MLGW workers win initial approval for pay hike

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The union representing 1,600 MLGW employees scored a partial victory Wednesday evening.

A committee composed of three city council members voted unanimously to send the union’s wage hike proposal for a vote before the entire city council.

MLGW was proposing a 3.1% pay increase for 2020. The union, IBEW 1288, wants a 3.5% increase.

“If you just look at those two [numbers] in a vacuum, it’s not a big difference, but there were other components of their proposal that are cost prohibitive for us,” said Jaye Mosby Meachem, MLGW’s manager of labor engagement, diversity and inclusion.

What concerns Mosby Meachem with IBEW’s proposal is that it also includes creating new jobs and adding pay grades.

The 3.5% increase is also only an average. Three IBEW business managers would get something closer to a 26% pay increase.

The IBEW proposal would cost about $790,000 more than MLGW had budgeted.

“There may be some issues that we have to address, possibly cutting some services,” Mosby Meachem said.

But from the union’s perspective, they’re not asking for much.

IBEW pointed out that some MLGW employees make as a little as $13.50 an hour, and retention is difficult.

“When they have a power outage, it takes so long to get back on because we’re short of linemen because they can go and make more money elsewhere,” said Rick Thompson, IBEW 1288’s business manager.

In the end, council members were swayed by the union’s argument and gave IBEW’s proposal their blessing.

“I mean, to come in at $13 an hour...they make that at McDonald’s," Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said.

Council members weren’t able to say when the proposed wage hikes would appear on the full city council agenda for a vote.

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