Business & Economy

Southland utility workers may strike over wage cuts, safety concerns

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Thousands of Southland employees of Sempra Energy are so dissatisfied with management they're considering a strike, organized labor leaders say.

Sempra's the parent company of Southern California Gas. During a news conference in downtown Los Angeles, activists said that Sempra is unfairly demanding wage and benefit givebacks from members of the utility workers union.

Maria Elena Durazo heads the L.A. County Federation of Labor. She said safety is an issue for gas company workers and consumers.

"The gas company continues to reject the utility workers' efforts to work cooperatively to ensure [the] safety of our communities," Durazao said. "Instead the gas company's response is to cut wages and cut benefits."

Durazo and others said they've raised concerns about preventing an incident similar to one last year in San Bruno. A pipeline explosion there killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.

Union organizers are awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on legislation they say would protect other utility customers from a similar catastrophe.

In response to the news conference, Southern California Gas officials said they hope to reach a fair contract agreement with employees. The officials added that safety is Sempra's top priority.