you just leave, yourself?
Weíve had people who had New York tickets. They take two cars
into the city so that if their beeper goes off, or their cell phone goes off, they can
come back, they can leave the play, they can leave Easter dinner, they can do
that while their whole family stays there. Now, that is a fact of life on our
Our families are stressed. Our employees are stressed due to the
unreasonableness of everything thatís going on with this company. And Iíll read
you a policy. This is FirstEnergyís employee attendence policy. And it is telling.
We donít have this yet, but itís telling. Itís eligibility as the policy applies to all
employees. They may impose this on us. Theyíre creeping it in the door in my
"Each employee should do whatever is necessary to ensure good
attendence, which should include maintaining good health standards and taking
preventative measures to guard against illness, not letting minor ailments or
inconveniences result in an absence from the job, making every effort to live and
work safely, taking care of personal affairs or obligations at times outside of
working hours, and seeking counseling to get help with personal problems.
"While perfect attendence is a desirable goal and reflects employeesí
attitudes about their work and career objectives, there are absences that are
unavoidable. In many of these cases, the company will continue an employeeís
pay during the absence. For example: the sick benefit protects employees against
the loss of income if sickness or injury occurs. Recognizing that perfect
attendence is not always possible, it is the employeeís responsibility to do the
following" blah, blah, blah. And what theyíre telling us -- it says, "participate
in company case management program, be available for reasonable
examinations and inquiries by the representative." And it says, again, to the
supervisor: "When necessary, refer employee to the company medical case
management program for non-routine," blah, blah.
An employeeís record of attendence is an individual record, a record
the employee makes. What constitutes unsatisfactory attendence is determined
on a case-by-case basis. For example: if an employee is absent only one day
during a year, but this one absence was avoidable, this employeeís attendence
record was less than satisfactory. This is like if you donít live safe, like if you
happen to be painting your house, and you fall off your ladder. Well, you were
careless. You live carelessly, and weíll get you on that, too.
So thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you. And
I do think that there is something that the State can do for us. I think itís a
privacy issue. And I just think that when we have companies -- and by no
means do I think this is the only company that thinks this way-- We need to
have our lives ours. Business is business, personal is personal. How many times
have you heard that? When you get laid off, they tell you, "Donít take it
personally." Okay? Well, donít take my life. My lifeís not here for the
company at its will.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you for coming, Carol.
Any questions or comments? (no response)
D A R W I N S A S S A M A N: Yes, Iím Darwin Sassaman, known as
Bones. Iím part of System Council. Iím President of Local 327. I represent
FirstEnergy, and also being full-time business manager. I do not work there; Iím
on a leave of absence. But I do represent other utilities and companies: REA
Sussex up in Sussex, New Jersey; also powerplants at Gilbert Station, in
Hunterdon County; and Sayerville, down in South Jersey.
And Iíve dealt with -- and I know the question came up -- Chubby
mentioned before about contracts and changes. And I went through the sale --
being president when GPU sold their powerplants to Reliant Energy out of
Houston, Texas, dealing with people from Houston, Texas. Certainly, thereís
always questions and concerns of contracts and negotiations. And our contract
wasnít up until 2001 with Reliant Energy. But, in turn, the respect was there for
a bargaining agreement. And if we looked to change something, or they had a
need, I was willing to sit down and talk to them, the same as this System
Council is with FirstEnergy, to within reason -- and what we can do without
affecting or impacting our families or our members that voted on a contract.
Iíve got to say, with Reliant Energy, itís just two different
companies. Theyíre out of Houston, Texas. Thereís a few changes, but the
people are happy to come to work. If youíve seen the name change on the front
-- yeah, it changed as you come down the hill to Gilbert Station or drive into
Sayerville, but, basically, you work the same way you worked before. And they
had some things change from Reliant Energy, but like you said, we did it in the
But this FirstEnergy company-- Theyíre vicious. Iíve never dealt
with them. And I know Iím the last person to be up from System Council, so
I donít want to bore you with a lot of things, but I have to say, my people are
bleeding. Theyíre bleeding not only with the call-out policy, but when that was
instituted -- and Iíve got one dear to my heart, thatís to everyone-- And the
trend went out across the workforce.
The night that they implemented this policy -- it was going into
effect December 6 -- I had a young lineman up in the Newton district. He got
a phone call 7:00 that night. His wife answered the phone and said, "Deanís
home, but he canít come in. Weíve got a family crisis going on. He canít come
in." They said, "Thereís no excuse. We want to talk to him." He came to the
phone. The family crisis was that he has a 14-year-old son with a brain tumor
that just had chemotherapy that day. Itís terrible. He was throwing up
violently, and he said, "I canít come in. I donít care what you do. Iím sorry,
I canít come in." They said, "Weíll be talking to you Monday." He was
worried. Quite frankly, you know what condition that put the family in the rest
of the weekend. He showed up at work on Monday. The shop steward called
me. I was down at a the power plant. I said, "Well, hope and pray that,
maybe, theyíll take your excuse."
But thatís what we ask for. At least consider, if youíre going to be
this stringent, there is exceptions. And the immediate supervisor said, "Well, if
your son was that sick, and he had his first day of chemotherapy, maybe we can
do something." Low and behold, 3:00 that afternoon, the higher-up
management came up, and he was given a five-day suspension -- suspended for
not being able to come to work on Friday night with a child terminally ill with
cancer. I know that upset so many people who -- neighborhoods, everything
else, the co-workers that -- how it can go down. But itís just one thing after
With the call-out response, I know some of you are sitting there
thinking we had a better way, or why didnít we go their way. But the people,
ever since 1996 -- I was involved -- we had a verp (phonetic spelling) when GPU
was getting ready to -- I mean Jersey Central merged into GPU with
(indiscernible) and Pennelec, and we lost hundreds of people. My local, alone
-- 76 linemen left. And, you know, you didnít mind getting called a couple
times a weekend, or something, but when you had 30 or 35 people on a call-out
sheet -- mandating this you must come in -- weíve got districts down to 18, 20
people. So your opportunity is more and more. Thatís why weíre in arbitration.
And I hope the arbitrator can see this isnít only being burdened on coming in on
call-outs, but look at the 50, 60 hours of overtime I worked already before they
called me Saturday morning. I have people suspended with 50 and 60 percent
call-outs. Nine hundred hours of overtime, you certainly must work for the
company. You stay late, they plan you for Saturdays and Sundays. But if
youíre just out deer hunting -- the one incident that Chubby mentioned on--
Donnie went up to New York state to his brotherís place and wasnít available.
And because of the system, that was his day on call -- he got a five-day
The other thing, with the comp pieces-- I certainly feel that itís
intimidating, that certainly people work in this state. And if you work and try
to be safe -- but injuries do happen, and you certainly should have the right to
fill out a minor, and go to a doctor, and if you have injuries, stitches, or
whatever, go into a compensation case.
I had an individual -- one of the stronger ones in System Council --
that was pulling wire in. And he got his hand caught in the shiblock. (phonetic
spelling) It was a Friday afternoon. All the safety precautions -- when I went
to the investigation -- because I would be sitting here not talking to you about
this, if the guy violated something. But we worked hard in negotiations to come
up -- where you got your protection, your leather gloves, your glasses, your
hardhats. Shame on somebody -- if they donít wear that kind of stuff, Bones,
as business manager, is going to say, "Hey, if you get a reprimand, you deserve
it. Gosh darn it, that was there for your safety." Or if he had cut his hand, and
he didnít have his glove on, I could have said, "Hey, look at the burden you put
on the company. Now youíre lost time, youíre costing this. And if you had had
your glove on, you wouldnít have cut your hand." But he had everything on.
In their documentation, no safety violation, no work procedure violation. The
only thing was, after the final review-- And what happened is, when he got his
hand in, he continued to work the rest of the day.
I think, like Danny Clare mentioned earlier, and my other brothers
and sisters, that was intimidation. But it got swelled up so bad, he couldnít
hardly get his glove off. So at 3:00, he told the foreman, "I better go get an Xray
because itís Friday night, the weekendís coming up." So they took him
down to Dover General Hospital. He had an X-ray. Thank goodness, there
were no broken bones. They felt it was just a bad bruise. The doctor down
there said, "Weíll put you on light duty for two days, come back Wednesday,
and maybe youíll return to work." Thatís just what he did, nothing but a
medical checkup, and he got a three-day suspension.
People -- itís not only him -- but say, "God, look what happened
to Hector." This is intimidation. A three-day suspension he got for that
incident that -- like I said, no safety violation, no work procedures. The only
thing they said -- "Well, what you should do next time, when youíre pulling wire
-- and if you want to communicate with the guy down the road -- when you step
forward, you should stop pulling the wire." Thatís a good point. And in the
past, like Chubby said -- going back when we worked for a decent company --
youíd learn from that experience. At the most, he might have gotten a written
reprimand saying, "Hey, you should have used better judgement. You didnít
violate anything, but next time, if you make a move, donít pull the wire,"
because what happened was, when he stepped forward, he lost his footing in the
ditch where they were pulling. He might have fell and broke his leg -- and the
first reaction to put your hand up -- and he got his fingers pinched. And out of
that, a three-day suspension-- To me, itís a direct -- theyíre intimidating people;
that youíre afraid to work -- come to work.
I have an individual that I talked to personally -- and I canít force
the individual -- but come to me through a shop steward -- had rotator cuff--
Went to his doctor -- certainly job related -- a lineman -- and heís just had
surgery last month -- used 18 or 20 of his own sick days. I called him up. I
said, "Why didnít you ask to go to a company doctor?" "Bones, I donít want
time off. Iím afraid of the repercussions." So thatís one I know of, for sure.
And we have an attorney looking at that. There are many that, probably, we
donít know. But thereís an individual that should have had the company
responsible for that injury. And heís on his own because of, probably,
suspensions and everything else. Itís definitely intimidation.
Getting back to the call-out procedure and the A and H list-- I
mean, getting right to where we are today -- and like Chubby said, in
arbitration-- You touched on that A and H list. It was very important. It was
a list that Chubby personally negotiated, in í92 or í93, it was. And it gave a
person in each district a percentage. You didnít have to be an older person. It
could be a younger lineman that had really personal problems, himself or his
family, could go in and request to be on that list to be relieved. That didnít
mean he didnít work overtime. He stayed at the end of the day, he could stay
Saturdays, but just during the night time, be it medications or whatever, he got
Again, no negotiations. They just tore that up and threw it away
in January. They abolished the H list. Thereís no one allowed on it. I have
individuals right now seeking outside attorneys. One individual appeared in the
newspaper, when I did the article with theExpress Times on the extreme pressure
my people are being put under and all the aggravation, that he retired. He had
heart surgery, he had some problems with his heart. Heís on medications, and
also, with that, a little depression -- excellent worker. Heís 59 years old, had all
intentions to work until he was 60 for full pension. Understand, our pension
system -- 60 is full pension, 55 you can go out, but you take a percentage -- 20
percent less -- and then 56--
He left, because -- he said, "Bones, I cannot--" He got a verbal
reprimand -- a written reprimand -- put on notice. And he was on this H list,
because, hopefully, heíd get better where he could get back to taking calls, but
right now, he couldnít. The medicine he was on -- he said, "Iím in la-la land
2:00 in the morning if they call me out." He retired. He left.
And I talked to the President, Mr. Steve Strah, after the newspaper
article. He was very upset that I went to -- the newspaper was coming to me,
because wives and families are affected by this -- was calling the newspaper.
And I didnít want to go to the newspaper. I figured youíre better to stay inhouse.
But after about two months of what was going on, they said, "Bones,
weíd much rather talk to you than all these families and things." So I did an
But the bottom line is, the people that-- And I said to Mr. Strah,
itís such a company that we work around very critical stuff -- electricity. And
you should come to work, be happy. You might not like your supervisor, but
you respect him, and you work. But with all these side distractions going on,
Iím scared every day somebodyís going to get seriously hurt. I have chief
linemen coming to me. Theyíre saying, "Bones, Joe, yesterday morning -- they
intimidated him, where he was over the weekend. Iíve got to watch him when
I get out on the truck. Heís not thinking of work now. Heís all worked up
over--" because theyíll never suspend you until 3:00. Theyíll interview you in
the morning, and you donít know all day long whether youíre going to get axed
at the end of the day or not. And it scares you that, because you know -- 25
people Iíve had suspended so far since December -- out of the workforce.
And I told Mr. Strah, "If you donít see this turnaround, Iím afraid
of what weíre going to do to serve even the customers." We need linemen, and
these are very experienced linemen, 57-, 58-years-old. Iíve been full-time
business manager since 1995. And we used to have, maybe, 10 people a year
retire -- you know, the normal when they get to 60 or so. And it used to be you
could count on your fingers, the years I was president, that somebody left
sooner. They had a rich aunt or uncle who passed away that they got some
money, and theyíd take the cut in pension and leave at 56. That history showed
you, when GPU, Jersey Central was here, people worked, basically, to 60. They
got their -- 60, 61, and then social security. Last year, I looked at my retirement
list that they send you, and I had 13 people out of that group -- 56-, 58-yearsold
just leaving. And if that doesnít tell someone a story, if you see it-- But Iím
sure it didnít bother him. I think itís what theyíre after. Merger savings, try to
cut the workforce. Theyíve hacked us, and hacked us, and hacked us. But even
in negotiations, weíre going to have a tough time.
And Iíll be willing to work for my people to have a quality life and
earn a decent paycheck, but itís hard with the number of linemen weíve got and
the call-outs, because they can say theyíve got 20 percent more -- and they tell
me in Ohio, according to their standards, we have 20 percent more linemen here
in New Jersey. But believe me, itís the big honchos telling me this, because
when I go around to the local districts, where the level foremen are, theyíre
saying, "Bones, please donít go back," or, "Iím scared to tell you, but I need
three more guys now. I canít keep up with the developers in building the
houses." But itís, to me, all in the merger savings, and weíre paying for it.
But I just-- And the one last one I had was with the compensation
-- is, I know itís happening all over. One person slipped and fell going down the
steps, and he never went to the doctor. They asked him to go. They said that
night -- this is how bad it is -- they said, "Pete, do you want to go to the
doctor." "No," he said, "I think Iíll be okay. Itís not that bad," because he was
afraid of-- (indiscernible) so he went home. And about 9:00, he got severe back
pain, so he went down to his own family doctor, got in right before they closed,
and the family doctor made sure -- they wanted to do a urine analysis and
things. They thought he had a bruised kidney. It probably was, but there was
no blood in the urine. He called in sick two days. He pulled all the muscles,
here, in his back.
When I found out about it -- because you represent 400-and-some
people -- the shop steward called me -- I said, "For goodness sakes, thatís a
compatible injury. They know he fell down the steps. They saw it." I told him,
"Donít stay home using your own sick days. Call in. You must go see a
doctor," because naturally, we know the rules -- if youíre going to want to put
it under compensation, you canít use your own doctor. He called in -- three
days they refused him. I had to go to the director of the north and talk to him.
Finally, he said, "Well, weíll bring him back to work, but I donít know if he has
to go to a doctor." I said, "This guy might have internal bleeding, anything else
going on." Seven days later they got him to a company doctor. He has a comp
lawyer on this case. But those are the ones we hear of.
I know you probably got tired of hearing all the stories, and
everything. But, really, this company is not being fair to the employees. It
affects their families, the neighborhoods, and everything else. Itís really tough
times weíre going through right now.
I want to thank you for the time to listen to me.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you for coming.
Any questions? (no response)
And our last person. Bill Kane, from the Industrial Union Council.
Thanks for coming, Bill.
B I L L K A N E: Good morning.
Madam Chairwoman, thank you for the opportunity to testify here.
My name is Bill Kane. Iím the President of the New Jersey
Industrial Union Council, which is an organization of unions representing over
300,000 workers in New Jersey.
This situation that youíve just heard of is not an uncommon
situation in the private sector. And the situation, as I hear it, sounds like we
have an employer who is, quite frankly, over the top in disregarding a fair
collective bargaining process.
I, first of all, would like to compliment the leadership of the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals, that are dealing with
this company, for the restraint that theyíve shown. Because some of the stories
that weíve just heard, where people are suspended because their kids are dying
of cancer or even -- I donít know about you, but Iím not real comfortable with
people in a nuclear power plant working 80 hours a week.
If this kind of behavior were to happen in a totally private sector
corporation -- I say totally private sector, even though Jersey Central private --
Jersey Central Power & Light is a private industry, they perform a public
function. If this kind of stuff had happened in, say, the Linden auto plant --
General Motors plant, the plant would be shut down. The autoworkers would
shut the plant down. If this happened in a construction site to the IBEW, the
construction site would be shut down.
Now, Iím sorry Assemblyman Gregg had to leave, because it seemed
to me like he was eluding to the collective bargaining process -- will take care of
it. These folks have an arbitration case that theyíre in the middle of presenting,
which may or may not solve this problem. Probably, if the arbitrator is sensible,
it will. And Assemblyman Gregg talked about what, if anything, can be done.
Our opinion is that the restraint shown by this union probably has
to do with the fact that they represent the public. If they were to do, here, what
they would do in a totally private sector organization, or if they were to do what
another union would do in a factory, the lights would go out. And in talking to
them, getting to know them a little bit, they have a great sense of responsibility
that they perform. Theyíre professionals, and they serve the public, and they
donít want the lights to go out, even though the employer sounds like one of the
biggest idiotic participants in the collective bargaining process that Iíve
I would say this, as to what can be done.
Before I say that, nobody that sits at the bargaining table, whether
itís management or the union, wants the government sticking their nose in their
business. We have tactics that we use in situations like this that are geared
towards bringing a radical employer into line -- totally legal. There are ways to
pressure employers to do things. Iím sitting back there saying, "Boy, if we just
taught these guys how to work to rule," for example -- in other words, follow
every single rule to the letter -- it would bring them to their knees, because the
lights would go out. They donít want to do that. They have responsibility.
And because itís a quasi-public institution, is probably why theyíre
here. And I think itís incumbent on the government to look at it from that point
of view and try to figure out what needs to be done in an organization that
provides a public service, when either side at the bargaining table is being totally
The IBEW could, believe me-- Within a week, the IBEW could
create more havoc in the services that are provided by that company without
anybody getting suspended, because theyíd be doing it all by the contract and
the rule. They could bring it to a standstill if they chose to.
So make no mistake. Theyíre not coming here, as someone said
earlier, as crybabies. Theyíre coming here, probably, because theyíre very
responsible, and they work for a public institution. And what I hear them
saying is, "Weíve got an unreasonable employer that is, basically, performing
acts that," in my experience, "can only be calledunion busting." And weíre saying
to you, "Because this is a public entity, please do something before we have to."
Thatís what Iím hearing.
These unions are not a member of our organization, but theyíre our
friends. And if they wish, we will begin working with them to help them do
whatever it takes to make sure that this company does not continue this kind
But in the long-term, I think the Legislature must look at what is
it that can be done to put some kind of public control over this kind of behavior
in a private sector company that is performing a public service. Obviously, there
is not enough there to allow this to happen.
So I just simply want to say that I think there are things that can
be done. I donít know, quite frankly, what they are yet, in terms of legislation
or regulation. But I know there can be something done. And we are willing to
work with you, and anyone else, and weíll certainly work with the union to
bring about some solution to this problem, so that no matter who comes in and
runs that company, or who comes in and runs that union, we make sure that
people are going to treat each other with respect, respect the institution that each
stands for, and make sure that the lights donít go out.
And one last thing. I found it very ironic, driving down here today,
listening to the radio, that this is June 19. In the African-American community,
itís called Juneteenth. Itís the anniversary of the freedom of the last slaves in
1865. And, believe me, the 13th Amendment outlawed indentured servitude.
And what you just heard today -- if itís not indentured servitude, I donít know
what it is.
So, Madam Chairwoman, again, I thank you for allowing me to
testify, and I tell you again that we will be at your disposal to help sit down and
craft some kind of solution to this. But something needs to be done to stop this.
Thank you very much.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you for coming, Bill. I
appreciate your offer to help, along with the other unions who are being affected
by this situation.
I agree with you that I believe something can be done. What it is
right now, I donít know exactly. But Iíll be very happy to work with you and
the other union leaders to see what we can do about this. And I thank you very
much for coming.
Any comments from anybody else? (no response)
MR. KANE: Thank you very much.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Before we adjourn--
Do you have a comment? Do you want to testify?
J E F F S T O L L E R: Maybe just a brief comment.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: You have to fill out a form, Jeff.
Youíll fill out a form after your testimony, please.
MR. STOLLER: I will, certainly.
Jeff Stoller, from the New Jersey Business and Industry--
Just briefly, Madam Chair. Thank you for the chance just to
comment briefly. I hadnít planned to testify.
Obviously, a lot of serious matters have been raised today by the
witnesses. Apparently, FirstEnergy wasnít either aware or hasnít been able to
participate today. I just was inquiring, would there be chance for additional
comment to be submitted as part of the record that youíre putting together here,
as part of the hearing?
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: From?
MR. STOLLER: From -- in case, you know, the company wanted
a chance to add its comments and have it be part of the record.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: I believe they were invited, were
MS. SCHROEDER (Committee Aide): They called us. They
MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, they contacted us.
MR. STOLLER: Oh, okay. Great. We just wanted to ensure that--
We didnít know what the scope of this particular hearing was.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: They were very aware of it.
MR. STOLLER: Oh, okay. Very good.
We would just like to say that, obviously, our Association has an
ongoing interest in communicating with the business community to get the
information out that helps with compliance, to work with this Committee, to
work with the Department of Labor, any of the other appropriate agencies, to
make sure that the labor laws are being complied with.
And, again, we just renew that offer, once again.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Thank you, Jeff. We appreciate
MR. STOLLER: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: And before we end our meeting --
something I was remiss with last time -- I just want to welcome Gary Guear
back to the Labor Committee.
Welcome back, Gary.
ASSEMBLYMAN GUEAR: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Motion to adjourn.
Oh, Iím sorry, and my new Vice-Chair, Joe Egan.
ASSEMBLYMAN EGAN: Thank you.
What we can do, Madam Chair, is get this room temperature so
that we can sit here in a little comfort. I canít take it.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN FRISCIA: Okay. Weíll see what we can do