Utility workers may split from union

City Manager Jim Starbird on Wednesday said he planned to make a decision in February on whether a group of utility workers could split off from the main city union and join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW.

The group of Glendale Water & Power workers demonstrated outside City Hall last month to pressure city officials to approve their bid to hold a vote on the proposal, but after a packed hearing on Wednesday, Starbird said he would ask for additional information before making a decision.

The utility workers are currently represented by the Glendale City Employees' Assn., which had to swallow a 1.5% salary cut and scaled-down benefits for new hires last year after the City Council voted to end a negotiating impasse and impose a new contract.

That only fueled discontent among utility workers, who say they could get better representation with the Local 18 chapter of the IBEW. The Glendale City Employees' Assn. is the largest of the employee unions, representing a wide swath of workers throughout the city.

The IBEW identified 40 classifications of Glendale Water & Power workers that it could represent, but Glendale City Employees' Assn. officials disputed that.

City officials also expressed concern about allowing employee groups to splinter off. Even if the IBEW won the right to represent the workers, not all utility employees would theoretically make the cut, splitting union membership.

Glenn Steiger, general manager of Glendale Water & Power, said he didn't care which union represented his employees, but said it made sense for one union to do so for morale, efficient operations and future integration of power and water workers using smart grid technology.

"I strongly support the singular representation of all labor units at our yard," he said.

Starbird said he would solicit written arguments from each side by Jan. 31, after which he would make a decision "shortly thereafter."

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