Who we are
We, the Utility Workers of America, believing it to be a natural, right, and just that those who toil should enjoy to the fullest extent the wealth created by their labor; and realizing that under the everchanging industrial conditions and the enormous growth of corporations and other aggregations of capital. It is impossible for us to obtain the full reward of our labor other than through united, industrial action; And believing that labor acting along economic and political lines can secure a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth for all those performing useful service to society.
Therefore, we pledge ourselves to labor united on behalf of the principals herein set forth, to perpetuate our organization on the basis of friendship and justice to expound its objects and obey the laws laid down for its guidance and government, and always labor for its success, knowing as we do, that when we are united no reasonable demands that we may make can be denied us.
The Formation of UWUA Local 1-2, NY
Consolidated Edison (As easy as 1-2)
Around this same time, unionism in an independent form was beginning to take hold in New York. An affiliation of the Bronx Gas and Electric Company, Yonkers Electric Light and Power, and the Westchester Lighting Company had by the mid-1930s been operating a form of company union under the title of “Employees’ Representation Plan” wherein employee representatives for each of the enfolded groups were selected for the purpose of raising problems of mutual interest, and offering in the form of requests, solutions to these problems as is expressed in a portion of the old minutes produced below:
The purpose of this meeting is to form a group as outlined below, to discuss problems of mutual interest appertaining to the Yonkers, Bronx and Westchester Companies, and to present requests, when recognized as a bargaining group, to the Management. (emphasis added)
After a discussion, it was decided to have the following plan of organization:
The Unit shall consist of the chairman, secretary and an advisory board, consisting of two members, of each general council of the Westchester Lighting Co., the Bronx Gas & Electric Co., and the Yonkers Electric Light & Power Co.
The chairmen, only, are to have the right to vote on all matters brought up for discussion and presentation to the Management.
In order to adhere to the principles of collective bargaining, the Unit must be accepted by each individual general council and then the Management will be requested to recognize the Unit as an official bargaining group.
The advisory board, in each case, shall consist of two members of comparable departments of each company’s general council, alternately attending each meeting of the Unit by groups (or departments) as agreed upon at each preceding meeting. It was decided at this meeting that two representatives of the Commercial Group (or department) of each general council would attend the next meeting in the capacity of advisory boards with the respective chairman and secretary of each council.
Such arrangements changed from time to time in form and content but the intentions remained the same, at least on the part of the employee representatives, to affect favorably the working conditions of the employees.
However, these attempts by the employees were, as was almost always the case, fatally flawed by the proviso that all decisions on merit, or actions taken on proposals, were the exclusive purview of management, as was reflected in the May 9, 1935, minutes of the Employees General Council:
We were informed that one of the major subjects presented for Company approval by the First General Council was the matter of job reclassification. This request was not granted by the Management and the First General Council suggested that we give this matter some thought and endeavor to have the same favorably accepted by the Management. A motion was brought up to the effect that each representative, with the aid of a committee, appointed from the members of his particular group, classify the jobs under his jurisdiction. This motion was seconded, voted upon, and passed. (emphasis added)
On March 23, 1936, the Public Service Commission approved a merger of the New York Edison Company, the Bronx Gas and Electric Company, the New Amsterdam Company, the Central Union Gas Co., the Northern Union Gas Co., and others into the “Consolidated Edison Company.”
Shortly after the forming of this new company, the Employees’ Representative Council met and affirmed its relationship with this new entity but the days of this company union were fast drawing to a close.
A year after the merger in April and May of 1937, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), an AFL affiliate, moved in and obtained a “Consent Recognition” to represent the ConEd employees. Thus, without options, the employees became members of the IBEW. The IBEW immediately issued charters to the seven company unions. Two charters were issued to ConEd locals (later to be Local 1-2 of the UWUA). The third went to the New York Steam Employees, the fourth to Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Employees, the fifth to New York and Queens Electric Light and Power, the sixth to Brooklyn Edison Company, and the seventh to two Westchester affiliates.
The members were far from happy with their new union inasmuch as the IBEW chartered them as “B” locals. This “B” local designation meant that these members could not perform work that IBEW reserved for its “A” members. This also meant that the IBEW was not going to last long at ConEd, and it didn’t.
In early 1940, a massive work jurisdiction dispute erupted on the ConEd property when the IBEW insisted that stranger “A” members be brought in to do work normally assigned to ConEd workers. The membership was furious, but the IBEW didn’t care. What to do? They went on strike and with this action the IBEW gobbled up their treasury. This was the last straw and the seven “B” locals threw the IBEW out. They demanded of the National Labor Relations Board that an election be held. Shortly before the election, the IBEW withdrew from the ballot leaving this now independent group to vie with a “no union” vote. They won overwhelmingly and declaring themselves the “Brotherhood of Consolidated Edison Employees” (BCEE) reformed along the original seven chartered lines. However, they also formed a “Council of Twenty-one” to which three members from each of the seven chartered groups were to participate. Shortly thereafter, Locals 1 and 2 decided to merge and, wishing to preserve their founding identities, called themselves Local 1-2.
Thus, in a relatively short time the employees broke away from the IBEW and became members of a new independent organization known as the Brotherhood of Consolidated Edison Employees, which they formed into six chartered groups with representation on an overseeing council. The first officers of this council were Joseph Fisher, Chairman; William Pachler, Secretary; and Clem Lewis, Treasurer. This council operated as a central body handling membership problems and negotiating contracts.
With subsequent company mergers, the union continued to respond by reorganizing to maximize its representation ability until ultimately Local 1-2 came to represent all the union employees at ConEd.
The Companies Our Members Work For
Our members work not only for power companies like Con Ed but also for tree and water companies.
- Con Edison
- Rise Power and Light
- Eastern Generation
- Lewis Tree
- Westchester Joint Water Works