Striking Pilgrim workers rally at state house

Labor leaders, concerned citizens and a host of Commonwealth elected leaders will join the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 for a rally outside the State House to protest Louisiana-based Entergy Corp.’s ongoing lockout of experienced workers at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.

The rally takes place Thursday, June 28th at 1 p.m.

“Our members have spoken loud and clear – they will not accept cuts to their pay or healthcare, especially from a company that is making a million dollars a day from Pilgrim Nuclear and paying its executives tens of millions of dollars,” said UWUA Local 369 President Dan Hurley. “The community has spoken also: they want the most highly trained workforce back on the job and ensuring the safe operation of this plant. It’s time for Entergy to choose safety over profits.”

The rally comes in the wake of several alarming revelations about compromised safety at Pilgrim Nuclear in the three weeks since inexperienced, lesser trained replacement workers began operating the 40-year-old plant.

Short staffing during the lockout has forced Entergy to downsize the critical Pilgrim Nuclear fire brigade – forcing some workers to double up on critical safety jobs designed to be performed by two people. The move raises concerns about the plant’s preparedness for and ability to protect the community in the event of a terrorist attack, fire or other emergency. The risk of nuclear meltdown from fire hazards is about equal to that of all other potential risks combined.

While Entergy was forced to seek a waiver from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its downsized fire safety crew, the company has repeatedly failed to follow NRC protocol by not properly documenting and identifying workers on the fire brigade shifts. In addition, Entergy canceled a quarterly safety drill that is considered the backbone of Pilgrim’s emergency preparedness routine – touching off harsh criticism from elected officials and community leaders. And a replacement worker, in a published interview, called the competence of Entergy management “pretty low” and said the company misled replacements and assigned them to jobs for which they weren’t trained.

“Canceled safety drills, back room deals, poor working conditions, Entergy makes it clear that safety for its communities and workers is not a priority,” said Hurley. “Our members want to return to their critically important jobs and bring safety back to this community. This could happen in 24 hours if Entergy chooses. Our members simply want a fair contract.”

UWUA Local 369 had spent nearly two months negotiating with Entergy over key healthcare, safety and staffing issues. An offer with severe cuts to employee health coverage and other provisions that would hurt worker families was rejected by Local 369 members on June 20. Entergy makes nearly one million dollars a day from Pilgrim Nuclear, and the company recently received a license renewal to operate the plant for the next 20 years.

“Entergy has a long history of being an employer that is more concerned with profits than the safety and wellbeing of workers and our communities. To slash health coverage for workers who face such high risk on the job is appalling,” said Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Now is the time to come together and say enough is enough. We must not let Entergy continue to take advantage of workers and their families who keep this plant running safely while the company continues to make hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

UWUA Local 369 recently filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Entergy. The charge includes allegations that Entergy management made a series of “coercive, threatening” statements to workers prior to the early June contract vote in an attempt to influence the outcome. The charge also includes allegations that Entergy-employed security forces are attempting to intimidate picketing workers by video and audio taping them outside of Pilgrim.

Entergy operates or manages 11 nuclear power plants around the nation, including those in Michigan, Vermont, Arkansas and Mississippi.