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UCOMM

Curbing violence against meter readers

Union leaders that represent utility workforces lobby government to protect their members against violence

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 10, 2016

Today, utility workers and New York utility company representatives joined members of the NYS legislature to speak out at an Albany press conference about the violence encountered by utility workers during the course of performing their duty.

Utility workers have been advocating for several years to elevate an assault of utility worker from a second degree misdemeanor to a class D felony. Utility workers, particularly those that are out in the field or participating in storm restoration, are highly susceptible to workplace violence. The legislation is necessary to act as deterrent to the violence that utility workers face in the course of performing their duties.

Currently New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan and Alabama have Utility Worker Assault laws that increase punishment for people who attack utility workers.

Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO said "Utility workers are often vulnerable when entering private residences and are routinely subject to threats, harassment or worse. These dedicated men and women should be included in the same category as other public servants who regularly interact with the public on a personal level. Utility workers should be protected from workplace violence and this bill would go a long way toward deterring these types of attacks and creating a safer work environment."

Ted Skerpon, Chairman of the 15,000 member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Utility Labor Council of NYS said "l urge the legislature to pass this legislation to address this critical issue. Strong legislation is an effective tool to help curb worksite violence, allowing utility workers to perform their job to the best of their ability."

James Slevin, President, Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, whose members work for Con Ed in New York City said "This bill is overdue to the men and women of the Utility Workers and is crucial to make sure they can return home to their loved ones. When someone assaults a Utility Worker for doing their job, they need to understand that they will be punished at the appropriate level."

In New York City, Gerald Mituniewicz, a member of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, an employee at Con-Ed, was fatally shot in his van while he finished up paperwork at the end of his shift. This isn't the first time a Utility Worker was killed doing their job.  In 1995, two Con Ed workers were shot while doing routine maintenance on electrical lines in Queens.  One of the electrical workers was blinded by the shooting while the other suffered injuries when grazed by a bullet.  This attack was the fourth shooting in the past five years.

Don Daley, Business Manager of IBEW Local 1049 based on Long Island said "Worksite violence is a serious occupational hazard, which is why we have been fighting for these protections for years. Over half the country has recognized that utility workers face situations that warrant greater protection. We call on the New York State legislature to fully protect all utility workers; workplace violence should not be part of the job, and it doesn't have to be."

David Daly, President and COO of Public Service Electrical and Gas (PSEG) Long Island said "The safety of our employees is a top priority for PSEG Long Island. We stand in solidarity with our partners in labor as we work together for the passage of this important legislation."

Lisa Quinn, a Special Investigator with PSEG Long Island added "As utility workers we have a complicated and difficult job. When consumers attack us for simply doing our jobs, that is just wrong. All too often, utility workers are hurt when accosted by consumers. We have families too. We're your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and your neighbors. We need protection from those who will harm us just because of the job we do."

New 12 Long Island reported a gunshot fired at a PSEG call center in Melville, Long Island has prompted a police investigation. A bullet hole was found in a window and picture frame at the office on Park Drive on January 22, 2014. Luckily there was no one in the office at the time of the incident.

New York State Senator Bill Larkin (R,C,I - 39th District), the Senate sponsor of this legislation said "l sponsored this legislation after hearing from a utility worker in my district who was violently attacked while simply doing his job. His story is unfortunately not unique. Last year the Senate passed this bill and I trust we will again this year. I call on the Assembly to join the Senate in this important effort." 

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D,WFP — 39th District), the Assembly sponsor of this legislation added "Utility workers do not enter the same workplace everyday, which makes keeping them safe challenging. Entering into private residences places them in a uniquely dangerous situation out of sight of anyone else. Since we cannot manage worksite safety, it is imperative that we increase the penalties for any physical harm brought upon utility workers. I am proud to sponsor A4738 and will continue to fight to see it passed and signed into law this year."

 

 

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