BGE to appeal limit on size of union vote NLRB sided with IBEW over 2,750-member cap

November 23, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. announced plans yesterday to appeal a local National Labor Relations Board decision regarding which of its employees will participate in a union vote scheduled next month.

The appeal, to the agency's federal office in Washington, D.C., caps the longest hearing process in the Baltimore labor board's history. BGE and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers spent 65 days presenting testimony.

BGE, scheduled to merge with Potomac Electric Power Co. in April, has been fighting the IBEW's organizing efforts in an attempt to maintain its 180-year status as a union-free utility. In turn, the IBEW has been working diligently to organize BGE workers and add to its membership, which currently includes 2,700 Pepco employees.

"We consider the NLRB decision to be a hands-down victory," said James Hunter, president of the IBEW's Local 1900, which represents Pepco workers. "That's why BGE is so upset."

In a decision last week, the local NLRB sided with an IBEW request and ruled that only 2,750 of BGE's 4,500 employees could vote to accept or reject collective bargaining. BGE had been pushing to allow all 4,500 to vote, because it believed the IBEW has less support among some 1,800 white-collar employees.

"BGE is extremely disappointed in the NLRB's decision on who will get to vote, and we intend to pursue this to the extent that the law allows," said George C. Creel, the company's acting chief operating officer. "We plan to file a request next week to the NLRB's national office for them to review the decision."

Under federal labor laws, the national office will have until Dec. 10 to grant or deny BGE's appeal.

Meanwhile, the local NLRB has set as voting dates Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 at 11 BGE locations.

"Our position is, we're not anti-union, we're pro BGE," said BGE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Christian H. Poindexter. "There's a big difference." He said the IBEW is attempting to take advantage of employee anxiety caused by recent layoffs, and job insecurity stemming from competitive pressures and changes in the utility industry.

"In the long run, the best job security lies in working for a successful company," Poindexter said. "The things employees value most -- job security, good wages and benefits, and challenging careers -- are possible only if BGE is able to succeed in a competitive environment. To be successful going forward, we must have the flexibility to respond to changing business conditions."

"Their logic is silly," Hunter said. "They don't want a union, but they want everyone to vote. The only reason they wanted the excluded employees included was to try and dilute the union vote."

Pub Date: 11/23/96

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