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Utility Blocking Union Effort to Gain Membership on Board

Regarding the letter from Pacific Enterprises Chief Executive Paul A. Miller (“Southern California Gas Co. Is Proud of Stock Ownership Plan for Workers,” April 23):

Miller’s response to Harry Bernstein’s April 18 column (“Utility Resists Adding Union Official to Firm’s Directors”) is a masterpiece of misleading information. He claims that I have been offered the shareholders list in the drive to get representation for the thousands of shareholders (many of them unions workers at Southern California Gas) who are unhappy with both the performance of Pacific Enterprises stock and the state of labor relations at its gas company subsidiary.

Pacific offered us the list excluding all participants in the employee stock ownership plans--more than 20% of the list.

Pacific’s refusal was absolute until a Superior Court judge ordered the company to provide us with a list of participants who don’t object. And access to the list has been made prohibitively expensive. To get the full list, our shareholders action committee must pay more than $15,000 over and above what Pacific has cost us in legal fees to get a judge to make a ruling.

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Miller’s concern about privacy might be more understandable if he were concerned about everyone’s privacy. But he seems only concerned about the privacy of the 20% of shareholders who are most likely to give us their vote.

Unions at Southern California Gas Co. have united to support a union member for the board of directors, and we have a chance of winning. Miller has stated that he only wants people of the “highest caliber,” clearly implying that union members are not. That suggests what he really thinks of the shareholders who are the gas company’s employees.

As Bernstein pointed out, it is commonplace for European companies to have worker representatives on their boards, and employee stock ownership plans are growing rapidly. While it appears that Miller intends to retire in the near future, he and his successors are likely to face the apparently unnerving prospect of having to share power and the board room with people who have actually worked for the gas company.

SAM WEINSTEIN

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Los Angeles

The writer, a candidate for Pacific Enterprises’ board of directors, is director of Region 5 of the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO.


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