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    System operators at FuelCell Energy vote to join union

    May 2, 2022 - Luther Turmelle, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport


      Apr. 30—DANBURY — A dozen workers at one of Connecticut's high profile tech companies, FuelCell Energy, voted Friday to become members of a union.

      The FuelCell Energy employees work are joining Local 478 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, according to organizers of the unionization drive. The workers voted 8-4 to join Local 478 after having launched their drive to join the union in October 2021.

      FuelCell Energy manufactures and operates hydrogen fuel cells that produce electricity. Local 478 has over 4,000 members and represents heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and support personnel at companies across Connecticut.

      The workers, who will now be represented by the IUOE, are system operators in the company's Global Monitoring & Control Center. They remotely control fuel cell units in various locations across the country.

      Justin Mates, a system operator at the center, said the vote means "the voice of the dedicated workers, who showed up every day during COVID, was heard today."

      "We are excited to join Local 478 with increased earning potential, along with the possibility for a true pension and medical benefits," Mates said. "We are excited to grow with FuelCell Energy providing clean energy across the world."

      Joseph Campoli, the organizer for the campaign, said the system operators reached out to Local 478 leaders, after determining their pay was far below the industry standard. The situation was exacerbated by raises that upper management received that union officials say were in excess of 70 percent, he said.

      "I believe working class people across the country are increasingly frustrated with the wage disparities between themselves and upper management," Campoli said. "After all, these are the people generating production and ultimately the profits that keep these companies in business. Workers are once again standing up for the fair share they deserve for their hard work."

      Besty Schaefer, FuelCell Energy's chief marketing officer, was not immediately available for comment on the outcome of Friday's union vote. Independent estimates of the company's overall workforce, based on regulatory filings and public statements, put the total number of employees at around 380 people.

      Neither side filed a challenge of the vote with the National Labor Relations Board, Campoli said.

      The vote at FuelCell Energy took place against a abckdrop of growing union organizing at technology companies across the United States, said David Cadden, professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University's School of Business. Earlier this month, workers at an Amazon warehouse on New York's Staten Island voted overwhelmingly to unionize and Cadden said the success of that effort has emboldened unions and the workers who seek to join them.

      "I think the unions have taken a real beating in the past three or four decades, but now they are beginning to succeed in the tech sector," he said. "Part of it, I think is the nature of the work, that an individual worker's self worth is being assaulted. People don't want to feel they are being treated like part of a machine."


      (c)2022 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.)

      Visit the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) at

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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