D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) blasted the commission, noting that the increase Maryland regulators recently approved
“I just believe they are lap dogs for Pepco,” said Cheh, who represents upper Northwest Washington, where residents have endured several prolonged outages over the past three years. “They really missed an opportunity to improve Pepco’s reliability.”
Amid widespread consumer resentment over service shortfalls and outages after last summer’s derecho storm, Pepco must now contend with the possibility that much of its workforce could soon walk out.
The union rejected the contract proposal by about 5 to 1, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900 President James A. Griffin said Wednesday night. He declined to give a precise tally but said more than 1,000 members cast ballots.
“We’ve never ever had such a turnout,” Griffin said. “Our membership is really angry about this.”
Voting by the 1,100-member union — including overhead line personnel, clerks, cable splicers and warehouse workers — was at seven sites across the region during the day.
In a recent message to members, union leaders called the contract “the worst proposal this local has faced in its entire history,” and Griffin had predicted a “resounding no.”
If Pepco maintains its position after the vote, the union’s next step could be to poll its members on authorizing a strike, Griffin said.
Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel said the company is disappointed by the vote and is making arrangements to continue negotiating with the union.
“We were hoping they would see past the rhetoric to the reality that this was a fair and equitable offer,” she said.
Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said she is concerned that a potential strike could hamper ongoing efforts to improve Pepco’s service.
“They have a lot of people out in the street, installing new poles, new wires and transformers, and I would hope there wouldn’t be any disruption to that work,” said Bowser, who represents an area of the city where many neighborhoods do not have buried power lines. “We have seen the positive impact of that work, and we don’t want to see it disrupted.”
Pepco officials said that they are prepared for a strike and that its 788,000 customers in the District and Maryland would not notice any changes: Managers and contractors would fill in for workers, when necessary. In the event of a major storm, Pepco could call in workers from neighboring utilities.
“Over the past several months, we have trained management employees from across Pepco Holdings to operate the Pepco system,” the company said in a statement. “Field personnel would be replaced by qualified and experienced field personnel. . . . If power outages were extensive, we would continue our normal process of requesting mutual assistance crews.”