Utility workers join IBEW

CITY HALL — Roughly 173 rank-and-file utility workers will be represented by a major Los Angeles union after Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird this week officially approved its petition to represent the group.

The decision ends nearly two years of conflict between Glendale City Employees Assn. President Craig Hinckley and a faction of his union that had been pushing to join the Los Angeles-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

In December — one month after the City Council imposed salary cuts and a scaled-down retirement benefits system for rank-and-file employees — hundreds of utility workers demonstrated on the steps of City Hall in support of new union representation.

Starbird’s approval of the IBEW petition will add a fifth employee union to the mix later this year as the City Council tries to wring contract concessions amid multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls.

“I look forward to a positive working relationship with you and with IBEW for the mutual benefit of the city, the bargaining unit employees and the people of Glendale whom we serve,” Starbird wrote in a letter to IBEW counsel on Monday.

In a July 2009 IBEW newsletter, Local 18 Business Manager Brian D'Arcy said the move could “be an important step forward for both organizations and for the labor movement in Southern California.”

On Tuesday, he said in a statement that Glendale Water & Power employees “do some of the most important and dangerous jobs in the city.”

“We welcome them to IBEW Local 18,” he said.

Starbird had been mulling the decision since early this year, when IBEW representatives presented their case to represent more than 60 different employee classifications during a hearing on the proposed union changes. Glendale City Employees Assn. had opposed about a third of the job classifications that the IBEW had sought to represent.

Hinckley could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, Starbird approved the majority of the union’s petition, but denied IBEW representation of a dozen job classifications — such as those that are not utility-specific and comprised of both Glendale Water & Power workers and employees in other city departments like public works. Employees in those classifications will remain in the GCEA.

“There is nothing so distinct and separate in terms of skills, educational requirements, essential functions or working conditions that warrant splitting these classifications among two or more (bargaining) units,” Starbird wrote in his final determination.

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