Plymouth, New Hampshire electrical workers strike to defend pensions
12 May 2018
On Monday 80 linemen and five warehouse workers went on strike at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) in Plymouth. The workers’ contract expired on April 30 and they are refusing to give in to management’s attack on their pension plan. According to the web site of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1837, all five of the warehouse workers and 79 of the linemen voted in favor of strike action. However, by Tuesday NHEC had already brought in scabs.
In a statement Monday NEHC declared it “has activated a contingency plan that will provide for adequate coverage of power outages and protect public safety. Certified line crews have been engaged and will be accompanied on any outage calls by non-union NHEC employees who are familiar with the service territory.”
Despite this threat, the IBEW has done nothing to mobilize telecom and power workers behind the strikers. Instead it has worked to isolate the workers, making sure they battle alone.
Workers at NHEC are eligible for both a defined benefit pension plan and a small amount of matching if they contribute to a separate 401(K). According to the Cooperative’s 2017 audited financial statements its contribution of $2.4 million to the defined benefit plan for 2017 was only 5 percent of total employer funding for the year. Because the plan is multi-employer, pooled contributions cover all eligible employees no matter where they work.
The NHEC limit on matching 401(K) contributions for IBEW members is only 2.5 percent, while non-union staff—whose jobs are not as dangerous as those of linemen—receive matching of up to 4.5 percent.
The workers have gone out because management is demanding…