The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 21           May 30, 2005  
Utility workers strike in Boston over safety, jobs
(front page)
BOSTON—“They want us to sell down the river the retirees and the young people coming up,” explained Robert Blake, a commu-nications technician at NStar for 15 years. Blake was walking the picket line May 16 out-side the offices of the electric and gas com-pany, which services 1.4 million customers in eastern Massachu-setts. That day 2,000 members of Utility Workers Union of Amer-ica (UWUA) Local 369 went on strike against the utility.

“I think it will be a long strike,” said Claudia Stewart, 44, a field service represen-tatives and a veteran of the last strike against NStar in 1986. “The company wanted a strike and walked away from nego-tiations. We don’t want to give in on our safety concerns, staff-ing levels, or benefits for retirees.”

The company’s response to the strike has been to say the workers are highly paid—claiming the average NStar lineman earns $97,000 a year including over-time—and the union leadership is “out of touch” for not showing the com-pany’s last “good offer” to the membership. The bosses are demanding a “flexible work schedule.”

The union says the current company pro-posal would eliminate dental and eye care coverage for retirees. It has also pointed out that understaffing is a safety issue. There are not enough workers to do preventive mainte-nance. This point is driven home by a chant on the picket line, “Hey, hey, Tom May, How many dogs have you killed today?” There have been several incidents in which dogs were electrocuted from walking near unsecured electric power lines with “stray volt-age.” Thomas May is the chief executive officer of NStar.

Last July, a teen-ager driving down a highway in Natick, Mas-sachusetts, was maimed when an explosion of NStar underground wir-ing propelled a manhole cover through the wind-shield of his car.

Maggie Trowe and Sarah Ullman contrib-uted to this article.  
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