American Water named in labor complaint

| Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against American Water Works Co. Inc. after unions at the company alleged it illegally cut health care and other benefits for workers during contract negotiations last year.

Voorhees, N.J.-based American Water, which employs union-represented workers in Pennsylvania, said it has responded to the board's complaint and is prepared to defend itself. The labor board will hold a hearing in March.

The Utility Workers Union of America said American Water cut employee health care, retiree health care and short-term disability benefits at the beginning of 2011 without notifying federal and state mediation agencies about an ongoing contract dispute. The contract covers 3,500 company workers represented by nine unions, according to the Utility Workers Union, which led negotiations and took the charge to the labor board.

"We will challenge this hugely profitable company's illegal conduct on behalf of every working family at American Water in every way possible," said Michael Langford, national president of the Utility Workers.

An American Water subsidiary, Pennsylvania American Water, provides water service to about 215,000 customers in the Pittsburgh region and has about 240 union-represented employees in the region, said Terry Maenza, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania subsidiary, based in Hershey.

"American Water is fully prepared to show that all required notices were provided by the company, and we look forward to presenting the facts in this matter," Maenza said. "We have and will continue to work with our represented employees and negotiate all agreements in good faith."

The Utility Workers Union estimates American Water, the nation's largest for-profit operator of water and wastewater systems, owes workers about $4 million in compensation from the benefit cuts.

American Water reported revenue of $2.04 billion for the first nine months last year, up 5 percent from the same period in 2010. Its net income was $269.3 million in the first nine months, up 18 percent over the previous year. The company has more than 7,000 employees and operations in 33 states.

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