NU Call Center Workers Lose Union Election

July 31, 2013 - Customer Service Representatives at the Northeast Utilities Call Center have lost their bid to join the Union by a 55 - 93 vote.  A secret ballot election was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board after a long, contentious campaign marred by unfair labor practice charges against the Company.

In spite of Company threats, interrogations, and creating the impression that employees were under surveillance as a result of their support for the Union, nearly 40% of the Customer Service Representatives voted to be represented by IBEW Local #1837.

Some 150 women and men in the job classification work at the Manchester, New Hampshire facility, answering calls about billing and service for several NU companies including Public Service Company of New Hampshire and Connecticut Light and Power.

The Call Center workers have challenging jobs and work long hours, especially during storm restoration. They had cited a pattern of unfair and inconsistent treatment by managers for some workers while other employees enjoy the benefit of obvious favoritism as being among the reasons for trying to form a Union. Like almost all non-union workers, the Customer Service Representatives are "at will" employees who can be fired for virtually any reason at any time.

Many of them wanted to join IBEW Local 1837 to try to get the respect and voice in the workplace they deserve, and the protections that can be found only in a union contract. The Organizing Committee of Customer Service Representatives gathered union authorization cards and built support for the campaign over a two-year period. Meanwhile, the Company ran an aggressive and often misleading anti-union campaign.

A secret ballot union election originally scheduled for April 11, 2013 was blocked when IBEW Local #1837 filed unfair labor practice charges against the Company with the NLRB. Although the Company protested their innocence and even accused the Union of filing “frivolous” charges, the NLRB Regional Director authorized the issuance of complaints against the Company.  As is often the case, the NLRB allowed NU to settle the cases by posting a Notice to Employees.

"We're extremely proud that so many of the NU Customer Service Representatives voted to join our Union," said IBEW 1837 Organizer Matthew Beck. "It has been a pleasure to work with such an outstanding group of women and men dedicated to improving their lives and the lives of their co-workers."

International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local Union #1837 represents more than 1,500 employees at electric utilities and television stations in New Hampshire and Maine. Northeast Utilities operates New England’s largest utility system with more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to their website.