On March 11, 2021, an advertisement appeared in the Imperial Valley Press paid for by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the labor union that represents approximately 900 Imperial Irrigation District employees. I felt it necessary to present the District’s perspective and supporting facts.
IBEW’s advertisement spoke about a “Fair Contract.” In 2020, the average wage paid to IBEW members (including benefits) at IID was $115,000. Comparatively, an Emergency Medical Technician in Imperial County averages about $40,000. Firefighters in Imperial County average about $48,150. Police officers in Imperial County average about $62,118. Registered nurses in Imperial County average $86,711 per year. IBEW members at IID average more than these first responders and many of those first-responder positions require a college degree.
According to the U.S. Census, the entire average household income of a family in Imperial County is just $47,622. The average IBEW individual working for IID makes 2.4 times MORE than the average household income of an ENTIRE family in Imperial County.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in mass unemployment and loss of income for millions of Americans. However, not a single IBEW member has been laid off or furloughed from their job at IID because of the pandemic.
The IBEW stated that 178 of its members have contracted COVID. Although that fact is unfortunately true, because of contact tracing IID has NOT identified a single case of COVID being contracted in the workplace by an IBEW member. IID has expended more than $1 million in face coverings, hand sanitizers, temperature screenings, UV light installations, air-protection systems, development of site-specific safety plans and safety protocols to keep its employees safe.
IBEW also claims that IID has “abandoned” its IBEW employees. That is not true. Although the prior contract with IBEW has expired, IID continues to honor its terms. Every IBEW member continues to enjoy the same level of protections, benefits, job security and compensation as they enjoyed before expiration of the contract. IID has not reduced salaries, health benefits or any other benefits since the expiration of the contract.
Finally, the IBEW states that IID walked away from negotiating a new agreement. IID and IBEW negotiated for over eight months. The parties remain far apart on important issues such as a salary increase package. Both the IBEW and IID have agreed to engage a mediator to help resolve our differences. So, to be clear, the negotiations have not stopped, they have just moved on to a different scenario contemplated under IID policy and in adherence to labor law.
As General Manager of the IID, I can assure you that one of my top priorities is to ensure we continue to work in good faith with the IBEW and the mediator to reach a contract that is fair to all parties. We have an extraordinarily strong relationship with organized labor and hope that soon these negotiations will be behind us.
Henry Martinez is general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District.