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American Electric Power
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aepcolorhorz.jpg This large electric utility and its employees’ unions invest collective energy in improving safety, productivity, job security and working conditions.

In Partnership With: IBEW, UMWA, USWA, UWUA

Empowering workers, providing energy to consumers

At a Glance

American Electric Power (AEP) is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities and generators of electricity.  Founded in 1906, AEP provides power to more than 5 million customers  in 11 states.

Headquarters
Columbus, OH

Website
www.aep.com

Industry
Electric Utility

Union Employees
5,749 electricians, equipment operators, and general service employees

Total Employees
20,134

Annual Revenues
$12.1 billion

Outlets
AR, IN, KY, LA, MI, OH, OK, TN, TX, VA, and WV

Customers

5.1 million

Upon taking office as Chairman, President, and CEO in 2004, American Electric Power’s Michael Morris immediately reached out to his employees’ unions, ushering in a new era of labor-management relations based on openness, mutual trust, and collaboration.  Although unions have been in existence at the electric utility since the 1930s, the relationship between management and the unions has often been viewed as adversarial.  Despite the past, Morris is moving the 100-year-old company on board with 21st century cooperative labor relations.

His vision has held steady through management’s work with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in developing a master contract to cover 33 separate bargaining units, represented by 10 local unions.  This comprehensive approach to contract negotiations will help both parties streamline the bargaining process and allow union negotiating teams to bargain directly with upper management.

Adopting a code of conduct in which both parties agreed to play fair during any union organizing efforts at the company marked another milestone in the negotiation process.  While most of IBEW’s bargaining units at AEP have been in existence for many years, the neutral stance adopted by the company has already paved the way for more than 50 employees secure union representation at a Michigan plant in May 2006.

During negotiations, Ted Robison of the IBEW observed that management understood that the unions had a vested interest in improving working conditions and benefits as well as working with the company to remain competitive.  For example, both sides of the partnership have recognized improvements in how problems are addressed, how employee input is received, and how all members of the AEP team are held accountable.

But nowhere has the new alliance been more critical in aiding AEP and its employees than in the area of safety.  AEP Utilities, the transmission and distribution arm of the company, credits the collaboration as a major contributing factor in the decline of its recordable safety case rate from 2.46 in 2004 to 2.24 in 2005.

Electrical workers put their lives on the line every day to provide and restore power for customers, and these high-risk jobs require high safety standards.  In recognition of this priority, AEP is exploring new local training programs and meetings for workers and their unions to provide feedback on safety and health.  When AEP recently made significant changes in its safety and health initiatives, the company invited workers to be a part of the process.  “The end product would not have been as valuable without the employees’ involvement,” observes AEP’s Senior Vice President – Shared Services Venita McCellon-Allen.

While organizational transformation can’t happen overnight—especially at companies with century-old roots—AEP’s new administration wisely recognizes that such positive change can’t happen without the input of its workforce.

Selection Criteria

> Collaborating as equal partners with workers and their unions to craft innovative strategies on compensation, performance, and productivity to meet business goals and address challenges

> Protecting workers’ safety and health

> Fostering diversity and inclusion in the workforce  

> Offering training and professional development opportunities

 
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