Richland Line workers hold rally as contract talks continue

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Richland Line supporters take to the streets Saturday after rejecting the city‘s latest contract offer.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77 has been without a contract for more than seven months and is in mediation with the city.

The union will hold an information rally on George Washington Way and Knight Street from 9:00 am to 10:30 am.

The rally comes after they almost unanimously turned down an offer from the city that union official Will Power said line workers would be among the lowest in the region and Washington state.

“They are in one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs based on the deaths per 100,000 workers,” he said. “They say they are interested, but (the offer) doesn’t show it.”

However, Richland officials believe the offering would have positioned employees in comparable agencies.

“We understand where the market is in each industry, and we are constantly assessing and finding the balance between investing in our urban infrastructure and assets … city council meeting.

The mayor’s statement came after the city council heard for almost 15 minutes people speaking out for the union asking the city to raise the salaries of line workers.

Union leaders hope the rally on Saturday will show they have the community’s support. .

“City officials have indicated that Richland residents don’t care about the Richland Line crew and that’s just ‘noise’,” union supporters said in a Facebook post of the rally. “We know that’s not true. We have received hundreds of messages and inquiries about courtyard signs. “

Payment in arrears

Richland operates its own electric utility, serving 23,000 customers over 50 square miles of land. It maintains 552 miles of main line and eight substations.

Richland linemen make $ 35 to $ 47 an hour, depending on their level of experience. Foremen can make up to $ 54 an hour.

For comparison, Benton PUD linemen start at $ 35 for the first six months, but once they hit the journeyman level they make $ 51 an hour. Foremen make $ 57 an hour. And those rates will increase in 2022 under the current contract.

The union launched campaigns last month with a website, video and Facebook page. Power said it was the first time in at least 40 years that locals have taken such action.

Lukson said Richland was negotiating in good faith and had not received a formal response to the latest offer, made on July 8, by Tuesday’s council meeting.

The offer would have given line workers a 2.5 percent increase this year and then a 3 percent increase in 2022 and 2023.

“We strive to negotiate fairly and in good faith,” said Lukson.

According to Power, 96 percent of union members voted to turn down the offer. The employees of the energy supplier Richland would have fallen further behind.

The crux of the matter is that the city and the union can’t agree on who to compare line workers to, Power said. City officials are reviewing contracts with other unions in the city where workers have accepted minor wage increases.

Power said these comparisons were not fair.

“They have different risks and different wage rates,” he said.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he attempts to answer readers’ questions about why cops and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.


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