Utility Workers Union of America
815 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
50,000 plus members
Canadian Labour Conference
Unions for Energy Democracy
The elected officers of the National Union are National President, National Executive Vice President, National Vice President, National Secretary-Treasurer and twenty (20) National Executive Board Members. All National Officers are elected and installed at each regular National Convention.
The National Union is also comprised of five regional districts. The National Executive Board members shall be nominated and elected in the regions within the geographical districts. The regional districts are as follows:
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Territories
- Rhode Island
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
- South Dakota Missouri
- Guam and other Pacific Rim Territories
- New Mexico
- Public Sector
- Renewable Energy
- Professional/ Technical
D. Michael Langford, National President
Mike Langford was elected National President of the Utility Workers Union of America effective December 1, 2006. He had previously held the position of National Executive Vice President and had been a member of the National Executive Board since March 1998. Mike is a graduate of the Wayne State University Labor School, and he completed labor relations classes at University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
Mike has held a variety of Union offices throughout his career, which began with the Detroit Edison Company in 1978 at the Monroe Power Plant. In addition to his position as UWUA National President, Mike also serves as follows:
- On the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
- On the Midwestern Governors Association Advisory Board, which has embarked on a new agenda of Creating Jobs in a New Energy Economy, and is working to attract those jobs and implement the appropriate workforce development tools to make that new energy economy sustainable. As well, through its Energy Initiative, the Association has been implementing ways to harness the energy potential that the region possesses.
- On the Labor Advisory Board of American Income Life.
- On the Executive Committee for the Center for Energy Workforce Development.
- As a member of the U. S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship.
- As Chair of the Trustee Board for the National Power for America Training Trust Fund. This multi-employer fund, in partnership with educational institutions throughout the country, is committed to promoting and creating educational opportunities and continuous learning, and will provide state of the art industry-specific training programs that will ensure a highly skilled workforce prepared for current and future technologies.
Garry M. Ruffner, National Secretary-Treasurer, Elected 1999
UWUA National Secretary-Treasurer Gary M. Ruffner was elected to the position of National Secretary-Treasurer at the 1999 convention. He comes to the National Union out of the ranks of the Michigan State Utility Workers Council with more than 20 years experience as a Union Representative. He was elected Michigan State Council President twice, after serving as Council Executive Vice President, Council Vice President, Local 123 President, Chief Steward and Department Steward.
Gary is a life member of the NAACP and a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women serving as an officer of his CLUW chapter for over ten years. Gary has served on legislative committees at the State Capitol, testified before the Michigan State Legislature on deregulation and quality of service issues, and testified before the State of Michigan Certificate of Need Commission on behalf of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.
Steven VanSlooten, National Executive Vice President
Steven VanSlooten was elected to the position of National Executive Vice President at the UWUA’s National Executive Board Meeting in October 2006, and took office on December 1.
Steve is a millwright by trade with 26 years of experience in the utility industry. He was hired by Consumers Energy at their J.H. Campbell Complex in March 1981, where he worked at the Campbell Unit 3 electric generation plant.
Steve began his service to fellow co-workers in May 1984, when he was elected department steward of Local 107. He accepted additional duties as he was elected to department chief steward of Local 107 in April 1985, vice president of Local 388 in June 1987, and president of Local 388 in January 1992.
In January 1995, Steve expanded his range of service when he was elected vice president of the Michigan State Utility Workers Union Council (MSUWC). His responsibilities increased when he was subsequently elected executive vice president in September 1999. Steve assumed the duties of president of the MSUWC in November 2002. He was subsequently elected to the position in January 2003, and then re-elected in January 2006.
Steve was elected by the National Executive Board to serve as the Region IV Executive Board member in January 2003. The delegates to the 2003 UWUA convention then elected him to the same position.
John Duffy, National Vice President
National Vice President John Duffy was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and became a member of UWUA Local 1-2 in 1974. As a rank-and-file member, he was employed by Consolidated Edison of New York. Most of the time he was assigned to Central Gas Operations and conducted an annual test survey of Con Edison’s gas system throughout New York City and Westchester County.
In 1990, he was elected to the Local 1-2 Executive Board and served in that position as well as Shop Steward Chairman for Central Gas Operations until being elected to the position of Business Agent in 1999.
In 2005, Duffy was elected Vice President of the local, and in 2007 he was elected UWUA National Vice President.
As an official of the Utility Workers Union, he has been involved in internal organizing, numerous contract campaigns and negotiating committees.
Duffy has also been involved in hearings with the New York State Public Service Commission looking into the blackout last summer in Queens, New York. He has made the Union’s case to the Commission that Con Ed needs to better maintain its electrical infrastructure and has expressed the benefits of doing so with in-house labor, as opposed to outside non-union contractors.
Members of the UWUA are directly impacted by energy and resource legislation; therefore, they have become very outspoken on domestic energy policy. The UWUA website mentions that “unleashing domestic energy sources, rebuilding our infrastructure, protecting good jobs and creating green employment opportunities are at the core of the solutions to the crisis.” UWUA also lists its number one national goal as “acting now to create a cleaner environment and quality jobs.”
For example, the UWUA advocates for “the modernization of our electric, gas and water systems, for training and retooling our workforce to maintain the utilities of the future, maximizing existing technologies to increase efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions, developing promising technologies like wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable energies, and adopting government regulations that protect consumers, encourage energy conservation, and make investments in the workforce and infrastructure.” Additionally, at the second international union-wide Conference for the Electric Power Industry hosted by the Utility Workers’ Union of America (UWUA), union delegates adopted a statement condemning recent trends in electric power that prioritize profit-making at the expense of the public good. The statement said “unions must continue to promote democratic energy policies, and noted, “Increased globalization in the Electric Power sector necessitates increased international contacts between unions.”
Because the UWUA’s workers are at the crux of the transition to a green economy, the union has garnered both financial backing and a strong political voice. In 2009 and 2010, the Department of Labor awarded $5 million to the UWUA to train workers in the utility industry as defined by the Green Jobs Act. According to UWUA, the project came out of the recognition that the current, aging utility workforce is approaching a demographic cliff – “new workers will be needed for as many as 30-40% of the nation’s current electric power workforce by 2013 – and that changing technologies in the sector will require new skills. UWUA’s goal is to train 359 entry-level workers and 360 incumbent workers with the grant in local labor markets in three different states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, where they and their employers have identified demand for workers with particular skills.”
In sharp contrast to the BlueGreen Alliance’s endorsement of the 25 x 25 ballot initiative, in August 2012, the UWUA clarified its position as being vehemently opposed to the November ballot proposal that would embed energy policy into the Michigan Constitution. In the words of Mike Langford, “this costly amendment to the Michigan constitution would eliminate flexibility that’s crucial to modern energy policy-making and ensuring consumers have safe, reliable and affordable electricity. By amending Michigan’s constitution, electric utilities would be forced to spend billions of dollars on current electric generation technology and could be prevented from investing in new, environmentally cleaner and more affordable technologies for the future.”
While encouraging the development of renewable energy, UWUA has also pushed for the use of “clean coal.” Michael Langford explicitly declares that his goal is “to push to keep coal-fired power plants operating until clean coal technology is up and running. In particular, I strongly and forcefully expressed opposition to the EPA timeline for the implementation of new rules because of their effect on our members working in older coal-fired plants.”
Langford also lauds the growth of the natural gas industry while acknowledging the safety hazards surrounding natural gas extraction. He states, “the growth in natural gas extraction offers the nation an opportunity to get out from under our dependence on foreign energy sources. In order to take advantage of this abundant resource we must first deal with the industry’s environmental and safety challenges. Much of the expansion into gas extraction and processing is taking place in areas where coal has been king for generations. The switchover from old coal fired plants that cannot meet current industry and environmental standards to gas offers real job opportunities for current and future UWUA members…The UWUA has the history, knowledge and capacity to train the next generation of gas utility workers.” It is unclear whether or not the UWUA supports fracking as a method of extraction.
Green Employment Prospects
According to the Utility Workers of America, the union is working with environmentalists, employers and others to transition to a clean energy economy. The UWUA declares that in this effort, “many new “green jobs will be created and current jobs will go green.”
“Renewable energy and the green jobs that come along with it, are key to our economic growth. It is essential that in order to lead the world in renewable energy technologies, and create good jobs that support our families and communities, we must look at ways to rebuild and revitalize American manufacturing. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. We’re just making countries like China rich. That’s not sustainable. We have to create more jobs.”
However, some of the green jobs to be created are under threat. The US wind energy market in the US is extremely volatile (see Appendix 1). Unfortunately, the UWUA may lose jobs if supportive policies are not enacted in the near future.
Additional Comments or Analysis
There are some contradictions between UWUA’s stated pro-green standpoint and actual actions/ policies. This is how the UWUA balances the reality of representing workers in coal/gas/nuclear energy utilities with their desires for a sustainable future.
Appendix 1: Wind Energy Volatility
By Jim Snyder – Oct 7, 2012 8:00 PM ET
Leeco Steel LLC’s fortunes rose even during the Great Recession thanks to a single customer: the burgeoning U.S. wind-energy industry.
Leeco had 50 employees when it started selling 7 ton steel plates to wind-tower makers in 2004. It now has 125, and wind accounts for about 40 percent of the Lisle, Illinois-based company’s business.
“We’ve done extremely well,” John Purcell, Leeco’s vice president for wind energy, said in an interview. Leeco is a unit of O’Neal Industries, a metals-service company based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Now a different sort of economic crisis is looming over the industry. A tax credit fueling wind’s growth expires at the end of this year unless Congress votes to extend it. Wind-energy companies get 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour produced, shaving as much as one-third off the costs.
Fearing the loss of a subsidy that helps them compete with cheaper natural gas, some wind companies including a U.S. unit of Siemens AG (SIE) are already cutting jobs, adding urgency to a lobbying push in Washington. Since July, about 2,000 jobs have been shed by wind developers and suppliers, according to IHS Emerging Energy Research, a unit of IHS Inc. (IHS), based in Englewood, Colorado.
“I am watching my customers laying off folks all across the country,” Purcell told a House energy panel last month. “And I won’t be providing steel plates to any of those factories again.”
While wind is still a relatively small slice of the overall energy mix, about 3 percent of the electricity generated in 2011, it’s growing at a fast clip. Wind accounts for about 35 percent of the new generation capacity added in the past five years, second only to natural gas, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a Washington-based lobbying group.
The industry supports about 75,000 jobs, according to the trade group, which counts more than 400 wind-energy manufacturers in at least 40 states. More than 60 percent of a wind-turbine and tower’s components are made domestically.
Wind’s critics, including Tea Party-aligned groups such as Americans for Prosperity in Arlington, Virginia, say the U.S. can’t afford the credit’s multibillion-dollar cost.
After two decades of support, the industry should stand on its own, said George David Banks, a former aide to Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, who now coordinates the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, a group of activists and organizations opposing the wind credit.
“This is a fiscal-responsibility issue,” Banks said. The industry’s contention that 37,000 jobs could be lost with the tax credit’s expiration doesn’t justify the costs, he said. The credit amounts to a “wealth transfer” from states that don’t have sufficient wind resources to those states that do, Banks said.
The debate over the credit has also extended to the presidential race. President Barack Obama stresses his support in visits to Iowa, a swing state and the No. 2 U.S. wind producer behind Texas, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a Washington-based industry group.
“Wind energy creates 7,000 jobs in Iowa,” Obama told an audience in Davenport on Aug. 15. He chided his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, for describing new sources such as wind as “imaginary.”
Romney has said the tax credit should go, as the government looks for ways to cut the deficit. His energy plan stresses more development of fossil-fuel sources to create jobs and lower foreign oil imports.
During the first presidential debate Oct. 3, Romney criticized Obama for spending $90 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus on clean energy, which included an expansion of the wind-production subsidy.
While Obama and Romney are split on the issue, positions on the credit don’t fall along party lines as cleanly as they do on other energy issues such as oil drilling or cutting carbon- dioxide emissions.
The wind energy association, which includes General Electric Co. (GE) in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the Portland, Oregon-based unit of Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), says about 80 percent of wind production occurs in Republican districts, and the industry counts a number of Republican supporters, including Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
Grassley was an original sponsor of the production tax credit Congress passed in 1992.
In August, the Senate approved with bipartisan support a measure to extend the credit for a year. The bill also changes eligibility terms to the start of construction rather than the state of power production. That probably expands the number of projects that could qualify by the end of 2013.
Wind producers now get the 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced for 10 years of the projects’ life. The 10-year cost of the credit is $12.2 billion, under the Senate bill, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The American Wind Energy Association, which has spent $1.1 million on lobbying this year, has noted wind’s rural roots in promotional materials given to lawmakers.
Wind industry supporters are now pointing to job cuts in those areas to justify the credit’s expense.
Siemens said last month it will eliminate 615 full-time jobs at its wind-power factories, citing declining orders. Most of the job losses came from a blade manufacturing facility in Fort Madison, Iowa.
The 2,000 jobs lost by the industry are mostly due to uncertainty over the tax credit, Matt Kaplan, associate director of IHS Emerging Energy Research said in an interview.
“It’s very difficult for wind to compete without the production-tax credit,” Kaplan said. “A lot of manufacturers are going from full-speed ahead in production to no production.”
The credit accounts for about 20 percent to 30 percent of wind’s costs, though prices vary by region, Kaplan said.
Kevin Book, managing director of research at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington, said the cuts bolster the industry’s case to Congress.
“The way to get attention on an issue is to fire people like crazy,” he said.
Book said he thinks the credit will be extended so long as Congress agrees on a broader tax package during the session following the Nov. 6 election.
Mark Muro, who studies green-energy issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the tax credit has worked, allowing the industry time to cut its costs to compete with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. He said wind probably won’t need the credit in three years as the technology further improves.
“Right now, it’s a volatile time,” Muro said in an interview.
Leeco’s chief financial officer, Mark Krzmarzick, said the company is trying to replace the business it has lost in the wind industry. It’s unclear whether the company will be forced to cut its own workforce, he said.
“We’re trying to carry our employees as long as we can,” he said yesterday in an interview.
The tax bill is S. 3521.