Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

June 15th, 2012 1:32 PM

Scabs Brought in To Run Nuclear Power Plant During Lockout in Mass.

Crossposted from In These Times Working blog

On June 5, a number of replacement workers and outside managers were brought in to operate Entergy's Plymouth Station nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the replacement workers have experience working as technicians in other nuclear power plants in the United States, the union claims that the technicians lack the site-specific experience needed to operate a plant as complex as Plymouth Station.  One replacement worker who spoke to Working In These Times worries that a mix of replacement workers and Entergy managers with little experience operating the Plymouth Station could cause a catastrophe.

The lockout of 250 workers began after Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 369 and Entergy were unable to agree to a contract. Entergy had pushed for the elimination of disability insurance, of life insurance for workers over age 55, and of seniority in the plant, as well as for cuts to workers’ retirement and medical plans. The company also wanted to maintain the right to make unilateral changes to workers’ retirement and medical plans whenever it wanted.

“What we want is protection down the road for our family” says union member John Barilaro. “It’s a risky business and people do get sick. And they really don’t care. They are just concerned about the bottom line.”

Entergy Spokesman Michael Bourne says Entergy decided to lock the workers out because the “union would not back away from their right to call a strike at any time without prior notification” after the union contract expired Tuesday night. But Dan Hurley, president of UWUA Local 369, disputes this charge. Hurley says that while the union would not give up their legal right to strike after the contract expired, it was willing to give the company advance notice of a strike, so as to comply with federal laws.

One of the replacement workers at the plant claims that Entergy has not engaged in good faith dealings with them, either. The subcontractor that hired the replacement workers, DZ Atlantic, never informed them that they could be brought in to scab on union members when they signed their contracts. After being told that they would be brought in to scab, the replacement workers were promised that they would only have to cross the picket line once in a company-provided bus and that there would be housing available on site for them.

However, the replacement workers have had to spend their own money to stay in nearby motels and have had to drive across the picket line several times. One replacement worker, who only agreed to speak if granted anonymity, complained that a female replacement worker had the hood of her car damaged when a locked out worker on the picket line fell on it. Beyond the dangers posed by having to cross the picket line, the replacement worker worries that his colleagues' inexperience in running the day-to-day operations of the Pilgrim Station nuclear plant could cause a major accident.

“Currently, in the plant, they are like, 'If it is not broke, don’t fix it,' ”says the replacement worker. “The people that I work with are very professional. However, there are situations that could come up that worry me. I am not going to say this or that could happen because no one can predict that. However, I am saying if there was a catastrophe on a scale like Fukushima, management would not handle it the way they should.”

Union members are upset that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has allowed replacement workers to operate the plant. “The NRC stands on the sideline about this. It’s really disheartening that they take a backseat to the company,” says Barilaro.

But the NRC says it has been long aware of a possible lockout and that it approved Entergy’s contingency operating plan. “We reviewed the plans and made sure they were qualified to do what they were assigned to do,” says NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci. “We reviewed the qualifications and continue to have enhanced oversight at the plant to make sure the plant is operated safely”.

That still hasn't assuaged the fears of local residents and politicians. In a letter to the NRC, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Keating (D-Mass.) asked whether the agency can "truly ensure that the residents of Massachusetts living near the plant are as safe in the event of an emergency today as they were when the Union workers were operating the plant earlier this week?"

In the meantime, UWUA Local 369 has filed NLRB charges against Entergy. The union claims that Entergy failed to provide necessary information about medical plans during contract negotiations, made a series of “coercive, threatening statements” against workers prior to a contract vote last week, and videotaped workers walking the picket line without their consent, thus violating Massachusetts two-party consent law .

“Entergy’s complete and utter disregard for the safety and well-being of Massachusetts workers and communities has been well documented, and this NLRB complaint exemplifies how the company chooses to do business,” says Hurley. “Rather than head back to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith, Entergy makes coercive statements and attempts to intimidate the workers who safely run Pilgrim Nuclear.”

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles