On the Picket Line

Massachusetts natural gas workers fight National Grid lockout

By Ted Leonard
July 23, 2018

BOSTON — When 1,200 natural gas workers, members of United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012, showed up for work across Massachusetts June 25, they discovered they had been locked out by National Grid company bosses.

In spite of the unions’ offer to keep working when their contract expired, the workers were replaced with 633 scabs supplied by contractors and 699 National Grid management personnel. National Grid is a major international energy company, with operations in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

The bosses are demanding concessions from current workers and harsher conditions to be imposed on future hirees. Workers would face sweeping cuts to wages and health care benefits, the union said in a fact sheet, and medical care for retirees would be drastically reduced. “Hoping older employees will sacrifice the benefits of new hires,” the unions said, the bosses are attempting “to drive a wedge between employees.”

The bosses are also demanding the right to replace union workers with nonunion subcontractors to perform jobs like swapping out meters.

National Grid supplies electric and gas services to over 1.9 million homes, schools and businesses in 85 communities across Massachusetts.

The bosses say they won’t end the lockout until the union approves the contract and agrees to a no-strike pledge.

The morning of the lockout picket lines were put up at five National Grid facilities and have since expanded to new locations, including where scab crews go out for repairs.

“Gas workers are merely asking to continue the same working conditions and benefits they have previously received,” the union fact sheet says, “even as National Grid sees tremendous profits and benefits from recent tax cuts.”

On July 1 the bosses stopped payment to locked-out workers’ health care plans. National Grid bosses are challenging the locked-out union members’ claims for unemployment benefits.