Thursday, August 31, 2017

Georgia AFL-CIO supports continuation of Plant Vogtle Project; AFL-CIO announces link to donate for relief efforts in Texas

Georgia AFL-CIO President, Charlie Flemming, issued the following announcement on August 31, 2017:

The Georgia AFL-CIO fully supports Georgia Power and its decision to complete the Vogtle project. The completion of this multi-billion-dollar investment means the 4,500 highly skilled craft members of the North America Building Trades will continue to stay on the job.

“As the President of the Georgia AFL-CIO, representing 210,000 union members and retirees in the state. I commend Georgia Power and their partners for the decision to recommend of the Plant Vogtle nuclear project. Not only will it deliver clean and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, it will provide thousands of good quality, family-wage jobs. The plant will serve the clean energy and economic needs of the state for decades to come.”  said Charlie Flemming, President of the Georgia AFL-CIO.

Completing the Vogtle project will allow the Southern Company to continue to diversify its electricity portfolio, save thousands of family sustaining jobs and continue to grow the regional economy. We support this decision to continue the project.

Support for relief efforts in Texas

In other labor-related news, the AFL-CIO has announced that the Texas AFL-CIO has activated a link to donate to the Texas Workers Relief Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that helps affiliated workers in the aftermath of disasters. The link is

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Plant Vogtle problems affecting Georgia’s EMCs through Oglethorpe Power

Higher electricity costs due to Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4 will affect Georgia’s EMCs as well as Georgia Power customers.

Map of Georgia Electric Membership Corporations

The role of Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) has been overlooked in the discussions on cost overruns and possible abandonment of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4.

EMC customers may be under the mistaken impression that if the Southern Company decides to go ahead with construction of Units 3 & 4, and the Georgia Public Service Commission approves, that any increases in electricity costs will be borne only by Georgia Power customers.

This is incorrect. EMC customers will also have to bare part of the burden of higher electricity costs.

Confusion on this point may help explain why EMC customers have been less vocal in opposition to the rate increases – they simply are unaware that their electricity costs will rise along with those of Georgia Power Customers.

In the case of the EMCs, increased costs to Oglethorpe Power will be passed along to the EMCs in the form of higher wholesale electricity prices, which the EMCs will pass along to their customers.

Last week, Oglethorpe Power Co., which owns 30% of the Vogtle nuclear plant, requested $1.6 billion in additional support from the Department of Energy, E&E News reports

Oglethorpe Power Corporation, which supplies wholesale electric power and is owned by 38 of the state’s 41 EMCs, has kept a low profile, allowing Southern Company to take the lead.

Nearly half of all Georgia residents receive their electric service from EMCs, according to Oglethorpe Power.

Georgia Power will file its next report on August 31. 

Member Systems

Friday, August 18, 2017

Georgia surprises with job losses in July

In his monthly YouTube report, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler puts a positive spin on this month's job losses.

Georgia lost 14,100 jobs in the month of July, the largest one-month job loss for the state since the beginning of 2011. With that lost, Georgia’s 12-month job gain of 96,200 jobs after seasonal adjustment, marked the first time since 2014 that the state has posted annual growth of less than 100,000 jobs in a year.

Despite the jobs drop, the state’s unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 4.7%, which the Bureau of Labor statistics calculated as statistically not significantly different than the nation’s rate at 4.3%. Because Georgia has a smaller labor force than the nation and the unemployment rate is based on a smaller sample, apparent differences in rates can be deceiving once the numbers are adjusted by sampling techniques.

Private Sector Job Loss is Key

Over the month, the private sector in Georgia recorded losses of 11,900 jobs before seasonal adjustment. To compare, you have to go back to 2009 to see a July where the state lost this numbers of private sector jobs.

In July, local government educational services showed a drop of 19,700 jobs, about average for this month of the year.

Normally, in July, growth in private sector jobs in Georgia offset seasonal losses in local government education jobs, as school-related workers, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, are unemployed while the schools are on summer recess with the expectation that these jobs will begin again once schools open in August.

This year, the private sector was unable to make up the difference.

Losses were widespread with construction (-1,900), manufacturing (-1,600), retail trade (-1,300), and professional and business services (-3,600) all contributing to the downturn.

Georgia’s job loss runs counter to the nation

Georgia’s losses are more surprising since the nation reported good job growth in July, up by 209,000, after seasonal adjustment.

Among the states, the largest increase in employment over the month occurred in California (+82,600), followed by Florida (+32,700) and Pennsylvania (+29,000).

In percentage terms, the largest increases occurred in the District of Columbia, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island (+0.6 percent each).

Georgia had the only significant employment decrease (-14,100, or -0.3 percent).

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia had over-the-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment in July. The largest job gains occurred in Texas (+293,400), California (+276,400), and Florida (+226,200).

It is always interesting to see the monthly revisions to these preliminary numbers, but next month economists will be looking closely to see if this month's drastic drop was simply a statistical slip, or the real start of a downturn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Georgia State AFL-CIO Condemns the Domestic Terrorism and Hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia.

By Charlie Flemming, August 15 - 2:11 pm

"Over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, the nation and the world witnessed the hateful views and terrorist acts committed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. This racism and bigotry has no place in America. In this country, we have always fought, in solidarity, for equality and justice and against these and other diabolical prejudices.

This is the time for leadership. Our leaders, both in DC and under the Gold Dome, must acknowledge this for what it is: domestic terrorism rooted in bigotry.

The hearts and prayers of Georgia’s Labor Movement are with all the victims, but especially the families of those who lost their lives: Heather Heyer and state Troopers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.  We pray for everyone’s safety. The labor movement condemns this domestic terrorism and remains committed to eradicating the despicable causes of hatred and intolerance.

If you would like to learn more about everything that happened in Charlottesville this weekend, please read more in this Washington Post article."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is this the future for construction workers at Plant Vogtle? Lessons from South Carolina

Plant Vogtle units 3 & 4 under construction

When the decision was made to stop work on the two nuclear power plants in South Carolina, construction workers didn’t receive much notice of layoff, according to the following report first published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This may be the future for Plant Vogtle workers building Units 3 & 4 if Southern Company decides to end work on the costly and long-delayed project.

Westinghouse: Project canceled 'without warning' By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A week after efforts to build two Westinghouse power plants came to a screeching halt in South Carolina, the Cranberry-based nuclear firm chronicled the shock of the moment and began dealing with the aftershocks.

About 6,000 people worked at the V.C. Summer site where two utilities, SCG&E and Santee Cooper, had commissioned Westinghouse Electric Co. to build two AP1000 power plants nine years ago.

Westinghouse had hundreds of its own employees at the site last week when the South Carolina utilities decided to stop the construction project that already was years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The decision stemmed in large part from Westinghouse’s March 29 bankruptcy, the utilities said. 

But their move came “without warning,” Westinghouse said in a document filed with the bankruptcy court Monday.

The project owners did not give Westinghouse any notice before dismissing its subcontractors and vendors on the job, telling them to “halt all shipments and suspend or demobilize all work in progress,” the nuclear company said.

The utilities also restricted Westinghouse’s access to the project, the company said, “escorting its employees off the site using armed personnel, and subsequently only allowing entry to a handful of Westinghouse’s representatives and subcontractors, preventing Westinghouse from generally accessing the site” and carrying out its responsibilities.

The same was true for other workers like Kenneth Blind, a nuclear construction technician with Fluor Corp., the Texas-based firm that Westinghouse brought in in late 2015 to get the troubled construction work back on track.

Mr. Blind echoed Westinghouse’s account of what it was like on the day the project was canceled.

He found it strange that the Friday before the dismissals craft workers suddenly were told to hand in their work packages — binders with work instructions necessary to do their jobs, he said.

But the day before, Scana Corp., which owns part of the VC Summer project, had announced that Westinghouse’s parent company Toshiba Corp. had agreed to a $2.2 billion guarantee for the power plants. Mr. Blind took that as a good sign.

So did Westinghouse, which wrote in its bankruptcy filing on Monday that negotiating Toshiba’s commitment sent the message of wanting the projects to continue.

On the morning of July 31, things at V.C. Summer continued as usual. Mr. Blind’s team was starting to pour concrete for one of the buildings near the reactor. Around 11 a.m., a security guard approached him and asked if he would be sent home, too.

Too? Mr. Blind asked.

He went to find his boss, who then called his boss — a scene that was playing out across the huge site where thousands of workers were grasping at rumors. Word of armed guards had started to spread.

At an “all-hands meeting” at 2 p.m., they were told it was their last day on the job and thanked for their contribution to the project, Mr. Blind said.

People were angry, he recalled, and some were crying.

They began hustling to collect their stuff. “If you couldn't fit it through the turnstiles, you just had to leave it,” he said.

Now begins the work of “demobilizing” and “stabilizing” the site, Westinghouse said, vowing in a court document to seek payment from the South Carolina utilities for its part of the winding down process.

On Monday, Westinghouse also asked the court to allow it to break thousands of contracts associated with the V.C. Summer project. The contracts cover everything from engineering services and security protection to scaffolding and urine testing.

Had the project owners negotiated with Westinghouse to take over control of the power plant construction, as Southern Co. did with the Vogtle project in Georgia, these contracts would have likely changed hands from Westinghouse to the South Carolina utilities.

Now, they will join the long march of unsecured creditors in Westinghouse’s mammoth bankruptcy.

Anya Litvak: or 412-263-1455.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Plant Vogtle workers feeling pressure from South Carolina shutdown

VC Summer Nuclear Station, South Carolina

With South Carolina’s decision to end construction of its nuclear power plants, the pressure intensifies on the workers building Plant Vogtle’s two new nuclear plants.

The decision by Santee Cooper and SCE&G to call it quits on the VC Summer units leaves thousands of skilled workers unemployed.

Nearly 5,000 people lost their contracting jobs at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant on Monday afternoon as SCE&G and Santee Cooper announced that they are abandoning the construction of two nuclear reactors at the plant. Many employees got word of the massive layoffs just before lunch, according to WLTX in Columbia, S.C.

With no other nuclear facilities being constructed in the U.S. except for Plant Vogtle, this leaves thousands of skilled construction workers with no choice but to search out work elsewhere including in Georgia.

In a best-case scenario for workers at Plant Vogtle, you have a skilled construction workforce from South Carolina available to shift over to Plant Vogtle creating competition for jobs at the Georgia site. And that is the best-case scenario.

The worse-case scenario for the nearly 6,000 construction workers at Plant Vogtle is that the Southern Company decides to abandon its nuclear construction project as well.

Like VC Summer, Plant Vogtle is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. So far, only approximately one-third of the construction project has been completed.

Nuclear Watch South and Concerned Ratepayers of Georgia have told the Georgia Public Service Commission that in their opinion, energy usage in the state is not growing and the nuclear plants are not needed.

For South Carolina, the decision comes after SCE&G and Santee Cooper have spent about $9 billion on a project that analysts said could have ultimately cost more than $23 billion, more than twice the original price tag. Under a state law passed 10 years ago, SCE&G was allowed to charge customers for the work before the reactors were finished. About 18 percent of an SCE&G customer’s bill goes for the nuclear project, according to The State newspaper.

Whether Southern Company decides to continue construction or not, workers building the two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle find themselves tonight with a very unsettled future.