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We’re NOT disposable! 1,000 electricians may strike!

Original contract expired for Puget Sound-area IBEW 46 Limited Energy Electricians; 10-day extension ends April 10


UPDATE (April 8, 2024) — More than 1,000 Limited Energy Electricians represented by IBEW Local 46 are taking a strike authorization vote on Sunday and Monday. Stay tuned to The STAND for the results of that vote and any other developments.


KENT, Wash. (April 4, 2024) — The union contract covering more than 1,000 Limited Energy Electricians represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 46 in the Puget Sound area expired on March 31. The union agreed to a 10-day extension while they continue to bargain over wages and quality-of-life issues. But intransigence and dismissive positions by the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) have increased the possibility of a strike that could begin any time after the extension expires on Wednesday, April 10.

“These well-trained and specialized electricians deserve a contract that reflects the value of their expertise and the importance of their work,” said Sean Bagsby, Business Manager / Financial Secretary for IBEW 46. “Their wages, working conditions and quality of life should reflect their dedication to the craft and to keeping the public safe. But so far, employers are treating them like they are disposable and easily replaced. It’s frustrating because we’ve been in negotiations since January — and now time is running out.”

Limited Energy Electricians install and maintain multiple life-safety systems, such as fire and security alarms, building access and HVAC controls, computers, phones, emergency radios, and more. They have extensive training in various systems and are well-versed in the latest technologies, with continuing education and regular license renewal required. However, these electricians are paid significantly less that other Puget Sound-area unionized electricians.

When the union pointed out that this wage disparity makes it harder to attract and retain Limited Energy Electricians, NECA negotiators have been dismissive, suggesting that there will always be other workers willing to take their place.

“These comments and opinions from the contractor negotiators are offensive and will NOT be tolerated,” Bagsby said. “The days of disposable humans are long gone and shall never return.”

Ensuring safe working conditions is a key part of negotiations because Limited Energy Electricians’ work exposes them to potential risks such as electrical shocks, work equipment accidents, hazardous materials, and other hazardous work conditions. An essential component of improving safety — and quality of life — is adding paid days of rest, holidays that are enjoyed by most other workers.

“We all know the value of paid days off,” said Torrey Patterson, a IBEW 46 Limited Energy Electrician. “Everyone on their other side of the negotiating table has them. We all value spending paid time off with our loved ones. Why should we be treated any different?”

Although IBEW 46 negotiators have made it clear how important paid holidays are to Limited Energy Electricians, the union reports that NECA contractors are stonewalling at the bargaining table on this and other efforts to improve members’ safety and health.

Under “Basic Principles,” the expiring collective bargaining states:

“The Employer and the Union have a common and sympathetic interest in both the Sound and Communication and Electrical/Electronic industries. Therefore, a working system and harmonious relations are necessary to improve the relationship between the Employer the Union and the Public. Progress in industry demands a mutuality of confidence between the Employer and the Union.”

The IBEW 46 Limited Energy Bargaining unit gives these words significant importance and has sought to uphold these principles throughout the negotiation process. Regrettably, the significant distance between the union and NECA at the bargaining table is putting those harmonious relations at risk.

Stay tuned for updates at The STAND.

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