ARAB, Ala. — Arab Electric Cooperative employees voted to decertify the union, effectively doing away with it for the first time in nearly 50 years.
“What this means for AEC’s members is that the majority of employees of this cooperative trust and respect the current management, and now management is asking the membership to trust the employees of this cooperative,” said AEC general manager Scott Spence. “There are no ‘thieves,’ ‘crooks’ or ‘swindlers’ here at this time.”
An employee presented a petition to decertify a few weeks ago and started the ball rolling. “This was an employee effort – not a management effort or issue,” Spence said.
Six of the 18 employees were dues-paying members of the union when they voted. A U.S. National Labor Relations Board agent facilitated and monitored the election.
Spence explained the biggest advantage to the vote’s outcome is employees and management can work with each other, not against each other, to solve members’ problems. “For example, this week, we have already deployed a program to inspect city street lights in Arab, which, in the past wasn’t possible without IBEW approval,” Spence said, “It also is a benefit because we can cut costs as low as possible by removing many hours per year from providing free administrative services for the IBEW at the expense of our members.”
He added employees all have a right to bring concerns to “someone who will absolutely partner with them and listen to them”.
“The IBEW received many ‘black eyes’ from current and former union employees who know too well that the IBEW is a billion dollar business,” Spence said. “If the IBEW made requests on behalf of each union employee (which they did not) they would still be explicitly ignoring the non-union employees, but the fact of the matter is, the IBEW specifically had to ‘let some things go’ when the request was not overwhelmingly in favor of the majority of the IBEW union members.”
He added employees’ benefits and wages will be benchmarked based on comparable utilities in the industry.
Spence also gave credit to Alabama’s Open Meetings Act for helping bring about the vote. “The Open Meetings Act and the transparency that it afforded was a huge part in the majority of the employees being able to see the long-term incentives align between management and employees,” he said.
AEC members put the AEC board of trustees under the Open Meetings Act with more than 90% of the vote two years ago.