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Utility union: DTE blocking progress on contract for new members

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

The Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO says DTE Energy is blocking progress on negotiating a first contract with a small unit of members that organized last year. 

The union's general counsel, David Radtke, contends DTE is elongating the negotiating process by only agreeing to two of about 50 proposals presented outside of wages and other economics. The two sides have met eight times since December, according to the union.  

The negotiations are for 27 members of Local 223 who are wind and engineering technicians who are not covered by a contract with about 3,500 other DTE employees; that six-year agreement was reached in March 2021 with Local 223, Radtke said. 

DTE representatives "refuse" to agree to some of the same terms reached last year for the current contract, he said. He added the company will only meet virtually once a week for two hours, though a session scheduled for tomorrow is supposed to be four hours. 

"We should be way further along in contract negotiations than where we are," Radtke said. "If they really wanted to reach an agreement, it seems like we would definitely be on wages and benefits but we're nowhere close."

DTE, in a statement Tuesday to The Detroit News, said in part: "At all times since the company’s 27 wind and engineering technicians voted to organize, we have engaged in good faith negotiations with the union, with the goal of reaching a fair and responsible first collective bargaining agreement that addresses our mutual needs.

“We are meeting with the union again tomorrow, and we remain committed to negotiating in good faith and optimistic that, through our collective efforts, we will reach an agreement that works for the dedicated wind and engineering technicians and also for our customers.”

In a statement, UWUA President James Slevin called for DTE management to change its stance in the talks: "DTE’s disappointing and disrespectful behavior toward these 27 members since they organized last year is not what we would expect from a company we’ve had a very good working relationship with for almost 80 years."