Baltimore Gas and Electric workers vote to unionize

BGE employees voted to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. employees voted Thursday night to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, something organizers said would give 1,419 workers "a voice at the table."

The gas and electrical workers will be organized under a new chapter, Local 410. Baltimore-based BGE is owned by Chicago-based Exelon, and was the only one of six Exelon utilities not represented by a union.

Eric Gomez, an underground lines crew leader at BGE who helped organize the union, called the vote "wonderful."

"We've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this over the last few years and it finally came to fruition," Gomez said.

Gomez said he thought the move would improve the company.

"I think it's going to make the company a better place to work, and I think it'll enhance the company and provide a better product for the customer," he said. "I think this will definitely benefit our customers in the long run."

It would, Gomez said, give employees "a voice at the table with the company."

BGE CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. said in a statement that the move wouldn't change outcomes for BGE customers.

"In the same way that we have worked collaboratively through the years, we will continue to work together with all of our employees to achieve great results for our customers," Butler said. "Our focus on delivering safe, reliable and innovative energy services to our customers remains unchanged."

Bert McDermitt, a regional organizing coordinator for the IBEW, said the vote was 741 for and 610 against.

It was the fifth attempt to organize BGE workers in the last 21 years. The most recent failed vote was in 2010. The IBEW held a rally in front of Exelon's Harbor Point building on Tuesday to build support for the unionization drive.

BGE and its then-parent company, Constellation, were acquired by Exelon in 2012. Employees in favor of the union have previously said they were concerned that more contractors have been working for the company since the acquisition, potentially jeopardizing worker safety. BGE has rejected those claims.

The IBEW represents about 725,000 active members and retirees in utilities, construction, broadcasting, and manufacturing, among other fields.

cwells@baltsun.com

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