PITTSBURGH -- Pennsylvania American Water, the Quaker State's subsidiary of one of the nation's richest utilities, apparently isn't content with letting its executives feed at the ratepayers' trough, the Utility Workers note. When members of Local 537 from one PAW plant refused to cross a picket line the local set up at another, PAW threatened the workers - and the National Labor Relations Board slapped it down.
The prime incident occurred outside the New Castle, Pa., plant on Jan. 2, 2011, where Local 537 member Mike Kachurek, seeing a picket line, didn't cross it. But was there a strike, or wasn't there? The contract covering Kachurek, who actually worked at another plant, and the New Castle plant contract both said local members did not have to cross picket lines in a "primary labor dispute."
Supervisor Kristen Snyder told Kachurek there would be "ramifications" if he did not cross, because there wasn't a strike. When he challenged her use of the word, she said she changed it to "implications." Kachurek challenged that, too.
"What are the implications of this?" he asked, the NLRB decision reported. "Snyder said she did not know. Kachurek gave Snyder his cell phone number and told her to call him if there was more news. Snyder had been laughing at various times in this conversation and Kachurek asked her about it, and asked if she would like to speak to one of the pickets." Snyder later claimed both words referred to Kachurek missing pay if he didn't work.
The whole mess led Pennsylvania American Water to take down notices the union posted on in-plant bulletin boards describing the incident. The NLRB ruled in June that both Snyder's words and the notice removal broke labor law.
The incident also led the Utility Workers to contrast the threat to Kachurek's pay with the pay, profits and perks of Pennsylvania American Water - and to illustrate the story with an hilarious cartoon of an American Water pig feeding at a trough of dollars.
"During 2012, American Water boasted record net profits of $358 million on total revenues of $2.9 billion. Profits increased nearly 16% over profits for 2011," the union said. "American Water granted nearly $9.7 million in total pay during 2012 to only five top executives, including $3.8 million (American Water) CEO Jeffry Sterba."
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania American Water - the subsidiary that broke labor law - wants to hit ratepayers with an 11.4 percent increase, on top of a 6.3 percent hike in 2011, the union said. And it "imposed painful healthcare cuts on workers in January 2011, including a 52 percent hike in employee premiums for family health insurance, steep increases in out-of-pocket expenses for medical care, and deep cuts in coverage levels."