Nine days after they voted to reject a tentative agreement and authorize a strike at Pacific Power, members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125 voted Aug. 19 to ratify a new contract.
Neither side was making details public as of press time, except to say that it’s a four-year agreement. Local 125 spokesperson Marcy Putman said 91 percent of the unit took part in the vote.
Local 125 represents about 420 Pacific Power employees in a region that extends from Astoria, Oregon, to Walla Walla,Washington. They include line crews that maintain and restore power lines, as well as metering employees and hydroelectric generation operations and maintenance. Their previous contract expired Jan. 26, but had been extended by mutual agreement through Sept. 5.
Earlier, Pat Egan — Pacific Power vice president of customer and community affairs — declared in an Aug. 13 guest column in the Bend Bulletin that the utility had “extensive contingency plans” for other employees to do the work of Local 125 members in the event of a strike. Egan said Local 125 members had voted down tentative agreements that were “intended to be fair, reasonable and help align their benefits closer to parity with their non-represented co-workers.”
Local 125 business manager Travis Eri responded with a guest column of his own in the Aug. 17 Bend Bulletin, explaining that Local 125 did not want service to be disrupted, but was prepared to strike because “nearly 100 workers who were grandfathered to maintain a pension until retirement will experience devastating losses as they attempt to retire with dignity.”
For another part of Pacific Power territory, members of IBEW Local 659 voted on Aug. 5 to approve a five-year contract. Local 659 represents about 490 operations workers from Albany, Oregon to northern California.
Pacific Power serves over 700,000 customers as the electricity distribution division of PacifiCorp for Oregon, Washington and California. PacifiCorp is owned by Mid-America Energy Holdings Company, which is controlled by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway’s primary shareholder is Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest people.