HISTORY FOCUS: PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC SACRAMENTO MUNICIPAL UTILITY DISTRICT SIERRA PACIFIC POWER
One Union on the System:
The People Who Organized Pacific Gas & Electric
By Eric Wolfe
(Note: This story first appeared in IBEW Local 1245s Utility Reporter in April of 1991. Eric Wolfe is Communications Director for Local 1245.)
On June 14, 1939, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to stop interfering with its employees efforts to organize a union.
Ten days later PG&E announced it would not comply. This private utility, responding to a lawful order by a federal agency, in effect told the US government to shove it.
That long-ago confrontation said a lot about the companys attitude toward its workers. PG&E had been lord and master over its workforce since the beginning of the century. It clearly had no intention of giving up any of its authority to some upstart federal agency.
But history was catching up with PG&E. For decades its employees had endured low pay, few benefits, dangerous working conditions, and the arbitrary exercise of authority. Workers had no say because they had no voice. In short, they had no union.
In this historical retrospective, IBEW Local 1245 pays tribute to a small group of PG&E employees who braved the odds and stood up to one of the worlds largest corporations. Through their courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance, they took a weak and divided labor movement at PG&E and transformed it into one union on the system.
This is their story.