New Back Door:National Grid Labor Lockout Takes Detour Through Everett Neighborhood

A curious back door entrance to the National Grid headquarters in Malden – apparently to help avoid picketers now locked out in a contract dispute – has emerged in Everett without permits and to the disdain of Mayor Carlo DeMaria.

Virtually overnight last week, National Grid cut a hole in its fence on the Everett side of the city line and built a temporary “back door” to its facility – which mostly lies in Malden – that goes over the bike path and empties onto Wyllis Avenue. They did so, city officials said, without telling them and without taking out permits. In this case, city officials said, it would be a street opening permit they would need.

“I am are very concerned about the work that was done last Friday evening by National Grid, which involved the removal of landscaping and granite blocks at the end of Wyllis Avenue,” said the mayor this week. “This work was done without the proper permits and with no prior notice to city officials. Rather than building back doors through our neighborhoods, National Grid needs to reconvene with United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012-04 immediately, and reach a final agreement new labor contracts.”

The back door, as the mayor called it, emerges on the Everett side of the National Grid yard via a temporary door in the security fencing. It travels over a 700-pound pressurized gas line in the right of way of the bike path with a steel plate over the area. Then it traverses the bike path, and empties out onto Wyllis Avenue due to several bollards and granite blockers being moved.

This was done, the City said, without any notice.

Everett Police officers are guarding the entrance this week, though.

The MBTA did give a temporary easement, though, National Grid said.

The back door comes during an intense situation over the last 16 days where workers on the natural gas side of the company have been locked out due to failed contract negotiations, which are due to resume on July 17. National Grid has brought in a temporary workforce (known as ‘Scabs’) from other states to complete work in the interim, riling union workers and leaders.

National Grid officials said they created the entrance to help a unionized electrical contractor not have to cross the gas workers union picket line in the front of the yard on Medford Street in Malden.

“National Grid is making improvements to one of our substations (serving our electric customers), which is located behind our Malden facility,” said Spokeswoman Christine Milligan. “The work is being performed by contractors who also happen to be members of a union.  In order to continue work on this project serving our electric customers, we created a temporary entrance for the specific use of these electric contractors.  Additionally, because safety is always our top priority, we’ve reached out to Kinder Morgan and received permission to drive vehicles over the nearby underground gas pipeline. We also have secured a temporary easement from the MBTA to cross the bike path and we are applying for a permit from the city of Everett.”

No permit from the City had been granted or received by press time, City officials said.

A spokesman for the gas workers union did not respond to several phone calls for comment on the back door entrance.

However, picketers at the National Grid headquarters said they saw the alternative entrance being prepared three months ago.

They said they have been asking that the entrance be shut down because it is dangerous. While only pickup trucks are going over now, workers contended that National Grid had plans to bring in Class 2 heavy trucks over the line on the temporary entrance next week – a public safety hazard, they said.

“They are going right over the grass with only a metal plate and under that is a 700-pound gas line that you’re not supposed to take heavy equipment over,” said one picketer. “That grass will sink and that could compromise the line. They’re planning on doing this work next week – taking Class 2 trucks right over that line so they can get the electric work done for the casino.”

The picketers said they have found it hard to get their message out, even on public safety matters like this back door entrance. They said the fight has been won by large advertising budgets.

“The word is just not getting out there for whatever reason,” the worker said. “By locking us out, they’re making rates go up. We have always continued to work during contract negotiations. We wanted to stay on, but we showed up on that Monday for work, and we were locked out by them. If we stay on, rates stay the same. They’re trying to make rates go up. That’s what this is all about. But it’s simple. They’re winning because they have more money and more advertising and we’re standing here walking in circles. There are more cops here than us.”

National Grid said they will reconvene with United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012-04 on July 17.

They said it is their hope that we will soon reach a final agreement on new labor contracts between the company and these two unions that best balances the needs of both our employees and customers.

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