Nearly 40 front-line workers at the Exelon Mystic Station power plant went on strike last weekend in what Exelon described as a contract dispute, but what workers called a toxic environment that could be unsafe.
Exelon is the state’s largest power plant and is a 2,001 megawatt fossil fuel plant on Everett’s waterfront. Supporters of the workers said they are fighting for benefits like health care, but also for conditions at the plant. Workers say they are sounding the alarm for the public that they feel Exelon, a corporation headquartered in Illinois, has repeatedly cut corners and deferred important maintenance upgrades at the plant.
“Workers at Exelon Mystic Generating Station are sounding the alarm about executive conduct at the plant that they feel jeopardizes public safety and the retention of highly-skilled employee operators,” said Craig Pinkham, President of the Utility Workers Union of American Local 369. “Running this vital plant is dangerous work which requires technical know-how. You need someone sitting at the control panel who knows what they’re doing. We’re dealing with high-pressure gas, high-pressure steam, ammonia-fueled gas — many highly poisonous materials that require a high degree of expertise and experience. It is reckless for Exelon not to recognize this, or it would seem, not to care. The workers at Exelon did not want to strike, but Exelon executives simply have not listened to their concerns regarding deferred maintenance, staffing, and other key issues that have gotten worse and worse since Exelon bought the plant from Constellation in 2012. Workers at the plant believe that Exelon is operating the plant right now in a manner that runs contrary to public safety.”
Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for the Mystic Station plant, said they are negotiating with the union and are in the midst of talks now.
“Exelon Generation is currently negotiating with the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), Local 369 to renew the contract for 38 of our employees at Mystic Generating Station Units 8 & 9 in Everett,” read the statement. “We have a long history and strong working relationship with the represented employees at this facility. Exelon Generation provides generous and highly competitive salaries and benefits to our workforce and we are seeking a contract that appropriately balances the interests of our employees and our company. In the meantime, qualified, experienced and state-licensed personnel with extensive plant knowledge from across the region are safely operating and maintaining the facility during the work stoppage.”
The strike has garnered the attention of local and state leaders, with Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Congressman Joe Kennedy III immediately backing the workers.
“I applaud the workers for their courageous actions in bringing public awareness to their safety concerns at the Exelon plant,” said Mayor DeMaria. “They will have the full support of my office and the City of Everett throughout the strike. I am calling upon Exelon to do the right thing. Listen to these workers, do whatever you can to retain these well trained and vital workers to ensure that residents and businesses alike are protected from high pressure gas and steam. Exelon is a $34 billion company. They can make the necessary investments to keep our community safe and prosperous.”
Senator Kennedy spoke at a rally on Sunday afternoon, saying he will never compromise his commitment to labor. He pledged his support to the workers of Local 369 as well.
Councilors Michael McLaughlin and Stephanie Martins were also at the rally, and both joined Kennedy on the picket lines.
“I spent my Sunday in the picket line supporting the workers of Local 369,” said McLaughlin. “The members of the Exelon Power Plant unfortunately had to go on strike. They need to defend their benefits and rights against another greedy billion-dollar corporation. One of the many things that has been threatened is their health care coverage for themselves and their families. In the face of the Coronavirus, we should be making health care accessible and more affordable for every person, not finding ways to eliminate hard workers’ benefits. We now have the largest power plan run by inexperienced and unqualified individuals.”