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Almost a thousand union gas workers are locked out of their jobs today across the northeast. Picketing in protest began this week and it continues today in 150 locations.
Dominion is one of the largest distributors and producers of energy in the country. This week the company told union members across six states not to come to work: West Virginia, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland.
The United Gas Workers’ Union has been negotiating with Dominion without a contract since April. The company says union leaders refused to allow a vote on a tentative agreement. Union leaders say the company is trying to reduce employee health and retirement benefits.
“This is not a strike, this is a lock out by the company,” said union president Craig Bradford. “We’re more than willing to go back to work any time because we are worried about the public.”
Dominion has reassured hundreds of thousands of customers that there will be no service interruptions. But union officials say temporary hires will not be as safe or as efficient as union workers.
“We are not asking members of Local 69 to accept anything less than what non-union employees at Dominion Hope, Dominion Transmission and union members at other Dominion affiliates have,” said Dominion spokesperson Bob Fulton in an email. “Although the union did not take the signed tentative agreement out for a vote as they agreed, we remain open and available to continued discussions.”
Brian Sheppard, vice president–Pipeline Operations for Dominion Transmission said in a company press release that his company felt they needed to act before weather turned cold: “The uncertainty of the labor situation could leave our customers literally out in the cold. We cannot let that happen, so our companies have had to make a very difficult decision. We are taking the steps necessary to ensure continued safe operations and reliable service.”
There’s currently no certainty about how or when the lockout will be resolved.
Dominion Transmission transports and stores natural gas for other companies, has operations in six states and is headquartered in Bridgeport, West Virginia. Dominion Hope is one of the largest distributors of natural gas in West Virginia and serves 115,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers.