NLRB Charges American Water For Violating Workers' Rights

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The National Labor Relations Board charged Missouri-based American Water with violating the rights of workers by cutting health care and other benefits for employees in 15 states.

The complaint – issued by NLRB Region 29 in Brooklyn, N.Y. – charges the company with illegally imposing cuts in employees’ healthcare, retiree health insurance, and short-term disability benefits at the beginning of 2011 without having notified federal and state mediation agencies about the ongoing dispute during union contract negotiations.

“This complaint is a critical first step in our efforts to win justice for American Water employees,” declared Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America. “We will challenge this hugely profitable company’s illegal conduct on behalf of every working family at American Water in every way possible.”

The NLRB complaint involves unilateral benefit cuts made by American Water – the largest for-profit water and wastewater utility company in the U.S. – in January 2011 during negotiations for a new national benefits agreement. The agreement is negotiated by a coalition of nine national and international unions led by the UWUA, and covers 3,500 union workers in 70 different bargaining units across the U.S.

The UWUA, which represents the largest number of American Water bargaining units and 2,500 of the company’s 7,700 employees, estimates the backpay involved in the case to be over $4 million. The UWUA filed the charge on behalf of all employees covered by the national agreement.

The NLRB complaint applies to union workers at American Water locations in California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The labor board has scheduled a hearing in the case for March 13, 2012 in Brooklyn.

American Water has also been in trouble lately for trying to raise rates on customers and hiring non-union labor from a company that breaks the law. UWUA reports that the company is highly profitable and that the cuts to worker benefits are not necessary and were done unilaterally after the union rejected the company's demands to take the cuts.

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