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Labor hearing set

Power plant workers could vote to join union

Christina M. Currie

Members of the Western Colorado Trades and Labor Organizing Committee and two employees of Hamon Research-Cotrell will travel to Denver Wednesday for a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board that could result in the remaining employees voting on whether to join a union.

Business managers with the four unions represented by Western Colorado Trades and Labor Organizing Committee claim Hamon Research-Cotrell (HRC), the contractor hired for a $58 million upgrade of the Craig Station Power Plant’s pollution control system, promised construction workers one wage and then paid them less once they started.

Those workers also are without benefits and most are from out of state, problems Matt Burtis, business manager for Plumbers and Pipe fitters, Local 145, said could be solved if the workers join a union.

Eighteen of the 30 construction workers have signed authorization cards that give union representatives the authority to request a vote be held among HRC employees. According to Burtis, 30 percent are needed to force a vote, but HRC is protesting, so a hearing has been scheduled.

“They’re scared,” Burtis said. “They don’t want them to do this.”

Jeanine Campbell, field human resources manager for HRC, said she is under the impression that a hearing is mandatory.

Other HRC officials were unavailable for comment.

Burtis said he had authorization cards signed by 26 of the 30 HRC construction employees, but several have backed out, saying they were afraid of losing their jobs.

HRC hired a Denver lawyer to represent it at the hearing.

“They’ll be trying to find something I’ve done that’s illegal,” Burtis said. “We don’t really anticipate a problem.”

Burtis said he’s not worried about getting support during a vote because the vote is by secret ballot.

If employees do vote to join a union, union representatives will be empowered to bargain for better pay and benefits. They also will be contacted to fill open positions, which Burtis said would be done using qualified local workers first before going out of state.

Burtis said he believes HRC is protesting the vote because it is less expensive to hire non-union workers.

Campbell said HRC is working to offer its employees a benefits package.

HRC won the bid to build the pollution control equipment the power plant is required to install as part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit between the power plant and the Sierra Club.

The five-year, $110 million project is just getting underway. At its height, nearly 300 workers are expected to be needed.

This vote, Burtis said, is the first step in ensuring local workers are put to work before out-of-state employees are brought in.


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