Los Angeles, CA – Workers at the Southern California Gas Company have voted overwhelmingly, by a four to one margin, to authorize a strike if a tentative agreement between the company and the workers could not be reached. On Jan. 25, over 3000 workers attended the strike vote meeting. The contract is due to expire at midnight on Jan. 31, 2009.

“In voting to strike, workers have sent a message that it’s not acceptable for the Gas Company to take away their hard earned benefits at a time when their profit margins are at record levels,” said John Duffy, National Vice President of the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO.
“These men and women work hard to ensure that the 20 million customers within the Gas Company service area receive natural gas in an efficient and safe way. They should be rewarded with a contract that is fair to them, stock holders and the general public.”

At a time of record profits, the Southern California Gas Company has decided to demand major concessions from its workers instead of trying to work with them to reach a contract that is fair to both parties. The main stumbling blocks to the agreement continue to be radical changes in pension and sick time benefits as well as wages and huge increases in medical benefit contributions.

Approximately 5000 workers are covered by this contract. Among them are Customer Service Representatives that are available 24 hours a day to help insure the safety of the Gas Company customers, Meter Readers that not only read the meters but are also the front line detecting gas leaks, Energy Technicians Light Pilots who service furnaces, adjust gas appliances and check for potentially dangerous conditions, and Gas Distribution and Construction Technicians who work to maintain the reliability of the gas pipeline infrastructure. These workers’ service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout Central and Southern California from Visalia to El Centro. This includes 20.3 million consumers and 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities.

“On January 30th, unions affiliated with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, specifically those who may be impacted by a potential strike, will vote to determine if these workers will be issued a strike sanction,” said Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “If a strike sanction is granted, Gas Company employees will receive the full support of the over 350 unions of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.”