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Xcel files NLRB complaint against locked-out security guards at nuclear plant

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 9/5/2019 By Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune

Xcel Energy Wednesday asked federal labor regulators to intervene after locked out-union security guards at its Monticello nuclear plant extended their picketing to all plant gates.

Xcel says that picketing by guards employed by G4S is now interfering with its own unionized workers’ access to the plant. Some Xcel union employees have refused to cross the guards’ picket lines.

About 25 security “lieutenants” or “shift leaders” were locked out and replaced at midnight Saturday by Xcel’s nuclear security contractor, G4S. The lockout occurred after the guards’ contract expired following several months of fruitless negotiations.

In anticipation of the lockout, Xcel built a separate entrance gate for G4S workers, apart from the entry for its own employees and guests. That way, Xcel’s many unionized workers wouldn’t have to cross the guards’ picket line.

“We have escalated our picketing to both gates of the plant,” said Josh Haider, head of United Security Professionals Local 2, which represents locked-out guards. In response, several dozen Xcel workers chose not to cross the guards’ picket line, he said.

Haider said Local 2 believes its pickets at Monticello are in compliance with federal labor law.

Xcel acknowledged that some of its employees have indeed refused to cross picket lines, though the company declined to say how many. Xcel said the Monticello plant, which employs several hundred, continues to operate at 100% power.

“We have contingency plans in place to continue to safely operate the plant,” the company said in a statement.

Xcel filed an unfair labor practice charge against the guards’ union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the picketing of both plant gates. With the charge, Xcel claims the union is engaged in secondary picketing, and that only primary picketing — in this case against the employer G4S — is allowed.

Local 2’s primary concern is G4S’s demand to move to a new and inferior health plan and cut its contributions to guards’ health care premiums by nearly 50%, according to Haider. London-based G4S is a large global security firm that took over Xcel’s nuclear security operations at the beginning of 2019.

Members of other unions have joined the locked-out security workers’ picket lines this week. “We support working people, especially in a situation like this where they are locked out of a job — that’s just wrong,” said Jane Conrad, field representative for the East Central Area Labor Council, an arm of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Local 2 is one of two union locals of the independent United Security Professionals, which together represent about 120 guards at the Monticello plant. Local 2’s contract expired in January and had been extended twice. Local 1, which represents “officers” at Monticello, has a contract that runs through this year.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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©2019 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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